A journey through the early Major Arcana cards brings us face to face with Magicians, Priestesses, wise guides and teachers. We experience limitations within large systems and the freedom of the open road. We find the support of powerful leaders and loving, nurturing guides sympathetic with our cause and concerned for our well being. We journey forward, maturing with each lesson encountered and gradually the challenges become more sophisticated. We must share, maintain boundaries, keep our cool in the face of danger, and have faith that justice in the universe will eventually prevail. Our sense of integrity is challenged, as is the concept of our capabilities and limits. With each lesson we find ourselves able to prevail, to initiate change, to make choices and to come out triumphant, learning and making gains each step of the way. Then it happens…
We thought we knew bad times, feeling invincible in the face of dilemmas overcome one by one. It was only a warm up. The greater tests still remain. The Hanged Man reminds us of this. Having to choose between the lesser of several evils is hard enough, but when the Hanged Man appears, it may feel as though choice itself is no longer even a factor. The Hanged Man is suspended from a tree by a rope tied around one ankle. From his outstretched leg he dangles, bound and powerless, while his other leg bends at the knee, foot tucked into the knee of his straight leg like an upside down “4”. He is without mobility. The carefree stride of the Fool is stripped from him. In the midst of this dilemma his face betrays no panic, but rather appears serene and contemplative. A halo crowns his head. It is as if the Fool has decided to take advantage of his situation by absorbing as much of the unusual view as he can - and being content with this for the time being. Indeed, he makes it look so easy!
Assuming most people no longer are under threat of hanging we may wonder what type of situation in modern life could parallel that of this unfortunate man. Is he being punished for a crime or as a traitor? In that case, we may assume, he is deserving of his fate! Have enemies conspired against the Fool so that he can be hung out to dry as a scapegoat? Perhaps then, he is an undeserving victim. The key to the Hanged Man’s situation is powerlessness, the lack of mobility and lack of ability to effect change to one’s surroundings. This is not for lack of trying.
The Hanged Man represents a significant event that leaves one in a state of inertia and inability. In modern day this can be likened to being physically limited suddenly by an illness or injury, or a prolonged experience of life being “on hold” in spite of any effort you may take to initiate change again. Make no mistake, this is not a matter of the bus being late or not having the money to buy the mansion of your dreams and being stuck with a mere four bedroom house. This is a condition in which one is experiencing sacrifice, an intense experience of futility, an obstacle or burden that one will carry for a period of time.
The situation surrounding the Hanged Man is not one that bends to our previous logic and lessons. Working harder will not loosen the ropes, in fact it may intensify the pain. Begging, pleading, bargaining, and putting forth more effort will also not prove advantageous now. It may seem like all is lost, but rest assured that is not the case. After all, we still have 9 more cards to go! So what does the universe want from us? Why are we being tortured, punished, or even abandoned?
Liberation for the Hanged Man will come, but it will be an inside job first. Our feelings of betrayal, anger at the Powers that Be, or loss of hope in the world is part of the internal prison that would exist even if a passerby kindly cut the ropes and released the Hanged Man from his tree. The events precipitating this difficult time stand to strengthen us, from the inside out. We are forced to accept external situations beyond our control and not to our liking. We are forced to find new meaning, new definitions. In a sense, “being hung upside down” forces us to consider a new view of the world not accessible to us before. We are forced to take a new perspective. Just like Odin, we are forced to learn a new vocabulary, develop new insight into the world through the loss of many of our previous senses. As Odin was suspended from the World Tree, sacrificing an eye but given the wisdom of the Runes, we are compelled to stretch our strength, limit our control, accept our situation and gain a greater, deeper understanding through sacrifice. When contentment and acceptance have been found through this new understanding, we will be released.
Article by: Angela Kaufman. Angela is a Priestess for the Dragon Warriors of Isis Coven in Upstate, New York, and the co-author of Wicca: What's the Real Deal? She is a professional tarot reader. For more information about Wicca: What's the Real Deal? visit http://www.wwtrd.webs.com.