What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it’s dearness only that gives everything its value.
Once again, the parade of Major Arcana cards resumes this week. As we go deeper into the Winter Holiday season, we have our third visit this year from The Hanged Man.
The Hanged Man often startles those who are new to Tarot. Its name sounds grim, but look at the card, and you will see that this is not a card about physical 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 position is the yoga pose of The Tree, and the Druid magical pose of The Crane.
He is the sovereign, who willingly steps down from his throne in order to give his life for the protection and fertility of the land. He is the shaman, turned upside down, preparing, as he hangs on the World Tree, to descend into the Underworld (for the card in the Major Arcana that follows the Hanged Man is Death).
The potential of his eventual triumph is visible to those who can see it, for if you reverse the Hanged Man, you will discover he is in the same pose as the Dancer figure in The World card.
However, unlike The World figure, who displays the magic wands she holds, The Hanged Man has his arms behind his back. His power is not yet revealed, but is withdrawn, or is still in the process of being discovered.
In every good story, before any happy ending, the protagonist must face The Test.
But for us in “real life,” this is not a pleasant prospect. We live in a culture where even the slightest physical or emotional discomfort fuels an industry of medicines, remedies, and advice.
Instant gratification is the name of the game. Sacrifice is considered, at best, old-fashioned and preferably avoided. At worst, it is a fearful activity that is the purview of “primitive” people, or else something that befalls only losers and fools.
How unsurprising, then, that so few people have the patience to learn what is in their own hearts, much less the hearts of others. Little wonder that few cultivate empathic awareness.
Such knowledge comes at a price – it can be a difficult, painstaking, slow path. We must suspend our ego and possibly eliminate some cherished assumptions.
And yet every day, we see examples of how those with easy privilege, few hardships, and only trivial challenges can easily become arrogant, intolerant, and spoiled.
How different would life be, if, for instance, our public servants gave themselves over to actually being of humble service?
It’s rarely fun to face and own our prejudices, our shadows, and our mistakes. Pain is, well.. painful.
And many would rather squeak by on the cheap if possible. But the rewards of patiently waiting and working for what is truly dear to us may yield rewards we could not have otherwise imagined.
The Hanged Man is in the process of The Test that represents the surrender of his personal will, in order to accept the calling of the Divine.
The Artist’s Way
In my experience, The Hanged Man is an important Tarot guardian and guide for artists, visionaries, and explorers.
It speaks to the necessity of a long, often challenging apprenticeship before reaching mastery.
It can be an affirmation for those who are willing to sacrifice conformity, the status quo, creature comforts, and even more conventional measures of success for a higher, more authentic calling.
This card especially blesses those who are relinquishing a safe, secure, hum-drum life, in order to serve The Work (in whatever ways they may recognize it).
What creative divine download has your name on it? What if you look at things from a completely different angle? Be still, and allow your heart to be touched.
Once you get out of your comfort zone, what new discoveries are possible? Could it be that you have been clinging to people, choices, or situations not in your highest interest?
Get outside of that old box of yours. Allow creativity to be your guide and playmate, taking you to new places, people, and experiences that stir your juices
One of the best antidotes for mediocrity is to live an artful life. Creativity requires turning away from the same old, same old, and seeking the uncertainty of innovation.
Between the Worlds
Is there an important, possibly unwelcome postponement that’s come up? Perhaps you need to pause, pay attention, have patience, and go deeper. How do you react when control slips away from you?
What path of soul initiation do you now find yourself upon?
Limbo is rarely fun. But hanging between heaven and Earth, we are reminded that what happens between the worlds, affects all the worlds.
Do you feel like you are being thwarted from what you desire, or even stuck in a holding pattern? That is often the Hanged Man’s backwards-seeming gift to us. When he comes calling, his message is that the wisest choice is to cooperate. What if you just breathe, and wait?
The great paradox is that when we let go of our need to be in control, but instead simply surrender to the process, true wisdom and power are given.
Only when we completely yield will we discover we never had to struggle in the first place. We are always being supported by Divine love.
Let yourself be guided, even if the destination is, as yet, unknown.