She Who Runs with Foxes – Part 2

She Who Runs with Foxes – Part 2

If you liked my first story and want to know what happened next, you are welcome to continue our journey together.

Although I knew nothing of Cerridwen at the time, her finger had already touched me. Looking back now, I can clearly see the signs and guidance that began to come to me, and it was through the spirit of the fox.

I remember that once I had said out loud that my biggest dream is to live with fox. Back then, I could hardly imagine what it would really look like. I just said what my heart felt at that moment. It wasn’t long before one of my friends who works at a park for rescued animals announced that hunters had found a young fox and were either sheltering him or shooting him. And she remembered me. Of course I immediately agreed and had him brought to me. When I first saw him, the poor animal was sitting in a portable cage and seemed to be waiting for me. We drove home and the whole car was full of pungent and very strong fox smell. I later realised it was the smell of fear. Foxes have many different glands that produce certain hormones and mucus when they are emotional. They also have a skunk-like gland that can really emit an extremely strong and repulsive odour when they are angry.

I knew that he had been living in the forest for some time, perhaps a 5-6 month old animal. Foxes become independent very early. The spring cubs must be able to obtain food by October-November, and they will find their own territory in which to hunt. At this time, they move mostly along roads and near houses, because they do not yet know how to see danger or fear people. But at about a year old, they know everything about us. My consolation was that if I couldn’t handle him or if he didn’t like me at all, I could let him go and he could survive in the forest.

So there was a large and beautiful mesh fence behind the house built for him, with one side against the home outer wall. My bedroom window opened directly onto this, so I could always see what he was doing. I gave all the food between my fingers to encourage him to trust. I let him come into the room through the window and look around the house and go in and out freely. At that time I saw for the first time how playful foxes are. In the moonlight, he liked to play in the snow, chase his tail, make funny jumps and bark. Foxes have over 20 different vocalisations that they make and believe me, some of them are particularly horrifying like the sound effects they always bring up in good old English movies. Since foxes run a lot in the forest, he also liked to run back and forth along the edge and carry his toy animal that I had brought in his mouth. It was very reminiscent of carrying the catch during mating, when it is important to bring something tasty as a gift to your lover. 


That was the time when the Moon became my friend and companion. Sitting in the crisp winter cold under the full moon light with the wild animal seemed like I had travelled back in time and time in my life. I tried to capture the fox’s thoughts and feelings, I sang to him in low throaty voices so that he felt confident with me. I tried to get my heart on the same frequency as his. We looked at each other deeply like old acquaintances… At that moment I realised that unfortunately I had been a hunter in my previous life and probably many animals had died by my hand. I felt a great flood of regret flow through my heart, I asked for forgiveness and from all of them. Anger arose against this world full of the death of these beautiful creatures. It was as if Cerridwen’s finger had poked me in the heart and lifted the veil from the past. I asked what I could do for him… even though I knew the answer… freedom.

That’s how the winter months passed. He allowed himself to be scratched, foxes do not like petting at all. But It was clear that he still didn’t want to be particularly close to me and the constant running back and forth was strongly reminiscent of the life of foxes in a zoo. Yes, I was aware that if I desire to domesticate a fox puppy, it should be no older than 1.5 months, then is the best time to teach them about human life. I had tried to teach him now for half a year but it seemed that he was not very happy here.

And then one spring day I decided to let him go. I left the door  open for several weeks and put food out for him which he continued to eat for some time. I also noticed him sleeping in the grass under the bushes near the house, his beautiful red glistening coat of fur was visible in the light of the sun. Sometimes, later, I saw him running here and there. There were other wild foxes moving around — after all, I lived near swamps and forests, but he was the brave one. When I called, he didn’t run away but sat and watched for a long time. I believe he felt well in his life.

But what about me? A big hole seemed to be in my soul now. Of course, it was right to let him go, but after living a little closer to such a wonderful creature, my longing had grown even more. I didn’t lose hope of getting a puppy that would be young enough to accept home life better.

And a few weeks later, an announcement appeared in the newspaper that someone was selling fox puppies. Of course people were angry that someone had stolen them from their mother and was now doing business with them, but when it turned out that they were rescued from a fur farm, many realised that it was still a better choice for the cubs.

And so Rebus got a new home, with Bella the dachshund who became his surrogate mother and Tommi the big Caucasian shepherd who became his father. Of course, they couldn’t be put together at first, especially with Tommi, because Rebus only resembled a big hairy rat that would be a temptation for a dog. But luckily foxes grow very fast and after a few months it was no longer necessary to hold them apart. 

Now began one of the most beautiful times in my life to see how the little fox cub grew day by day. It’s admirable how funny they are and extremely fast running and jumping everywhere. It was not possible to hold Rebus anywhere or keep him quiet, he was still climbing into the bed and under the bed and over all the barriers. For the first months, he could run freely outside, but then I started to train him to go for walks with a brace. We walked with Bella and Tommi over the fields and over the bogs every day, in winter with snow and in summer with heat, and in rainy weather.

But then the mess also started. I had read somewhere that you can’t train a fox like a dog. I know that once upon a time, people had tried to domesticate wild foxes and tried to teach them to behave in certain ways. Fox bones along with human bones have been found in the tombs of Pharaohs and Viking burial sites. Since the fox is not a herd animal, but a solitary one, it does not get attached to a person and does not need him, unlike a dog, which has a wolf nature and is oriented towards the herd and cooperation.

If you try to teach a puppy not to pee in the room by sticking his nose into his puddle, it doesn’t work at all with a fox. In its character the fox is more like a cat. He holds a grudge and takes revenge at the right time. Even though I had tried to teach him good behaviour, it had the opposite effect. The next time a big puddle was made on the sofa and then on the bed and on the table, and his face was extremely vengeful. When I tried to shake him with the withers like a mother would probably do, then some shoes and boots or bags  were chewed off or taken outside to hide somewhere under the dirt and mud. But eventually Rebus learned to pee in the litter box. 

Hiding and carrying away is in their blood. When it was clear that there was more food, Rebus first took all the pieces of meat bar one to his burrow and only then began to eat the remaining one. He could even snap food away from Tommi’s big teeth so fast that there was no way to react. He also took the meat from Bella, sitting on her head and making some quick movements with all paws to get the prey.

Since my goal was to get to know my soul animal deeply, I tried to give him as much freedom as possible and not to force him into the confines of a domestic animal. Rebus could run freely in the room and out of the same window as the wild fox did. We did long walks and car rides, and Rebus soon got used to visits. The children immediately liked him very much. They got a chance to let him lick the honey off their fingers. We met many children, I told them about the life of animals in the forest and everything I knew about foxes. 

But it was clear that not everyone was as excited about him as I was. There were those who didn’t even allow us in their yard or in their field, complaining about the disgusting smell of the fox. Rebus still smelled much nicer than a fox in the woods. His fluffy fur is so soft and has a nice fresh bitter smell. But when I took him in my arms and he didn’t like it, he fired his skunk glands and brought the wafting aroma under my nose. Woah…

The first year with Reebus was especially full of trials. Although I was advised to have him neutered, I still haven’t. Yes, their running time, which is in January-February, is quite difficult to complete. Mainly because of the call of this primaeval forest. At this time there is a lot of scratching and barking, and climbing on and clawing the windows. At that time, as with small children, it is better to clear away expensive breakable things, clear shelves and tables, and cover mirrors. For about three weeks, the home base is a complete battlefield, a peaceful long night’s sleep is not even worth dreaming about. I am used to sleeping in cycles of 3-4 hours and taking extra during the day if necessary. Braces and leashes must then be particularly strong. I have to keep a good distance, 5-6 metres when we follow the fox tracks and when Rebus marks his territory every few steps. It may be that I appear to him as a competitor or just another suspicious figure and he decides to attack me if I have been disrespectful and too close to him. I have realised that in these moments he is completely at the mercy of his instincts, and he behaves as all his fellows do.

Yes, I have scars on both of my thighs from his fangs… and the fox doesn’t let go of his prey easily. He starts to tear and yank very hard with his teeth, so only by grabbing him by the fur with force have I been freed from his grip. I screamed in great pain and now I know what those animals feel whose bodies are torn with fangs and what the struggle for life and death is like. I was like a Gwion-Hare about to fall into the jaws of a Cerridwen-Greyhound. My hands were shaking and the blood was pounding in my ears, my heart beating wildly until I fainted. I felt how I too became an animal who is being attacked and who has to fight for his life. At that moment our wild instincts mingled. At the same time, I had to hold Rebus on a leash so he wouldn’t escape. Because running into the forest with a long rope would end fatally for him. Finally I could tuck him in my arms, he calmed down and relaxed.  I felt that we had become one in body and spirit. I had eaten fox meat and now he had tasted my blood.

Later, in the room, Rebus came and licked my wounds and I understood that he was apologising. My legs were blue-purple-green for several weeks. It hadn’t been a great day when this happened, but these few times have taught me how to avoid his attacks and how to keep a good enough distance. In recent years, I have been able to behave correctly and be constantly aware of his instincts. It can be said that going for a walk in these times is like going on a reconnaissance, constant observation and readiness, you need to be aware of your surroundings and know how to choose the right path.

 But when the springtime of calm comes and the forest foxes have cubs, Rebus starts to behave like father foxes do with their offspring. And it’s one of the sweetest times of the year. Since there are no expected sons in reality, Bella and I  become his wards, who will now be fed and taught.

That’s when fresh cuts of meat appear under my pillow and in my clothes basket, raw eggs in the corner of the sofa, and stolen packets of butter in the toe of my boot. They are brought near my feet with a snorting sound and he expects me to eat. Mice caught in the field are also brought under my nose with a proud and important face. I definitely have to at least pretend I’m going to eat right away… cropm , cropm, cropm… Rebus will sit down and look around so that no one comes to interfere. I like to sit in the field and watch Rebus catch a mouse. Yes, I know, it’s a pity for the mouse and at first I cried when he caught them and felt disappointment that the life of the world is organised in this way. But I tried to understand the laws of nature and surrender and not judge. Some of the mice Rebus let free, the ones that were somehow braver and resisted him. As in the Cerridwen-Gwion catch game, life and death are at stake most visibly in the life of animals.

The father’s care lasts for a few months until the big summer. From there we have a peaceful life. We go everywhere together, we hang out in the fields, we sleep in the moss under the trees in the forest. And of course, his nose helped me find the most beautiful Amanita Muscarias which I picked to make medicine. Rebus led me to old bones and antlers under leaves and moss and found fresh feathers from which I made jewellery and ceremonial fans and thus transformed the energy of death into new life. So I also picked up some dead vipers whose magical and mystical nature called to me. Was it already Cerridwen’s finger in play that led me not to fear death but to see a certain beauty and rebirth in it ? 

During one of our walks to the field of an old dilapidated farm, Reebus sniffed around the nettle bush with interest. When I pushed away the giant plants almost 2m high, I saw an old and huge iron cauldron lying there. I could easily fit in there to take a bath. I had the cauldron transported to my home, carried water in, made a small fire, sprinkled grasses and plants and climbed into the steaming water, letting the small fire heat up. Sounds a lot like Cerridwen’s story.

And if we wanted to, we drove to the sea and ran on the sandy shores, we visited children’s camps and shaman festivals, we participated in films and made videos. Rebus knows well when to pose and appear in the right place at the right time, make the right face or show his fluffy tail. 

And then one summer, now five years ago, my life took a cardinal turn. I had to leave my home. It wasn’t a voluntary or happy departure, but I had to. Fortunately, my children had already grown up and started their own lives. Somehow unnoticed, I was left only with Rebus and Bella and I had no idea what was going to happen and where we were going. While you can still live with a dog both in the city and in the countryside, in an apartment or a house, living with a fox requires certain conditions and possibilities. I realised that now, the truth about the fox as a spirit animal, about its independent and solitary nature, was beginning to emerge. At that moment, he became my only guide and spiritual helper whom I came to trust. I couldn’t do what my mind wanted or told me, I had to follow the call of the fox spirit, the possibilities it started to show me. I fully surrendered under his guidance and began to listen deeply and observe where it directs me and whom it brings to me. Now that Rebus had learned the life of people, he began to teach me about the world of animals, the world of foxes. Every decision I made was with Rebus’s life and well-being in mind. Every person I met passed the Rebus test to understand who were our people and who were not. So some people considered me a crazy and egoistic witch who lives for the fox and puts his life first. But my children and some soulmates understood me well. 

Long walks of 5-6 km a day now became my healing journey. Heart full of pain and anger, disappointments and suffering, these walks became my escape and helped to do deep shadow work and meditations.

I lay on the ground to breathe in the smell of earth and grass to strengthen my body and let all the pain flow deep into the heart of Mother Earth where it could transform into strength and tenderness at the same time. I let the rain fall into my hair, splashed my fingers in the water and drank nature’s water to cleanse my emotions and wash away the sadness and dirty face that looked into  the water mirror. I could feel the whispers of the winds blowing into my ears and piercing my overwhelmed brain so it could find rest and peace and find balance again. I was grateful for the rays of the sun that ignited in me a new hope and a new passion for life, bringing trust and understanding. And I remember the words that entered my mind… “If you have lost faith in God, then believe in the Goddess, she will never abandon you”. Accompanied by these words, although not yet understanding the deepest meaning, I was able to move forward in my life. 

And I loved that commitment. After all, I myself had asked for and dreamed of my spirit animal. Now it was time to deeply trust him and see what experiences and wisdom this fulfilled dream hides in itself and in which path it leads me. The first step he whispered to me was to go to England, to Glastonbury. A Wendy Andrews painting I stumbled across on the internet was the vision and realisation that led me to Avalon for the Autumn Solstice Celebration. I understand that this was the call of the Goddess, I was ready to receive Her and she was waiting to pour Her love over me. 

Wendy Andrews Painting

Painting by kind permission of Wendy Andrews

In the third part, I will tell you stories where Rebus saved me from several awkward situations in the wild and helped me shapeshift.

Reti Toriella 

Priestess of Cerridwen, Estonia

Reti Toriella

I am She who loves nature and forests, runs across the fields with the fox, paints and prays for life. Art therapist and Soul healer.

2 thoughts on “She Who Runs with Foxes – Part 2

  1. Reti, I have absolutely loved reading about your journey with Rebus. I can’t wait for the next instalment! Thank you for sharing this incredible story with us.

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