The Circle is Cast.
We are between the worlds.
And what happens between the worlds
Affects all the worlds.
Traditional magical circle casting
As you may know from the many articles I have published, and for those who were in my Birthday Club, the numerology of your birthday, or of a particular year, may correspond to the Tarot, specifically the Major Arcana (the trumps). Using this system, we can learn about some general traits and patterns that can be anticipated in a given year.
This year, 2019, is 2+0+1+9, which adds up to the number 12. That means that for the first time since 1920, the world will be undergoing a Hanged Man Year.
If you view the Major Arcana as a journey from The Fool (Zero) to The World (XXI), The Hanged Man precedes one of the most powerful (and misunderstood) cards in the Major Arcana, Death.
And yet, because of the way that numerology works, 2020 will not be a Death year, but instead belongs to the Death card’s numerological companion, The Emperor. More about that next year!
Meantime, after a 99-year hiatus, let’s take a look at what this important (and also, often misunderstood!) Tarot card has to say for the days ahead.
Wait! What About The Empress?
Some of my Tarot colleagues prefer to further reduce the number 12 to 3, which corresponds to The Empress card.
I agree that the influence of the Empress in a Hanged Man Year does exist, since they are in the same numerological “constellation,” as Tarot legend Mary K. Greer terms these associations.
But it has long been my practice, as Mary does, to assign the year card based on whether its digits add up to a number within the 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
If it does not, keep reducing the number until it does. But once it does, stop.
For example, the year 1998 reduces first to 27. That is not a number that falls within the 22 of the Majors, so we must reduce it again — 2+7=9. Since there is a corresponding Major for the number 9, we see that 1998 was a Hermit Year.
But last year, in 2018, which reduces first to 11, I did not further reduce the number to 2. However, some of my colleagues who put more emphasis on strict numerology preferred to make that second reduction and declared it a High Priestess year.
Instead, viewed with the lens of the Tarot, it was 11, which in the Waite-Smith system is Justice. However, because of the “constellation” influence, I feel that, rather than being overlooked, the High Priestess‘ signature was definitely active.
So in 2019, while the Empress certainly influences the Hanged Man, she is not the focus. He is.
Who Is 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.
The Tau cross is a very old, pre-Christian symbol. It is the ancient Greek letter for tau, which, in uppercase looks like the Latin letter for T (which we still use today). According to one symbology resource, the Chaldeans and Egyptians viewed it as a representation of Mithras, the Greek Attis, and their forerunner Tammuz, who was the Sumerian dying and resurrecting God and consort of the Goddess Ishtar. During the ritual mourning of this vegetation God, this T-cross was marked on the participants’ forehead by the priest.
Some historians theorize that this was the shape of the cross on which Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the crux commissa. It was in common use for Roman executions, with its T-square beam and upright post, as was the more familiar crux immmissa, the four-armed symbol.
In later Christian history, another resource notes that it is “associated with the most prominent saints in the Catholic faith. St. Anthony wore a tau-shaped cross on his cloak.”
St. Francis of Assisi, who rejected his prosperous birth and chose instead a life of poverty and humility, adopted it as a personal emblem. He used the tau cross to mark the doors and walls of whatever home he was staying at. He also used it as his signature. Thus it became a cross associated with willing sacrifice, in order to serve the divine.
Tarot artist and scholar, Robert Place tells us:
Waite sees the Hanged Man as a key figure in the soul’s journey. He represents initiation.
The giblet of the traditional [pre-Waite] card has been transformed into a tau cross, a symbol that unites the man’s suffering with the martyrdom of Christ. This is reiterated in the halo.
In the Golden Dawn, the initiates would suffer a simulated ritual execution as a rite of passage into the higher grades and be asked to identify with Christ…
In addition, this position is the yoga pose of The Tree. And like yoga itself, what may appear to an outsider to be very uncomfortable or even painful is instead, with practice, a discipline that will stretch, deepen, and transform the practitioner.
Thus, the Hanged Man can be seen as the archetype of the sovereign, who willingly steps down from his throne or place of power, in order to give his life for good of the people and the fertility of the land.
He is the shaman, turned upside down, preparing, as he hangs on the World Tree, preparing 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 still in the process of being discovered.
If, as the Major Arcana suggests, life is a story, before any happy ending, we must face the test.
This is not an easy thing in a culture where even the slightest physical or emotional discomfort fuels an industry of medicines, remedies, and advice. Sacrifice is considered, at best, old-fashioned and preferably avoided. At worst, it is a fearful taboo, something that befalls only losers and suckers.
Not only has our culture programmed us to be overrun with cravings for more, more, more, but we want everything RIGHT NOW.
To postpone gratification is an antiquated notion in a world where (according to a disturbing recent television commercial) you can saunter through the city streets and, with just a glance, instantly acquire chic clothing, furniture, jewelry, and everything else your whim wishes.
The motto of the 2019 version of the American Dream could well be, “You can have it all!”
For no effort, no money down, and easy payments forever.
“Sacrifice” also has a lot of baggage from nagging older family members and teachers who may have rattled on about their deprivations as children, or the (often tiresome) cautionary tales of sacrifice, hard work, and angst that were the norm in days of yore. Stories that were told again and again, and in stark contrast to a enticing world, often just beyond our reach, that is bright, bejeweled, and easy.
In addition, there is the meaning of sacrifice that especially haunts Pagans and many non-monotheistic practitioners: the myths and popular misunderstandings regarding sacrificing of animals, birds, and even, once upon a time, people.
The minute someone sees your pentagram necklace, there is the constant reality of ignorant reactions: people who believe it is a symbol of evil or even ritual murder. (Hint: nope).
So the self-sacrificing Hanged Man can be challenging, his archetype one that we may admire in stories, but that few would wish to actually be.
Waiting In the Wings
The Hanged Man represents the surrender of our personal will — or, if you prefer psychological terms, perhaps the ego — 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.
And this would certainly be one place where he aligns with the 3 – The Empress, who offers endless streams of creativity.
Like Odin, Who chose to hang from the World Tree Yggdrasil, suffering for nine days, in order to receive the wisdom gift of the Runes, the Hanged Man willingly sacrifices worldly comfort for a more holy purpose.
He is the initiate that is suspended between the worlds. He is challenged to 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.
As many of you reading this will know, 2019 is, in many ways, likely to be a year of suspension. As I post this, the U.S. government is in limbo during the shutdown; we are preparing for hugely important elections next year; the final machinations of Brexit and whatever will be its outcome grind on, and so much more.
There are rumblings about a possible recession waiting in the wings, with the ongoing, poorly understood trade war with China, wild market swings (including the unprecedented fluctuations during the Christmas holidays, when markets are normally very quiet), and ill-informed Tweets directed at the U.S. Federal Reserve.
In 2019, the Tarot urges us to pause, step out of the noise, and go inward. Listen to the wisdom within, and prepare for big changes.
But Wait! There’s More!
Tomorrow, I will offer Part Two of this complex card’s potential influence in the coming year.
Thanks for reading.