To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.
Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.E.)
As this time of drama and intrigue continues to unfold, and the waxing Moon advances to Her fullness on Sunday, The Hanged Man bids us to pause — and deepen our awareness.
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 speaks to us of 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 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 His power is not yet revealed, but is withdrawn, or is still in the process of being discovered.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.
The Hanged Man represents this surrender of our personal will, in order to accept the calling of the Divine.
It’s rarely fun to look at our prejudices, our shadows, and our mistakes. But it is only by suspending our views of right-doing and wrong-doing that we may find our common ground. By yielding, we discover tolerance, forgiveness, and redemption.
How are you being tested? How are we, in our values, beliefs, and nationalities, facing a Hero’s Journey trial of initiation, before we can move forward?
The Artist’s Way
In my experience, The Hanged Man is a touchstone for artists, visionaries, and explorers. It can be an affirmation for those who are willing to sacrifice conformity, the status quo, and even 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 Great Work (in whatever ways they may recognize it).
What creative divine download has your name on it? Be still, and allow your heart (and talent!) 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 same old box of yours. Your life is a work of art. Cultivate your finest eccentricities. Allow creativity to be your guide and playmate, taking you to new places, people, and experiences that stir your juices.
What if you look at things from a completely different angle?
Between the Worlds
Is there an important 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. Often, 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.
This is a time for holding stillness, and building our inner resources for the changes ahead, because The Hanged Man is the card that prepares us for the next card in the journey of the Major Arcana – the card of endings and transformation: Death.
Do not be distracted by the apparent increase in confusion, drama, and conflict.
Surrender what is unnecessary or unhealthful for your spirit. Breathe. Go deep within. Listen. Stay true, open, and clear.
Wait, trust, and hope, for the hand of the Divine is at work.