The Magickal Title of this card is the Spirit of the Mighty Waters. The path of the Hanged Man runs between the spheres of Hod and Geburah. It is "The Severity of Splendor, and the execution of judgement. Mars acting through Water upon Mercury." This is a path of self-sacrifice, loss, and the concept of the Divine Death associated with all of the dying-god myths. It represents the crucifixion of Christ and the slaying of Osiris. Yet just as in all of these myths, the god dies and is resurrected into something greater. His death is a period of withdrawal that is absolutely necessary for the rebirth of all life.
The Hanged Man has the Hebrew letter Mem associated with it. Mem, one of the Three Mother Letters, means water. The Hanged Man represents a kind of Baptism in Water. This path is an initiation which is a kind of trance-state, or period of suspended animation. It is a state of meditation which is intensely self-examining. This truly is a path of self crucifixion, an essentially intellectual experience that is a necessary step from the Splendor of the Mind in Hod, to the fiery Severity in Geburah. Self-sacrifice is crucial to anyone who aspires toward the higher realms of the Tree of Life.
The card depicts the figure of a man suspended upside-down from a live tree in the form of a Tau Cross. Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet which signifies both completion and beginning. His crossed legs suggest the form of the Flyfot Cross, alluding to the First Whirlings and the hidden influence from Kether. The legs resemble those of the Emperor, the symbol of sulfur inverted, showing the fiery effects of Geburah filtering downward on this path. The figure's face is calm and hypnotic. It is as though he is wearing the mask of Osiris, surrounded by a slight halo.
The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot deck combines two different versions of this Key which are revealed in the Adeptus Major Ceremony. The second version of the card shows a drowned giant on the bottom of the sea with a rainbow at his feet. This figure is shown behind the traditional figure of the man hanged from a Tree. The rainbow at the giant's feet is by tradition a symbol of a pact between Man and the Divine. This card is practically reversible, and profound insights may be gained from looking at either figure upright. It also enhances the symbolism of the suspended trance... the meditation of the Dying God (or the sacrificing initiate). As stated earlier, the death and resurrection of the Slain God is a natural occurrence in many mythologies ... it is necessary to the order of the universe. In this version, both God and Man are crucified. When the God aspect is exalted, the Man aspect is temporarily sacrificed. Likewise, when the Man aspect is exalted, the God aspect is withdrawn. The Divine Spark sacrifices itself momentarily in the act of becoming manifest in the waters of the material universe. This suspension is the result of close examination and willing sacrifice of all parts of the Self in order to be reborn in the waters of Mem. This card represents a total reversal of all knowledge previously gained in order to more fully understand and gain greater knowledge.
The figure of The Hanged Man has his arms tied to form a triangle. Together with the crossed legs above, he casts a glyph of the Cross above the Triangle, the emblem of the Golden Dawn, which like Osiris, undergoes a period of withdrawal from manifestation, only to rise again to the glory of the Great Work.
Interpretation in a Tarot Reading
Enforced sacrifice. Punishment. Loss. Fatal and not voluntary. Suffering generally.
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