Sunday, May 13, 2007

Japanese Demon

The hannya mask is the vengeful and jealous woman turned demon. Pointed horns, metallic eyes and teeth, and the expression all exhibit the full wrath, anger and resentment of her nature. The origins of hannya masks may have come from early snake masks but most likely the image was taken from painted hand scrolls of stories and legends of the Muromachi period. In fact one of the oldest hannya masks is dated 1558. Of course the most prominent feature is the horns. Even to this day a hand gesture of two index fingers sticking up from a man's forehead is an indication that his wife is mad at him or jealous.

There are many variations of hannya masks. The coloring of the face also signifies the degree of passion in the demon's anger. For example, a more reddish color indicates strong resentment and anger and is used in such plays as Dodoji and Kurozuka, whereas a paler color would be more appropriate for Aoi-no-ue. Dodoji is the story of unrequited love between a woman and a priest of Dodoji (temple). She turns into a demonic serpent who wraps her body around the temple bell consuming it and the priest in the process.

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