One of the gruesome things humans have done to each other is to hang traitors or other perceived criminals upside down by one leg. Yes, it’s a method of execution. And that is how XII The Hanged Man is perceived in some branches of Tarot.
Prometheus would certainly fit the definition of “traitor”, if we’re looking from the perspective of Zeus, who designed the punishment. Of course, from our point of view, Prometheus is a rebel fighting for a worthy cause.
It’s all about perspective.
And that’s got a lot to do with XII The Hanged Man: taking a pause to view the world from a different perspective. Stopping the current forward momentum to assess and change direction.
Kind of like what the sun is doing right now.
For those of you celebrating Christmas, I wish you a blessed and hope-filled holiday.
Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere . . . that darkest time of the year, when the sun “stands still” for 3 days. In that stillness, if we choose, is an opportunity to pause and explore our depths, to go within our own deepest darkness. We’ll need those resources in the cold time before us. There is no more harvest to be had; we’ll have to draw on what we already possess to make it through till the bounty begins again in the spring.
How to explore? Our earth, our bodies, are slow with cold, buried under snow – and parkas. Our water is frozen, immobilized. All the better to examine our emotions! Our fire’s been tamed, brought indoors to keep us warm. The spirit’s close to the hearth. The air is crisp and clear, as quick and vivacious as ever. Our minds and thoughts have additional clarity now, seeing anew, reflecting on what we see of ourselves in the stillness, keeping our passions close to home.
It’s not a journey for the faint of heart, so tarot can be our guide into the depths and back out again. For this solar landmark, our Winter Solstice spread puts the now into the context of the full lunar year (there are 13 cards in this big spread, honouring each of the lunar months of the year). Let’s look at a spread that takes us into our collective depths. Throw your own personal spread the day of the Solstice, or the day before or after. We’ll use Barbara Moore & Franco Rivolli’s Silver Witchcraft Tarot.
What’s at our depths? IV The Emperor
Whew! Right at the beginning of our journey we’re discovering that what’s at the bottom isn’t so bad. The Emperor gives us sovereignty over our lives while we retain our connection to others. As the lambs and ram attest, he corresponds to Aries, the beginning of Spring. Here at the Solstice, we’re already hearkening to revivification. As a society, we’ll be confronting our rigid and ineffectual systems, with opportunities to give them new life and make them more inclusive.
How can we reach them? 4 of Chalices
It’s always good to know the vehicle that will take us where we want to go . . . no sense getting on the wrong bus. Our dreams will be a help this winter. Guided meditations that relax the body to let the mind travel are excellent carriers. Following your areas of boredom and dissatisfaction (looking toward a traditional meaning of the card) can also be fertile roads to explore. Even falling asleep on the job will lead us down to the bottom. In the bigger picture, that says we’re part of systems that are failing; if we do nothing, we’ll be looking at the foundations. Since we’re being pointed to Spring again, we can expect our journey to be a long-term process.
What do we want to bring out with us? XV The Devil
Here’s the first intimation that there’s some scary stuff down there in the deeps. We’ll encounter some of our own dead zones this winter, as individuals and as a society. What have we let die through neglect? What have we killed and buried, thinking we were done with it? We’ll actually benefit from unearthing our self-destructive side. Notice when you hear yourself, or someone else, saying things like “I’d like to kill that guy” or “They deserve to just be blown away.” It’s a difficult thing to hear, especially from ourselves or the ones we love. Consciousness of those moments is bringing the Devil out of the depths.
How can we use it? 5 of Pentacles
And here we have what to do with our own killing energies when we bring them up: we let them go. As the maiden and crone are doing, we shed our robes, the actions and habits that have brought us to where we are now, in preparation for immersing ourselves in the flowing waters of Spring. Our connection to the Tree of Life and the rabbit of endless fertility and creativity is strong. We don’t need our self-destructive habits, as individuals, or as a society.
The side of using self-destruction that we all fear speaks to war, environmental degradation, ethnic cleansing – the global traumas that are all too commonplace in our lives. How does the technological availability of reports on these issues serve the call to bring XV The Devil out of the depths?
What will be brought to light? XVIII
XVIII The Moon keeps secrets, creating illusions and confusion. The Moon brought to light will show our illusions in the harsh light of day. Remember, sometimes that’s a good thing: what we thought was a threatening monster was just a duffle bag with a hockey stick propped against it. Other times it’s a little more terrifying: we find the plans we’ve counted on don’t have the foundations we thought they did. Or someone finds the key to our closely guarded secrets and shares them out in the open. Come Spring (XVIII The Moon’s association with Pisces is another reference to spring), much less will be hidden and much more will be clear. Apparently, Wikileaks will be having a field day.
Look back to XV The Devil. How often do the destructive impulses you’ve encountered follow fear, confusion, or misunderstanding? How often do we think the solution to our problems is to kill something or someone?
What has been brought into balance? XVII The Star
In XVII The Star we have the masculine and feminine aspects of the Divine truly connected, with the spark of creation the product of that connection. The Star is a welcome beacon in the dark of night. We can find our way home from the light and position of the Star. I can’t help but think of the portion of Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where God and Adam touch fingers. The Star awakens our individual and collective Divine sparks, calling us as co-creators. If we’ve been stampeding ahead into inappropriate action without listening to our inner calling, we’ve been out of balance. If we’re in touch with our purpose but haven’t found the energy to act on what we feel, we’ve been out of balance. It’s very good news that we’ll individually be feeling and acting on our personal missions here on our shared planet. What might our community or national or global missions be as a group? It will be beautiful to see the results as our sense of purpose is restored to the people of Earth.
What will be left behind? 8 of Swords
Traditionally, 8 of Swords is the card of being stuck. Those days will be over for us. How amazing will it be to have long term problems finally moving toward solution?
What I’m aware of in Franco Rivolli’s image is the threads that have already been cut, but are still attached to the tree. Earlier, in the 5 of Pentacles, we saw those strong threads attaching our women to the Tree of Life in the midst of change and letting go. Here the impending storm is so frightening that geese are moving on rather than hunkering down, and people have been cutting their threads to escape.
If we’re no longer cutting our ties to life, we’re staying to engage and deal with the storm. Could we see a more proactive attitude from greater numbers in the coming year? Could we see the literal suicide numbers decline? What a beautiful thing that would be, especially for the families of those in the Armed Services, where the numbers are astonishingly high.
What choices and decisions are now possible? Knight of Chalices
How many people do you know who would love to follow their hearts, but feel unable to for a multitude of reasons? Are you one of them? The Knight of Chalices has connected his mind to his heart. He’s following his heart as he makes choices and decisions. What will be possible as we bring compassion and emotional connection back into our lives? I’ll join the Knight of Chalices in a toast to a world where we’re individually and collectively making choices from the depths of our hearts.
What do we welcome into our lives? XI Justice
Your reaction to XI Justice is dependent on your perception of your “guilt” level. XI Justice is all about accountability and truth. It will help us deal effectively with the confusion and deception of XVIII The Moon. If there’s an accountability price tag to XI Justice in your life, what it purchases will be considered a bargain (remember, we’re welcoming Justice, not dreading it). Who doesn’t hunger for justice? Who hasn’t said “that’s just not fair!”?
This particular XI Justice image turns its attention to the dark pillar, appropriate for our quest into unknown depths. The butterflies indicate new life and transformation out of the darkness. Collectively, we could welcome steps toward economic justice or climate justice.
What do we release? XII The Hanged Man
Releasing is different from leaving behind. We leave behind what’s outmoded, we release what’s caged. XII The Hanged Man is the Philosopher, trapped by no particular dogma or world view, able to see and accept – and be comfortable with – a variety of perspectives. This can add to our growing store of tools to dispel misconceptions that lead to destructive actions. Knight of Chalices allows us to connect with each other via the heart, XII The Hanged Man brings us connection via the enlightened mind.
Can we understand and accept the varieties of perspectives that make up our complex individual characters? Can we learn about the perspectives of tribes other than our own? The release of XII The Hanged Man says “yes”.
There’s an interesting connection here to the 8 of Swords. The 8 of Swords is tethered with criticism, the mindset that we’re leaving behind. It is also a card of inactivity, stuckness. XII The Hanged Man is also tethered and inactive, but with a very different attitude. He has the patience to wait for understanding of a new perspective with an open mind. If we’re releasing him, has he now reached a level of understanding that allows for enlightened action?
What do we celebrate in the Winter season? VIII Strength
VIII Strength celebrates our own strength and stamina, our fiery Leonine wild side. The mask we wear is that of the Green Man, our nature archetype. We can celebrate our health, our vitality, our abilities as instinctual beings. Those of us with furry companions can celebrate the additional warm that cozying with them brings us.
There’s another function of companion animals – and of our instinctual selves: to keep guard, to defend our safety, our territory. A barking dog sets boundaries. As we’re developing understanding for those with other belief systems, other world views, we can still define ourselves as separate, without losing our sense of connection. We can celebrate a better sense of ourselves as individuals within the greater world.
The shadow side of these celebrations would be the martial displays that celebrate victory through dominance. Rather than engage with those, celebrate the true strength that is displayed when we are living our mission, our purpose. Celebrate the stamina required to continue living that purpose, even against opposition. Celebrate the instincts that tell us “this direction is my meaningful path, that path holds meaning for someone else”. Celebrate the victory of vitality over the self-destructive XV Devil.
What mysteries will we contemplate? 2 of Wands
2 of Wands is the card of Winter Solstice. The mysteries of the season itself, as well as the mysteries that are revealed by living this spread are indicated. We’ve got another companion animal in the Silver Witchcraft 2 of Wands. This cat is asleep, relaxed in safety. We’re safe here, free to reflect, to contemplate all that we’ve laid out in our Depths of Stillness spread. What are the possibilities for expansion in the coming year? Which goals will bring us a warm glow? Which values will light our way? Who can we partner with in our cherished projects? How do our beliefs help create the world around us?
Who will we become? 7 of Chalices
7 of Chalices lays our choices before us, as coloured by our hopes and fears. Will we waste our Knight of Chalices potential to follow our hearts on the passing desires that are little more than temptations set up by external advertising? Will we recognize when we’re choosing out of fear? Will we meet the testing aspect of 7 of Chalices with the knowledge of our own sacred mission, to make choices that support that mission? Will we recognize that our purpose is just one individual purpose amoung a world of individuals, each with her own mission?
An exploration into the depths this Winter Solstice brings us to a crisis point. We can be lost in delusion, endlessly looking for the next thing to make us happy. Not the outcome I wish for any of us. Or, we can become someone with a sacred heart, a heart dedicated to our personal purpose in this lifetime, harvesting our most meaningful dreams.
I wish you all the warmth and beauty of a sacred Winter Solstice.
Since XIX The Sun insists on dominating this month, let’s let it host a Thanksgiving feast.
As you remember from Tarot . . . It’s Easier Than You Think – as well as the recent XIX The Sun posts – the Sun is self-actualisation. Those three dots under the sun on the maple leaf of Tarot Leaves bring to mind body, mind and spirit fully engaged in living and growing.
Who else shall we bring to bask in the life-giving energies of the self-actualised Sun? How about the varied lot that we’ve met over the past couple of months.
Welcome to upside down world, where all seems to be topsy-turvy and no one seems to be upset about it.
Except . . . when has your world been turned upside down and you kept calm and unruffled?
We’ve even got expressions for some of what’s going on when we meet XII The Hanged Man: “I’m hung up at . . .” “I’m all tied up and can’t get away. . .”
XII The Hanged Man indicates those times when nothing seems to move forward. You might as well pull out your big store of patience, because you ain’t goin’ nowhere. What? You’re out of patience? Well, you can count on developing some.
There’s actually a purpose to the down time of XII The Hanged Man. He shows up when we’ve got lots of integrating to do. He’s giving us a chance to develop some perspective, to gain some insight, to find meaning in what we’ve already lived through.
This odd character gives us a picture of acceptance and enlightenment. He’s the guy who can live through having his world turned upside down with a sense that everything is just fine, thank you. In fact, he uses his reversal to be in touch with his ideals and guiding values. He outgrows materialism, sees his true self beneath the surface of experience and dwells in the divine consciousness of pure being.
Let’s bring it back down to earthly tarot. What if you’ve got XIX The Sun followed by XII The Hanged Man? What might you be integrating?