Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Hanged Man

This sketch of The Hanged Man is my third tarot card drawing. The image of the hanged man is enigmatic; he is hanging upside down, certainly not a comfortable position, yet he is often shown with a glow around his head (as in the RWS version). Joan Bunning (author of the excellent book Learning the Tarot) give her keywords for this card as Letting Go, Reversal, Suspension, Sacrifice. You might also hear that it is about things like transition, adaptation, and rebirth. In her book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack says that the Hanged Man depicts an inner peace achieved through a willing surrender to the vicissitudes of life.

However, tarot reader and blogger Ginny Hunt says that the original historical meaning of this image is something a bit different, that it actually does have more to do with punishment and shame. I recommend that you read her somewhat different take on this card-- click here to go to her blog, 78 Notes to Self.

My drawing of this image differs in some ways from the RWS image and other RWS "clones". Typically, the figure of the hanged man is shown hanging from a living tree (shaped like the letter "T"), and his arms are crossed (tied?) behind his back. In thinking about drawing this card, I realized that if I wanted to keep the tree, I would not be able to come in much closer than what we typically see on this card. After some thought and experimentation, I decided what the heck-- let's lose the tree. So, what we get is the figure hanging upside-down as usual, but we cannot see what his foot is attached to, what he is hanging from. We just don't know. Or... is he not hanging from anything-- just suspended in the sky? I found this intriguing, so I went with it. The other notable difference is that his hands are now visible. I found myself drawing them with one pointing down to the ground, the other pointing up to the sky, reminiscent of The Magician. It seemed to make sense to me. I do not have a specific meaning for this, but it seems to work with the overall meaning(s) of this card. He is also largely unclothed, making him more vulnerable. This is seen elsewhere (in the DruidCraft tarot for example), but I have not seen the hands in this up/down position anywhere else.

(drawn on April 3, 2009)

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