To begin with, I must point out that the Tarot cards are neither ‘evil’ nor ‘good’ for they have no will. They do not foretell any absolute destiny be it positive or negative. They do not decide if you discover riches, find ‘true love’ or fall with a terrible illness; they will however tell you if you are operating on a frequency that will attract any of those things, and what you must do to if you wish continue on or change your path.
Essentially there is a trinity or duality of frequencies in the present moment interacting with one another to relay information, knowledge and wisdom. First there is the seeker asking a question, next there are the cards and finally there is the medium or reader by which the answer is relayed, usually sporting a purple bandana with smokey eyes (kidding!). If the seeker is able, he or she might not need a medium, which in terms of the Tarot is a reader doing his or her own readings. When I used to read for others and play the role of medium, I would stress to the seeker that I do not employ any magic and that I am devoid of any special abilities beyond a sensitivity to the frequency that exists between the cards and the seeker. The advantage of having a third entity in the mix is useful when you feel you might be biased in your own reading, especially for people with very dominant left brains.
Without a doubt, this is the most feared card of the Tarot. If Death showed up in any reading I did a major shift in frequency came with it, followed by an “OH NO! What does that mean?”. I always had to pause the reading for a bit, calm the seeker by explaining the implied meaning of the card outside the context of the spread, and hope we return to the initial frequency by which we began the reading.
Death is feared by society in every context, we do not want things to end but with birth there comes death, just as we arrive into this world we must leave it. Can the card mean an actual death?Yes it can. We welcome the birth and run from the harsh truth that death is inevitable. The sooner we can accept this truth the sooner we can embrace life in all its glory. Death and birth are not separate and they will never be separate, they are polarities that exist inclusively of one another.
A beautiful saying comes to mind when I see the Death card, ‘nothing is constant except change’. I personally love that saying, there is so much wonderful raw truth to it, which embodies all that the Death card stands for. The card tells us that something has come or is coming an end. It doesn’t have mean a mortal death at all though, it could be an end to a draining relationship, a period of sorrow, an unfulfilling job or even an illness.
“Let go” the reaper whispers as he rides his horse between the grieving souls, “embrace the change”. It’s ok to grieve, it is part of the process, just don’t resist it, otherwise you might not be able to witness what is to come.
First we must remove any preconditioned reactions to this card in terms of the biblical devil, that infamous evil fallen angel who holds a vendetta against the human race. The half-goat half-man image belongs to the rustic Greek god Pan, god of goats, sheep, shepherds, music, beasts and of human nature. Rustic gods are wild and bonded with nature and are part animal just like Pan.
The Devil is the only card in the Major Arcana that deals with our carnal human desires, anything we might consider taboo in a ‘civilized’ society. Just by looking at the card we see an image of the Lovers bonded with tails, one tail on passionate fire and the other made of an intoxicating grape vine, in other words sex and drugs! We can also include all our primal needs too such as food, power and entertainment. Please note that here we speak of the consumption of food and sex as acts purely for the sake of enjoyment not survival.
The card reminds us that primal desires exist, granted not everyone has the same urges and the enjoyment that comes from food is not the same as the need for power but they can both bind us in the form of addictions if we allow them to. The irony of this card is that if our desires become forms of escape we become their prisoners and we find ourselves in bondage to the very things that we believe can grant us a sense of freedom. I am not a therapist but I will confidently say that addiction is not an illness, but it can and often will lead to it. Addiction to smoking might manifest into a cancer, alcoholism could lead to liver damage and over eating can cause obesity.
But the Fool comes to realize what is so blatantly obvious but not apparent at first glance because of the seemingly dark and taboo nature of the image. The man and the woman’s hands are free and the chains around their necks are loose. The first step is realizing that the choice to indulge in taboos is ours, just as the power to slip the chains off and let them go is also our own. We need not burry our urges in some dark corner of our mind in the hope no one will discover them, they exist in us and are a part of what makes us human. If we do try to deny them, there is a chance they might grow stronger darker and manifest into things, actions and attitudes that will harm us and those around us. If we have a human desire that is our own and will not cause harm to anyone or anything else, then why not indulge?
The Devil says “come to my party if you wish to experience it and you know you want to, but if you don’t leave by your own will you’ll remain in bondage, the choice is yours…”
The Hanged Man
The Hanged Man is the story of the Norse god Odin and his spiritual quest for wisdom. In secret he takes the form of a fragile human by relinquishing his immortal godly powers. He then hangs himself upside down from one leg from the Tree of Wisdom.
By suspending himself in such a vulnerable position he truly lets go and embraces what will come to him. He hangs upside down and sees the world from a different perspective not that from the top looking down. He could not eat or drink and suspended all judgement all in the pursuit of wisdom. He favored true divinity instead of power over others.
Odin’s story reminds me of Mahtma Ghandi and his famous saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Ghandi relinquished his power and fasted as a peaceful form of protest to free his people. Ghandi fought for a cause he believed in and he did it by being strong enough to use his own vulnerability. In a world where tyranny is all too present and violent force towards others is used as a means of protection, the story of the Hanged Man brought me much needed inspiration.
In all honesty, maybe there isn’t much confusion with the last card in terms of the seeker but rather the story associated with the card. Each card contains beautiful symbolism that is essentially constant throughout the Tarot card spectrum. With some cards however the stories are sometimes altered depending on the medium or even the source and artist of the card. I wanted to talk about this card because the story behind the Hanged Man touched me on a very deep level. There are tons of sources over the net if you wish to explore further and get yourself familiar with the different cards.
The images I used are from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, although there are dozens of different decks, I have become comfortable with this deck and even though I’ve tried I still have a hard time buying another deck by a different artist.