Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hannya Mask







The Hannya mask is a mask used in Japanese Noh theater, representing a jealous female demon or serpent. It possesses two sharp bull-like horns, metallic eyes, and a leering mouth split from ear to ear. The name hannya is a Sino-Japanese word for prajna or wisdom.

The Hannya mask is used in many noh and kyògen Japanese plays, as well as in Shinto ritual kagura dances. The Hannya mask portrays the souls of women who have become demons due to obsession or jealousy. Plays in which a person may wear the hannya mask include Aoi no Ue and Dòjòji; its use in these two plays, two of the most famous of the Noh repertoire, and its distinctive and frightening appearance make it one of the most recognizable Noh masks. 

The Hannya mask is said to be dangerous and demonic, but also sorrowful and tormented displaying the complexity of human emotions. When the actor looks straight ahead, the mask appears frightening and angry; when tilted slightly down, the face of the demon appears to be sorrowful, as though crying. The oldest hannya mask is dated 1558.

Hannya masks appear in various skin tones: a white mask indicates a woman of aristocratic status (such as Rokujò in Aoi no Ue), a red mask depicts a low-class woman, and the darkest red depicts true demons (revealed after appearing as women, as in Momijigari and Kurozuka.) Those who get a Hannya mask tattooed in their bodies have identified themselves in one way or the other with this masks. People have a reason to get tattooed, and choosing a design plays a role as well.

Some people might like the way it looks, the colors, etc. or simply have a personal reason to go for the mask, some people follow the cultural significance and others might relate to the mask in some ways.

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