the online database of Japanese folkore

Kitsunebi

狐火
きつねび

Translation: fox fire
Habitat: originates from kitsune and only appears when they are nearby

Appearance: Kitsunebi, or foxfire, is named for the magical kitsune who are said to create it. Kitsunebi appears as a mass of floating orbs of light, usually only a few centimeters in diameter and less than a meter above the ground. The orbs are as bright as lanterns and, in most cases, appear red or orange; although they are sometimes blue-green.

Behavior: Kitsunebi appear only at night. There can be a long chain of them hundreds or thousands of meters long, as if there were lanterns carried by invisible bearers. Often the kitsune responsible for the fireballs are standing right next to the flames, invisible.

Kitsunebi are formed by foxes, which breath the ball of fire out from their mouths and use it to light their way at night. It is most often a sign that a large number of kitsune are nearby—often lighting yōkai events such as the night parade of one hundred demons, yōkai wedding ceremonies, and other processions or meetings.

Interactions: Kitsunebi are not directly dangerous to humans, however the wild foxes behind the strange lights might be harmful. Sometimes, kitsunebi are used to trick humans off of their paths at night as a malicious prank. Other times they are used to lure curious humans into the darkness towards a group of hungry yōkai. Following kitsunebi is never a good idea—they only lead people to places they should not be.

Alphabetical list of yōkai