The drink tonight: Bailey’s Chocolate Cherry, highly recommended!

The card: The Hanged Man.

Not the Hung Man; that’s a whole different archetype and I’m kind of amazed that hasn’t been a thing and that Crowley didn’t make that this card in the Thoth deck, but here we are, and I guess implied lion orgies went better in Edwardian occult circles than dick jokes did. Go figure.

Also, this dude is not hanged in the way we think about hanging. That is, not the immediately lethal way. He’s strung up by one heel, and dangles upside-down, hands behind his back, looking remarkably chill about the whole situation. (A.E. Waite, as quoted on Wikipedia, says “the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering,” which is Victorian for “the guy’s pretty damn relaxed, considering.”) Wiki also notes that this pose parallels the pitture infamanti of Renaissance Italy: apparently if you committed treachery or theft, you got sentenced to be publicly displayed in unflattering art, which I guess evolved over the centuries into “You’re So Vain” and drawing horns and a mustache on your ex’s photos.

In 1393, this was specified as a means of execution for traitors, so I guess it *would* eventually kill you, though the law also specified the traitor be dragged to the gallows on a plank behind a horse, which might have more to do with the actual means of death.

Basically, this card represents an ordeal of some sort, one that the querent might not be able to get through, and generally gaining wisdom through suffering, or trying to do that. (Odin on the Tree of Knowledge generally comes up here, for example.) Generally speaking, the ordeal in question is about patience and not trying to control the situation (very few of the Major Arcana, especially the later ones, are about Doing the Thing and striding manfully around punching people in the face and so forth, and the reason why may be a subject for another time). It’s also got tones of self-sacrifice for a greater goal, often a personal one, q.v. Odin etc.

There are a lot of means of self-sacrifice, though. This particular one stands out in two ways. One, like crucifixion a thousand-odd years before, we’re talking about a pretty shameful punishment in its society: the pitture infamanti were for traitors, thieves, and fraudsters; hanging in general was for peasants, whereas nobility got to get their heads chopped off. This is not a glorious martyrdom. Part of the ordeal in question might involve other people thinking you’re some variety of schmuck, or confronting aspects of yourself that make you feel stupid or bad.

Two, someone hanging from the tree is suspended between Heaven and Earth. Magic does a lot with what’s officially called “liminal space”: places and times that are neither one thing or another, like thresholds and sunset and that acre of land where the dickhead from Scarborough Fair wants a girl to plant crops. (I’m sorry, but if I’m going to make a whole goddamn impossible shirt, I want a better reward than being some dude’s “true love,” like, there are a bunch of hot men in the world and many of them can supply their own damn wardrobes.)  (And the added verse about “well at least *try* and true love demands impossible tasks” does not help: if someone wants a sufficient show of effort for effort’s sake, that person is pretty much never worth it and deserves to die alone.) (This has been a PSA from your local romance novelist. Love!)

Anyhow! So what you get here is the image of ignominious, passive self-sacrifice and being willing to undergo an uncomfortable period of suspension and inactivity, in order to bridge the gap between two or more worlds. There’s a lot of Jesus there, and also Odin, and maybe that one bit in Conan where he got nailed to the Tree of Woe and then Valeria had to fight off the dead to bring him back, if you kinda merge a bunch of scenes. Fittingly, this card begins an arc of three that are about, rather that the interaction of people and forces, either changes of state or being in two states at the same time–and which bridge the gap between the human world of the previous cards and the world of Greater Powers, or Universal Forces, or Really Weird Shit.

But I got super rambly about the Hanged Man, so I’ll do the other two next week.




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I'm Izzy. I write stuff: mostly vaguely fantasy stuff, and most notably the following books: Hickey of the Beast, published March 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam Romance novels from Sourcebooks: No Proper Lady Lessons After Dark Legend of the Highland Dragon The Highland Dragon's Lady Night of the Highland Dragon Highland Dragon Warrior Highland Dragon Rebel Highland Dragon Master I also like video games, ballroom dancing, and various geeky hobbies like LARPing. I have been known to voluntarily purchase and eat circus peanuts. Like, a whole bag at once.

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