The name Tatarimokke(たたりもっけ), when translated means “Cursed Child”.  No, it is not Harry Potter, thought there is a version of the Tatarimokke in the series.  Now the name is built from two words: “Tatari” meaning “Curse”and “Moke” which translates to “infant” in a few of the northern dialect.  Fun story time.  Usually Tatarimokke is written phonetically, but other times, it is written with different characters. More specifically the characters that mean “Curse” and “Frog” (祟り)蛙).  In these cases, the character for “Frog” is meant to read as “Moke”, which in turn is meant to mean newborn.

Owl or Spirit of a Child?

The Tatarimokke, is an owl found in Japan that is said to have the unique ability of being able to be possessed by the spirit of dead children, more specifically babies.  Visually the Tatarimokke looks the same as any other owl found in nature.    The possessed Tatarimokke tend to remain close to the homes of the families that the spirit once belonged to, while the owl’s hooting is said to be created by the spirit of the deceased child.

For the most part, The Tatarimokke is loved and respected by the families it haunts, as they typically do not cause harm and are considered peaceful spirits.  In Japan, homes that recently lost a child will actually take care of any owls that appear near their home, treating them as they would their lost child.

But as with all good stories, comes stories of the bad.  There are times when the Tatarimokke can be dangerous.  These cases happen when the the owl is possessed by the souls of babies whose bodies were discarded without respect (like being dumped into a river), if the parents killed the child, or if the child was aborted.  In all these cases, it is said that the spirit can retain a grudge against the living.  If you were to come across an angry Tatarimokke, it is said that you would hear eerie sounds, feel unsettled, and may even see strange phenomena like floating fireballs or you may even be tripped.  But there are even more extreme cases.

Tatarimokke – as drawn by Matthew Meyer

In the more extreme cases, the Tatarimokke is said to bring a curse on those who are perceived to have wronged the spirit.  This is typically seen in case of murder.  In these cases, the spirit that inhabits the Tatarimokke is not that of a child, but that of the victim who was wronged.  The Tatarimokke will lay a curse on the assailant so powerful, it will bring ruin on the wrong doer, their family, and any of their descendants.

The belief in the Tatarimokke can be traced to a simple idea that was popular in Japan.  For a long time, babies were not perceived as fully human until after they are born.  Because of this belief, if a child was miscarried or died right after birth, they were not given a proper funeral.  Instead, the child would be buried quietly outside the family’s home.  The Japanese believed the spirit of the deceased child would then float out into the ether.  Since owls were fairly common around homes, it was believed the spirit would get trapped in the owl, creating the Tatarimokke.  


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