An important part of reading tarot card is how an individual looks at the image, and understands the symbolism based upon their personal history & culture.
My spiritual tradition is working with the Norse Gods, and the Hanged Man has some very key meanings for me. Odin, God of magic, poetry, shamanism & much, much more hung himself upon the world tree to receive the gift of runes.
For me the world tree-Yggdrasil- represents the centre of existence. And when I work as a shaman I am the world tree. We are all at the centre of our own existence, we are all the world tree, even though there is only one world tree. (Odd I know, but not quite as odd as quantum physics)
He sacrificed, hung himself upon Yggdrasil. I love this analogy- because stepping into the world of Tarot is a dangerous thing. You have the potential to look into every possible future, to explore the past, to peek into others lives. You can end up in places, knowing things that you would never have chosen to know- because you just kept laying cards.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
I have come to see tarot as a wonderful, insightful, fascinating tool. But I do not strive to control it too much. I set my question, intention, clearly. Then sacrifice all left brain ego based expectations to accept what the Tarot tells me.
It took me a long time to learn that. At fist as I read Tarot I wanted to fix, help, find the good news for people. Now I know I can always find advice, but I sacrifice myself to allow the tarot to work.
I know many people, myself included, link the Hanged Man to sacrifice. It is said that as Odin hung himself upon Yggdrasil he "sacrificed himself to himself". No one can claim to know exactly what that means, but I wonder whether he sacrificed his ego to his "higher self"
Tracing this back to the tarot card- the man is upside down. His heart chakra is now above the logical mind.
And it is true, when I read the Tarot I feel I sacrifice what I think, my opinions and judgements, to a wiser part of myself. This can be hard- sometimes my logical chatting self wants to jump in with a quick comment or emotional reaction. But when I read Tarot (or work as a shaman) I sacrifice this part of myself to let the wiser self through.
And what of the runes?
I work with the 16 runes of the younger futhark.
Each rune is a symbol. It has a deity, a poem, links to the landscape, animals, plants, stories, psychological profiles.
Each rune has a sound, a name, a movement, a shape, an energy.
Each rune is a letter in a story which can lead the reader to understand the past, the present, and the future.
Just like Tarot, but less pretty.
As for my personal connection with The Hanged Man & Odin.
I started teaching tarot as an excuse not to work as a shaman. My worst ever experience happened on a shamanic journey & I didn't want to be responsible for others experiencing that.
During a tarot workshop I looked over my students shoulder- and there was the hanged man in the centre of his spread. "I understand everything else he said- but that doesn't make sense"
I looked, and I knew and I felt suddenly very chilled. No more excuses- I would be teaching this man shamanism.
Sure enough the emails started coming- would I teach him, he was desperate to learn.
I worked with him for a couple of years. In the end that one student inspired me to run shaman circles, shaman workshops, and write a course on core shamanism.
We spent a lot of time "gazing" simply staring into each others eyes to connect with the non physical energy of the individual.
I saw many faces gazing back from those eyes. But most of the time it was Odin. Odin is far more complicated than the myths do justice. Over the years I have struggled to build a relationship with this most triksy of Gods.
I feel I have finally come to accept Odin, and you may think the person on my website & business cards is the hermit. And he is, but he is also Odin. Finally I have found a way to blend Tarot & shamanism.
Amusing it is Odin to leading the way.
Keen to know a little more about the symbolism of the Hanged Man....