What are Hannya Masks and what do they Symbolize?

What is the Hannya Mask?

The Hannya mask is mostly depicted in Japanese theatre-based shows named Noh and Kyogen. The word Hannya was coined by popular artist Hannyabo who sculpted this mask in a wooden thing. Some believe it to be adapted from the popular serpent masks while others have faith that it symbolizes higher consciousness. Also, some people refer to Hannya with the Panna meaning of 'wisdom' in the Japanese Buddhism culture. 

The mask is designed with devil horns and sombre metallic finished eyes having extremely sharp teeth-like big fangs. It has a wide leering mouth that is petrifying and disgusting to look at. 

The Hannya mask was used in a popular play of Prince Genji where the prince gets married to lady Aoi despite having a beloved lady named Lady Rokujo. But when the lady Aoi is pregnant with the prince's baby, Genji begins ignoring Rokujo. As a result, she transformed herself into a violent, jealous woman who turns demonic and possesses the nature to kill. 

hannya mask ring

What does the Hannya mask symbolize? 

The mask shows the aggression and complete pain of the female energy which might appear as a satanic, demon, petrifying, and menacing. But at the same moment, the mask also represents isolation, heartbreak, and dissoluteness. The expressions on the mask are often confusing between happy emotions and sad emotions. But the main concept of this Hannya mask is to bring out the intense form of emotions to represent that no woman should be cheated. 

Pure Evil

When the mask is shown dark red in color, it symbolizes an experience where a woman shows a complete loss of control. It shows her complete transformation into the devil form.

Anger, Jealousy & Resentment

The Hannya tattoo is a straightforward representation of a merciless person. It is one of the reasons why this tattoo is famous among the Japanese mafia called Yakuza. The tattoo bearer shows the message that they will show no pity on anyone, and is put on to terrify others.

Good luck

As per the traditional Japanese culture, this mask was also considered a great talisman to ward off all the negativities and evil spirits. Spiritual communities connect this mask as a protection symbol and keep it with them in miniature forms. For example, a miniature mask on a ring or pendant, or a permanent tattoo on the body. 


Today, the Hannya Mask is interpreted in distinct ways as per their perception. Some consider it as the imprint of envy and rage while others call it the portrayal of true wisdom and believe it brings good luck by warding off the negativity. Therefore, people love to flaunt this symbol on their bodies as a badge of significant impact with trending styles.