The next step on our journey to awakening is The Hanged Man. A young man hangs upside down from a T-shaped tree. His hands are tied behind his back but he is serene and his head is surrounded by a halo of light. This is one of the few images in the Tarot that is definitely not found in Christian symbolism. It is card number 12, a combination of 1 and 2 signifying the interaction of unity with duality giving rise to a third dimension. The tension of number 11 is resolved, so 12 stands for renewal and salvation.
The hero has confronted his shadow in the form of the lion in Strength and has a new perspective on himself. He realises he doesn’t know himself as well as he thought and now hangs precariously between two worlds. He can’t go back to the certainties and ignorance of his youth, and he can’t submit to the shadow and be overwhelmed by the unconscious. In order to continue forward on his journey he must become free from both his ego and his shadow. He must move to the centre.
This means he must let go of everything he previously knew and trust that the process he is undertaking will carry him forward. He must find new perspectives and leave the material world to seek spiritual enlightenment. At this stage of the journey, the hero must align himself with the laws of the universe, not the laws of man.
The Hanged Man is about releasing your attachment to the intellect and allowing the deeper forces in the psyche to take the reins. This is why the hero hangs upside down – it represents a reversal of the values and teachings of the outer world of the ego and an acceptance of the values and laws of the inner world. At this point, the hero doesn’t understand what those inner laws are so he’ll need much courage and faith in order to move forward into an uncertain future.
“By descending into the unconscious, the conscious mind puts itself in a perilous position, for it is apparently extinguishing itself.” – C.G. Jung
The hero’s faith is represented by the knot securely tying his foot to the Tree of Life. The image is similar to Odin hanging from the Yggdrasil from where he spies the runes of wisdom. The halo shows that the hero’s courage and sacrifice has been rewarded with ecstasy. Bliss arises when the conscious and unconscious minds are balanced. The hero sacrifices his ego and the way opens for his rebirth into spirit.
Keywords for The Hanged Man:
- A new perspective
- Breaking with tradition
Next step on the journey to awakening: Death