Short horns. Eyes full of anger. Profuse beards. Protruding claws. If you have seen this figure, you should know that it is Oni, a figure from Japanese folklore very present in oriental theater. Learn more!

What does the Oni tattoo mean?

The term Oni (?) means troll or ogre or troll. This is the most apt description for the word, although it has been known in the Western world as demon (which in Japanese would be Yokai).

The Oni is a creature with a human body, an animal head (such as monkeys or birds), and may have one or two horns of varying sizes. They always have a nervous, angry facial expression, which makes them seen as evil beings. Legend has it that Onis can torment entire villages and even feed on humans.

On the other hand, the Onis also symbolize protection - and this is the main meaning of Oni tattoo. Its fierce expression would have the power to drive away heavy, negative energies and send away evil spirits. If you opt for an Oni tattoo, now you know what it means!

Oni Masks

Usually when an Oni tattoo is made, it is based on a mask, which are traditionally made of wood and painted in vibrant colors, and are still present in Japanese culture, used in 3 contexts:

  • Noh Theater: A form of ancient theater where the actors act out various stories from folklore, with little dialogue, making the masks seem to be alive.
  • Festivals: Oni masks are also often worn at festivals, as a way to protect oneself from demonic influences or to frighten other Onis who may be present. An example of a festival where the Oni mask is still worn is the Setsubun festival.
  • Amulets: Small Oni masks are also sold as necklaces, talismans, or even cell phone accessories to bring good luck and protection.

Photos of Oni tattoos

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