Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflecting upon older or alternate meanings of the Major Arcana is a useful way for me to dig deeper into a card's meaning. The Hanged Man, for instance, was also known as Il Traditore, or The Traitor, as it was the practice in Renaissance Italy to hang people convicted of treason upside down. This image has not lost its symbolic power over the centuries. When Benito Mussolini and his lover, Clara Petacci, were summarily executed by the partisans, their bodies were also displayed hung upside down. The message the partisans sent by this act was stark and unambiguous: Il Duce had been vanquished, and Fascism utterly defeated. Of course, diehard Fascists might look upon this scene and see martyrdom for a noble cause. Thus, bound up in this one image are ideas of punishment, humiliation, warning, and sacrifice.

Only the idea of martyrdom has survived in current interpretations of The Hanged Man, which I think is unfortunate. I believe the presence of this card in a spread could indicate betrayal, either by others or by oneself (as in not being true to oneself or one's principles). I am not discounting other, commonly accepted interpretations of this card; but I do believe that the original name of this card can provide some rich insights that have been obscured by the passage of time.

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