Onryo are ghosts who return to haunt the living with vengeance on their minds. Onryo may be male or female, but the most famous tend to be female. Onryo, in general, were people of little or no power while alive. They died tragically at the hands of those more powerful. The Onryo return absolutely suffused with long-repressed rage except that now, as ghosts, they are powerless no longer.




Originally, beyond being ghosts, there was no one single uniform manifestation associated with Onryo. When they became popular subjects of stylized Kabuki theater, expectations developed regarding an Onryo’s appearance. If you’ve seen a Japanese horror movie, you are probably familiar with the Onryo’s appearance: she is a pale woman with long, wild, unkempt hair, dressed in white burial clothing. Male Onryo appear similarly.

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Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.