This week, we welcome the powerful Major Arcana image of The Hanged Man. In my introductory Tarot classes, The Hanged Man is always one of the top choices for most scary or unpleasant cards. (This is a perfect example, I think, of why it is vital to study the Tarot, instead of just flying by the seat of your pants, and relying purely on an intuitive, uneducated response to the cards.)
For as unpleasant as the Hanged Man may seem at first, look closely and you will see that it is not a card about death, torture, or punishment. Instead, the Hanged Man has a halo around his face, his eyes are open, and he is at peace. It becomes clear that he has chosen to hang in this way upon the living, leafy T-shaped Tau cross.
His legs are in an odd position, one crossed behind the other, like the number four, which is symbolic of Earth, and stability. And his own number, the 12 of the Major Arcana, reduces to 3, showing us his ties to the Empress, and the Mother Earth. So although he is hanging upside down, he is still grounded, in a non-ordinary way. His position even looks like a dancer’s pose.
In fact, if you reverse the Hanged Man, you will see he is in the same pose as the Dancer figure in the World card. However, unlike the World figure, who extends the magic wands she holds, the Hanged Man has his arms behind his back. His power is not yet revealed, but is withdrawn, or still in the process of being discovered.
In a culture where instant gratification and the supremacy of individual selfishness are not only tolerated, but celebrated, it is not too surprising that the lessons of sacrifice and patience embodied by The Hanged Man are not always welcome. In a society where even the slightest physical or emotional discomfort fuels an industry of medicines, remedies, and advice, the notion of the Hanged Man may seem unpleasant indeed.
The Hanged Man represents the surrender of our personal will, in order to accept the calling of the Divine. He is the one who often guides artists, explorers, and those who are willing to sacrifice conventional wisdom and appearances for some deeper mystical path.
Like the Christian God, whose sacrificial death on a cross is being celebrated this week, this is the face of transcending ego, even pain, for the sake of love. He is also like the God Odin, who chose to hang from the World Tree Yggdrasil, suffering for nine days, in order to receive the wisdom gift of the Runes.
I find it fascinating, too, that this card comes on the day of the Full Moon in Libra. The nature of this Moon is the tension between the Sun in Aries, the supremacy of the individual, versus the sign of Libra, which calls for moving the focus from “Me” to “We.” (see today’s accompanying Full Moon article from astrologer Julia Bondi). In what ways might we be asked to forego our individual ego’s needs for the greater good of the community?
The Hanged Man willingly sacrifices worldly comfort for a more holy purpose. He is the initiate that is suspended between the worlds. He must let go of the ordinary, and go deeper. The Hanged Man challenges us to leave behind what is familiar or easy. And sometimes, we can do nothing but wait.
In what ways this week are you called upon to release your personal agenda for a higher good? What problem or situation would benefit if you looked at things from a radically different angle? In what ways are you being challenged to see things in a new perspective, or give of yourself in completely unselfish ways? If you are feeling hung up, stuck or blocked, what hidden gifts may there be in this?
Take time out to listen and accept the treasures of the spirit being offered to you. This is not the time for striving and demanding. Instead, your ability to consciously wait is called for. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and be patient for guidance. There is wisdom coming for you, but like an initiate, you are asked to surrender control of the time frame and the form of the delivery.
Receive and accept the guidance of Mystery.