Nine nights I hung in the windy tree, wounded with the spear, sacrificed to Odin,
I myself to myself.
This weekend I went for a walk to Sherwood Forest, to decompress from a very long and tiring week. To fill my soul with the wonder of nature, by watching the wild life and the ancient oak trees, still sprouting acorns after those many centuries in their belts. We were blessed with the delightful sight of many great tits, blue tits, blackbirds, squirrels, wrens and robins, whose fun-spirited demeanour filled my heart with a joy that it’s difficult to translate into words. Even though we’ve changed seasons, at least by name (the spring equinox is old news already), it felt like the winter was still among us. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground and the wind was still bitterly cold, leaving the noses red and dripping with silent tears.
When I saw those magnificent oak trees with their branches still bare, oblivious to the arrival of spring, I couldn’t help but think of the Hanged Man, one of the cards of the Tarot that cannot conceal its pagan origin. For example, the Great Priestess is related to Hathor and Isis, but as their cult was disguised as Virgin Mary’s, they could get away with it. Unlike the Hanged Man, that shows a man hung upside down, with an unusual expression of bliss or contentment for someone in such predicament, this kind of worship (men hanging themselves as a sacrifice to Odin) wasn’t considered appropriate to keep when Christianity took over.
Odin’s is a male-centric myth, as he had to hung himself in the Yggdrassil for 9 nights in order to gain the knowledge of the runes, magic, the secrets of Fate and poetry. All these lores had traditionally been preserved and taught by women, hence his choice of staying 9 nights, as a symbol of the 9 months of gestation. According to some versions of the legend, he had to endure all this ordeal to earn all this knowledge by drinking from the sacred blood of the womb of the Goddess. However, as it can be seen in Barbara Walker’s 5 of swords, despite having become a wise man thanks to all this knowledge, he wasn’t above the control of the Fates, who still remained the ones who called the shots 😀
The other card shown is from the Gran Tarot Esotérico, a deck designed by a Basque witch, with many references to Basque mythology that has omitted the hanged man but kept the bare trees. The name of the card La Picota means “The Gallows” which I think that keeps the theme of the card in a simple but effective way. We may not see the hanged man as the trees have become the focal point of the card.
The main theme of this card is sacrifice, we have to sacrifice something precious to us (the ego, our time, our friends…) in order to gain something better in the future.
Today this card resonates deeply within me because it’s my birthday and I’m away from my family. I wasn’t born in this island of Faery, she’s treated me well and given me many things, I grew up as a woman here, I found my voice, but I had to leave many things behind. I don’t regret that decision but a price had to be paid; I wasn’t there when my dad died, I was even late for his funeral; now, I’m missing watching my sister’s belly grow with my nephew and I grieve for my native language that I seldom get to speak anymore.
To end with a more positive note, this card is really good to use as an amulet, combined with the World as they are mirror images of each other, as their legs point one to the sky and the other to the ground, for the following situations:
- For students revising for exams: all that work may seem overwhelming at times, but this period of intense concentration will pay off when the results come up. Make a colour photocopy of the cards and keep it in your wallet, o somewhere in your desk.
- When trying to beat an addiction: meditate on these cards when you are fighting the cravings, as they will help you remember why you are quitting.
And remember that spring is coming, whether we like it or not. I want to be like the daffodils that are blooming and filling the roads with the happiness of yellow just because they must.