When debating on getting a tattoo, there are many options out there. However, one of the oldest and most symbolic style of tattooing comes from the Japanese. Tattooing in Japan has been a long journey. From being accepted, to being outlawed, back to being accepted again. From dragons to cherry blossoms, there are a plethora of different symbols from Japanese lore. There are many images in Japanese tattooing that can be had but the one we are talking about today is the Hannya mask.
In this post we will talk about the Hannya mask and where it originated. We will also talk about the symbolism behind the Hannya mask tattoo and what it means to those that choose to get this historical tattoo. Finally, we will go over some of the variations of the Hannya tattoo and talk about what changes, if any, the additional symbols add to the meaning of the Hannya tattoo. We hope by the end of this post you will have a better idea of the Hannya tattoo meaning and give you that little boost you might be looking for, so you can get your own.
What is a Hannya Mask?
The Hannya mask is a traditional Japanese mask used in Noh theatrical performances, kyogen theatre and Shinto kagura dances. It is a representation of a jealous woman driven mad and transformed into a horrible demon. In a way she is similar to Medusa, but she has her own backstory and its roots are very much in Japanese culture.
About the Hannya Mask Tattoo
Why is the Hannya mask tattoo so popular? It’s pretty simple, really: It looks great! It is usually a larger tattoo, but some people will get a smaller Hannya mask with other designs surrounding it. Some people see it as a pretty creepy image, while others see it as just plain beautiful. Either way, it’s a striking image that has a number of different meanings. The Hannya mask meaning that each owner gets depends on who they are and the type of Hannya mask tattoo that they decide to get.
The mask features two sharp pointed horns, heavy, sorrowful eyes and a wide, screaming mouth. There are often pointed teeth as well, adding to the terror. The image is usually meant to frighten and horrify, causing the audience to fear the raging jealousy of the tortured demon woman. Someone who gets a Hannya mask tattoo might be trying to get a “wow” out of people who see it, or they think the image represents some part of themselves.
There are three degrees of Hannya masks, representing the descent of a tormented woman into the madness of jealousy and obsessive behavior. The twisted passions of love are shown as the woman is gradually transformed into a demon as her obsession for her lover overwhelms her. Some Hannya mask tattoos have multiple parts of this process in their Hannya mask, while others will just choose one of the images.
The first type of mask is the lightest colored and the furthest away from the true demon. The horns are smaller and less menacing but still inhuman. When someone decides to use this Hannya mask image, they are usually expressing that they are still normal (or sane) at this point, but there is danger and chaos just below the surface. A person with anxiety or deep rage might find that this version of the Hannya mask is perfect for them.
The second mask is darker, a deeper red, that portrays a woman on the cusp of being overtaken by her jealousy due to unrequited love. A person who has gone through a very troubled relationship and is having a tough time with it might choose this type of Hannya mask. It could also be a tat for a woman who has been cheated and the scars have yet to heal.
The third mask is a vivid red and represents a true demon, a tortured and enraged soul that is unpredictable. The demons are to be greatly feared with their sharp, long horns and teeth. Their extreme misery leads them to murderous and cruel actions. This is the Hannya mask tattoo that most people choose, even if they are not crazy in any way. It is an iconic image that can be a huge tattoo on its own or mixed with other tattoo designs.
Hannya Mask Symbolism
The Hannya mask is a symbol of jealousy and unpredictable behavior. The tormented female spirit cannot be trusted and can murder her lover if she cannot be satisfied. The demon must be exorcised and banished from the material world to bring peace to her victim. When this Hannya mask is used, the owner is often trying to get past a tough moment in their lives (often a bad relationship) and they use the tattoo to remind themselves to keep looking forward.
The mask is a representation of a haunted past. It portrays the unjustly placed obsession of a twisted and miserable soul that cannot be satiated. The image of the mask commemorates the slaying of this demon and the marking of its place left in the past. This Hannya mask tattoo meaning is equally popular with both men and women. The mask can represent just about any dark moment in one’s past and the owner can think of the Hannya as keeping it from coming back to the surface.
Hannya Mask Tattoo Variations
The Hannya mask is a very common design in Japanese tattooing and is a powerful image on its own. However, some people choose to add some other symbolism or images with the Hannya mask tattoo to either reinforce the symbolism or change it slightly. Below are a few examples of the Hannya mask tattoo.
Hannya Mask and Cherry Blossom Tattoo
The Hannya mask and cherry blossom tattoo is a common mix of symbols in a tattoo. The cherry blossom is a symbol of life being beautiful and also fleeting at the same time. Because cherry blossoms are extremely beautiful but die fast, they symbolize that life is short and beautiful. The mixing of these two might not seem to make sense, however, it might be a way to help your jealous tendencies calm when you understand that you don’t have time to feel that way.
Hannya Mask and Snake Tattoo
The Japanese snake symbolizes the divine feminine or attributes of the female that might be holy. This fits right in with the duality of the female. The jealous and unpredictable side of the woman versus the beautiful feminine part of a woman. This tattoo is a beautiful image of the different spirits of a woman and seems to be a popular choice for Japanese tattoo enthusiasts.
Hannya Mask and Water Tattoo
The Hannya mask tattoo and wave tattoo symbolize the ebbs and flows of life in all its forms. This even relates to women and the feelings of jealousy. In addition, the Japanese waves are great filler for most Japanese tattoos when you are looking to fill those gaps between the big images of Japanese Irezumi.
The Hannya mask tattoo is one of those tattoo designs that doesn’t need multiple meanings to be a fantastic design tat choice. It looks great in both color and black and gray, so it’s the type of design that plenty of people would love to have. Yes, it’s a bit creepy to look at initially, but it can also hold a very powerful meaning to its owner and can be further customized to work with their tastes.
Thinking about getting a Hannya mask tattoo? Then be sure to look over multiple design options before you commit to it. You can get a large Hannya mask tattoo on your back, or you could get it on your arm with other images surrounding it.
We also suggest taking your time when looking for an artist to complete your Hannya mask tattoo. When you are looking for your artist, make sure they are well versed in the art of Japanese tattooing because you don’t want to end up with someone that is going to wing it. Go on their social media accounts and look at their portfolios when you go in to talk to the artist. If you are having trouble finding someone to make your vision come to life, let us know. The team at Tattoo SEO has years of experience in matching customers to the perfect tattoo artist. Happy hunting!