A friend of mine recently drew a Tarot for me. Not in the traditional way. He lives on the other side of the world, by an 8 hour time difference, but ritually enacted all the same, drew a card which coincidentally been the only Tarot I am familiar with. I am as you know, a vitki, and I study the runes as the main praxis for my magic and divination. However I have had recurring thoughts this last month about this figure and wanted to include this writing from our discussion about it. The Tarot source information is not original.
“The Hanged Man is the only Tarot card visibly based on a mythological figure. He is Odin, the Norse god who hung from the World Tree for nine days to earn the knowledge of the Runes. Of all the cultures who embody the search for knowledge in their myths, only Odin carries out his quest without moving, at least in the physical sense. The true quest is seeking within, not without. This may be confusing at first, but only because the Hanged Man is the card of the paradox. The Hanged Man’s mysteries are some of the oddest yet most enlightening the Tarot has to offer, and they cannot be learned by searching for lessons in the physical world – you must turn within.
Even the appearance of the card is paradoxical. Simple in design, it is one of the more complex Arcana. The lessons it offers are easy to understand but hard to accept when they apply to you. The most obvious answer to a problem may be the simplest, but it is rarely the best. To admit that you are afraid will give you the strength to conquer your fear. When you relinquish your desire for control, everything begins to work as it should. In a world in which you must run as fast as you can to stay where you are, the Hanged Man tells you to stop struggling – and you can move forward. Tell this to others and it seems obvious; try to do it yourself and it will become impossible.
Why is this? Telling others that they have to hang from a tree is simple, but no one wants to hang himself. The Hanged Man, however, has hung himself, and see how much wisdom he has found! Despite his obviously uncomfortable position, he is often pictured as smiling, and with a golden halo around his head to show divine inspiration and power. He is totally vulnerable to the world, and in his vulnerability he has found strength. The sacrifice he has made is his own freedom and power in the physical world; in exchange, he is granted real freedom and power on the spiritual plane. He gives up his old ways of looking at things and is blessed with new eyes.
Not all sacrifices have to be like this, of course. Each moment of your life you make sacrifices. By choosing to eat with a friend rather than eating alone, you sacrifice your solitude. Choosing to play a sport professionally means that you cannot play another as frequently. Choosing one job means that you have to sacrifice any desires for another job, at least for the time being. The only thing in common between all sacrifices is that you give up something you have in exchange for something you want, of equal value. The sacrifice is meaningless unless there is balance and purpose behind it. To give without intent is worse than giving too much or too little.
As the card of the paradox, the Hanged Man also urges you to look at things in a new and different way. If your mind is yelling at you to do something, then doing nothing could be the best thing to do. If something is important to you emotionally but it no longer serves a purpose, you might want to think about letting go of it. And don’t try to force anything to happen while the Hanged Man is about. By trying to force changes, you ensure that they never happen. Relax and let things happen instead of trying to interfere. Instead of fighting against the current, let it take you wherever it is flowing.
When the Hanged Man appears, know that greater wisdom and happiness is at hand, but only if you are prepared to sacrifice something for that wisdom. Sometimes it is something physical you must be deprived of, but in most cases it is a perspective or a viewpoint that must be left behind. For example, a fantasy that you can never fulfill, or a crush on someone who’s out of your reach. Inevitably, sacrificing something you value will always lead you to something even more valuable. In the wake of an unattainable dream you will find something else within your reach. Forgetting about one love will allow your heart to open to someone else.
:Valdr galga: Ruler of the Gallows
It seems the only Tarot card I would thinking fitting for me, Woden has taken up presence within my hamr (shape), and continually tests me with his paradigms and tribulations, and initiations. I used to think that a true heathen worshiped Woden, and perhaps that can be said with some truth, but I do take it on a more metaphysical level. I don’t merely worship him, I am Odhin/Wodhanaz, his name is derivative of madness, like that of the poetry writing skalds, divine inspiration, and berserkerdom (his mannerbunde clan).
Yes, alas I have my own theories and conclusions about the tarot, one of them a general criticism I carry for a lot of religious and neo-spiritual phenomena that I think have pseudo meaning, and lacking in any authentic praxis and observable magical value. It is called the Forer effect, which is simply “the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people”. But those are opinionated based ideas, my own, and of course Tarot can be used as a valid tool.
I can see this writing has taken a lot of influence from the Germanic psycho-social complex as well in describing the hanged man as the paradox. There is not much to presume in a man hanged, by or not of his own doing that suggests paradox but it is Odhin’s other characteristics and his works within the nine worlds and his past times on Middle Earth that give him the kenning of the paradoxical Ase (god). I follow the Odian path of self sacrifice everyday, which means I must always slough off the skin of my old self with each waking, and become a new. I create my own archetype, whose name in this narrative is called Odhin/Wotan/Wodanaz etc. and progress onwards and upwards to meet the new reality I create for myself as godhead. I can not simply rest, because Woden is a chieftain, he has things to do, and people to see, and values to uphold as an example to the rest of his kin. I do though see the vital importance of material sacrifice as a heathen. Learning not just what you can offer out of respect, but what you can learn to live without. The gods do not actually favor meaningless sacrifice, especially mundane items without any essential or sentimental value to them, but giving up something to recognize that even all that you have built up and hoarded or given life to is impermanent and the Gods will break them and laugh. Odin ripped out his own eye, and through it in the black waters of Mimir (memory?) so he can see all the things that mortal man could not. Into the past and the subconscious, the dark mind map drawn as a labyrinth (A germanic symbol cut into fields and carved in tombs).
The hanged man picture intrigues me, because I have also seen an Ogham (old Druid/Celtic language) variation applied to the hanging man motif. It was a modern interpretation, but mind you still had innovative purpose. After some study on Thursatru and the anti-cosmic deities, I came to thinking that Odin may have hung himself upside down. True, in most pictures his beard covers his neck and he is called the god at the gallows, but in others, as well as the prose depictions of Odin, they never talk about a scar on his neck. I personally think he became tricked by Gullveig, or was sitting at the Yggdrasil tree, which I take to be a Yew rather than an Ash, as was traditional for shamans of the time and meditating to attain Seidr powers. If the tree was built on a howe or mound and some of the Icelandic sources suggest, he could have been trying to raise the dead through necromantic acts, while intoxicated and hallucinating on the Yew leaves which are poisonous and contain a near deadly alkaloid. Then hanging himself upside down, like the Hanged Man of Tarot here.
Woden’s deeds often seem impossible, outlandish, or too immoral for the normal capacity of a human being. It is because he has tapped into his TRUE self, which is lawless, a causal, and potent. Enlightened by runa, the secrets/whispers coming from within, and their symbolic staves observed in phenomenal nature, when he ‘snatched them up’, out of the void.