Hannya – 般若 29. March 2023

Hannya belong to the Oni group and are female demons, also known as Kijo. They were once human women who transformed into demons due to extreme jealousy towards their husbands. These demons possess black magic and use it to punish men. Hannya is derived from the Sanskrit word for wisdom and also refers to a specific mask used in the Noh theater.

The Appearance

There are three types of Hannya demons, each with unique appearances and levels of strength.


Namanari appear almost entirely human, with the only distinguishing feature being two small horns on their heads. They possess dark magic and use it to summon the souls of living humans, known as ikiryō, to attack their enemies and seek revenge. They are the weakest form of Hannya and can still regain their humanity.


Chūnari resemble the typical Hannya mask, with long horns and large fangs protruding from their mouths. They have lost most of their human appearance and are characterized by both sadness and anger. Their black magic is even stronger than that of Namanari, but they can still be released from their demon form with the help of Buddhist prayers.


Honnari is the most powerful form of Hannya, with a body that has transformed into that of a snake due to extreme jealousy. Her fingers have sharp claws, her tongue is forked like a snake’s, and she spits fire. She cannot escape her demon form once she transforms, and it takes at least an army to defeat her.

The Behavior

The Hannya’s behavior is unpredictable and can range from simple mischief to violent acts of revenge. Her primary targets are men, whom she seeks revenge against for the harm they have caused her. Once she has set her sights on a target, she stops at nothing to achieve her goals. Hannya is a symbol of the destructive power of negative emotions and the importance of controlling them.

The Hannya Mask

The Hannya and the Hannya mask are strongly represented in the Noh theater. The colors of the mask represent different intentions, with white symbolizing aristocratic distinction, red symbolizing jealousy, green symbolizing anger, and dark symbolizing demonic darkness. The masks are carved to show different facial expressions depending on the light incidence, which is especially noticeable in the Hannya mask. The role of the Hannya in Noh theater is not clearly defined, but it is often used to represent a young woman consumed by jealousy who descends into madness until she transforms into a demon.

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