The Hanged Man

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation, but they gave me a lethal dose
— DylanNEW YEAR’S weekend, the world was confronted with images of the execution of Saddam Hussein. The official video takes us right up to the point where the noose is placed around the former Iraqi leader’s neck, just before the trap door was opened. In a ludicrous attempt by government officials and TV executives to show some sensitivity, we were spared the image of him falling through the trap door.What we saw was more than sufficient to evoke the many diverse emotions that indeed surfaced: disgust, horror, compassion, satisfaction, vicious tribal groveling, rage, nationalism, relief or the feeling of self-righteous revenge, among them.

If I am not mistaken, this was the most public execution in modern history, with only the Rosenbergs coming in a close second place.

In the case of Ethel and Julius, the couple who allegedly stole atomic bomb secrets (and other secret documents) from the US and gave them to the Soviets, we were not privy to actual, visual scenes inside the execution chamber. As close as we got was a radio reporter who, after the fact, somberly described them being taken to the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in New York, and who witnessed their deaths — commentary that is available at your local video store in the documentary The Atomic Cafe.

Audio is evocative, perhaps stirring the imagination more than visual images, and in the 1950s radio was still a powerful medium. Notably, most of what was considered or portrayed as shocking inside Saddam’s death chamber was what was said to him rather than what was done — the jeering and praising of a particular religious leader whom he had executed some time before. This is being construed to be the moral outrage. Evidently, if you’re going to snap a person’s neck in a public ritual, we in the civilized world feel that should properly be done in a dignified manner. The supposed moral outrage over Saddam being jeered and taunted in the last moments of his life helps remind us what ethical people we all are.

In any event, most of us witnessed our first execution: not a movie, not a story or a dramatization, not a description, not Dead Man Walking or The Execution of Private Slovik, but the real thing.

After much reflection, I am still of two minds about this, at least. The death penalty is not an issue I feel there is room for discussion over. Any time it’s been studied, we find out that it doesn’t deter crime, innocent people get executed, it costs far more than keeping someone in prison, and it has a brutalizing effect. If killing is immoral, we are not going to teach that lesson by killing, though this can, I admit, be difficult logic to follow. Killing someone is revenge, not justice. If Saddam ordered the killings of hundreds of people with chemical weapons, an agonizing death, how is it justice to take his life once, swiftly? And what about his accomplices, who supplied the weapons? Why are they involved in this supposed meting out of divine justice?

Let’s just say that seeing an old man standing there over and over again with that rope around his neck waiting to die did not exactly raise the vibration of the planet. Pumping up aggression and adrenaline hardly count for good vibes, and fixating on images of imminent death comes at a personal cost to all of us. Gradually, in case it’s not too obvious, we are all being acclimatized to an environment where killing is absolutely run of the mill, indeed, where it is banal and something you expect on an ordinary day.

Nearly any child with access to a television has seen this video, and has had imprinted on their minds (probably a number of times) an image of cruelty more befitting the Middle Ages than the 21st century. But alas, this is just what we do, in some places, in the 21st century. It also gave the false impression that this is what happens to tyrants and dictators, when in fact, most of them do quite well for themselves. I did not see one mention in the mainstream media of Saddam’s long history of support from the CIA and how presidents Reagan and Bush provided him with the very weapons he was being executed for using.

We must, in the midst of this, bear in mind that the reason the United States military is in Iraq at all is because our national leaders, who stole office, framed him for the Sept. 11 attacks. They continue to claim that our involvement in Iraq is part of the “war on terror.” Even if you go for the bin Laden theory of Sept. 11, it is clear that neither Iraq nor its people were involved. Behold, yet again someone else has been executed for a crime they did not commit. But anyone who does not think this is a routine occurrence needs to look into the Illinois death penalty, a state that had released 13 innocent inmates from Death Row by the time it had executed 12 supposedly guilty ones.

Almost as disturbing as the execution itself was reading some of the comments from readers of news web sites saying how great it was that they killed him right after the sentence was pronounced, too bad we don’t do it like this in the United States, and so on. Some reader comments on The New York Times website expressed remorse, disgust and shock that we could see this now.

We are accustomed to video images of executions being the work of the people we call terrorists. If there is any difference between this execution and the killing of a hostage, I do not see it.

On the other hand, setting aside for a moment my unconditional rejection of the death penalty (a sentiment shared by the United Kingdom, the European Union and the individual governments of Europe, Russia, the Ukraine, the Vatican and many other countries and about 15 states in the US), something potentially valuable happened. Americans wreak a lot of death and we don’t often get to see its face. When we do, it’s the anguished face of death that has supposedly happened haphazardly. We see the aftermath, or the results, not the calculated moments leading up to it. This is true of both war and the death sentence. We presume both to be cleaner, more spiritual, and less emotional than they are.

While the world supposedly reviled Saddam, and knew him in his guise as the evil dictator, I don’t think there was anyone who saw that video who failed to imagine what it must have been like to stand there and wait for that trap door to open. I don’t think there was anyone who did not imagine the sensation of his or her own neck snapping, seeing that big noose and knowing what was going to happen next. And no matter how reluctant they may have been to admit it, I don’t think there was anyone who did not feel some compassion for someone standing there and helplessly facing their own death, no matter who they may have been or what they may have done.

This is a powerful experience, and it brings home, literally, into our homes, the horror of the Iraq war in a new way. In the days surrounding Saddam’s death, scores of people were killed by bombs and gunfire in Iraq, and in the end, Saddam was just one more Iraqi to give up his life that day, but the only one whose face we got to study and in it see a reflection of our own.

Anyone with a remotely vague connection with Christianity is aware they caught a glimpse of the scene of the crucifixion.

Fascinating, too, that in the following days, we also witnessed the funeral of a former United States president, Gerald Ford, with its pageantry, its majestic formality, the twenty-one gun salute and the University of Michigan marching band playing Hail to the Chief to the fallen president for the last time. The military pallbearers carried the impeccably prepared casket delicately down the lengthy stairs outside the National Cathedral and, as a cold wind blew across the concourse, placed it in the back of an elegant black hearse.

This was a stunning contrast to the image of Saddam’s pine coffin unceremoniously strapped to the back of a pickup truck, or for that matter, a contrast to the descriptions of his masked executioners dancing around his strangled corpse in the death chamber.

The Esoteric Message

There is a tarot card called The Hanged Man. It’s probably the most perplexing card in the deck. To many, the symbol is more disturbing than Death or The Tower because it seems too hard to figure out, or feels so uncomfortable. The name in French is Le Pendu, the hanged one. The (exoteric, surface or ordinary) energetic state is being suspended: waiting, not knowing and having no control over a situation.

It is not often that you turn on the television and see a direct reference to the tarot, but we all saw this symbol again and again. It is not often that an archetype reveals itself so vividly, with such incredible emphasis and such an ominous feeling. And I kept seeing that image and wondering, okay, what next?

The card is associated with Neptune, and so it’s one of those ‘spiritual states’, which is a nice way of saying a test of patience or endurance, and also indicating a sacrifice of some kind. It is interesting that the next policy being used by George W. Bush to escalate the war in Iraq uses precisely that word — sacrifice. The service men and women who are being sent there to be shot at are human sacrifices; the Iraqis who die and lose children on a daily basis are human sacrifices; Saddam was killed as a sacrifice, as if in effigy, for all that has gone wrong.

Let’s look a little deeper into the symbol. In the Tarot, The Hanged Man, the symbol of an execution, is trump 12 and it’s preceded by trump 11, Strength, also called Lust in some decks.* This is the card with a woman spreading open the jowls of a lion, right at about waist level — she is, symbolically, spreading her vulva.** The throat of the lion also indicates a gorge or abyss, from which life emerges and into which life falls.

The Hanged Man is suspended, as if over an abyss. It is followed (logically) by Death, trump 13. The Death card usually means a big change of some kind is imminent, and that a point of no return is approaching. So one of the messages of The Hanged Man is that a big change is about to happen. We were sent this message the last weekend of an extremely disturbing year, as if to sum up all that we have lived through, and to remind us of all we have ignored.

Taro CardsIn the Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris version of the card (from the Thoth Tarot), below the head of The Hanged Man is a coiled snake, representing potential energy about to be turned loose. It is a depiction of the coil of kundalini energy, orgone, prana, the life force — temporarily in dormant or suspended state, but very much alive. One interpretation of The Hanged Man depends on turning it over — it looks like he’s dancing the jig (particularly the traditional one).

The snake of The Hanged Man re-reappears (in Crowley’s version) unfurled as a symbol of Scorpio, associated with Death — the next card. So with the appearance of The Hanged Man, we are on notice that a lot of energy is about to be released. Death translates to the release of life force energy through a mysterious or occult process. Crowley’s card depicts a black skeleton with his or her scythe, leading a spiral of DNA down the eons — extremely impressive scientific awareness for a card drawn in the 1940s, but that is the occult for you.

Let’s look at a commentary by one of my favorite living tarot masters, Alejandro Jodorosky. This is translated from Spanish by Paloma Todd. I suggest you click the card on the top, or this link, so you can see the image clearly. This is Jodorowsky’s a remake of the ancient Tarot of Marsailles card, and the three numbered points below are his translated text:

1. The Hanged Man is connected to The High Priestess from the first series of the major arcana (from one to ten); both are in a state of non-movement, exclusion and of accumulation. Like her, he is away from the ordinary world of man; he is only connected to the material world by a cord [suggestive of an infant connected to the mother by the umbilical cord -ef]. From trump 11 (Strength) we have a descent, a going down to the original source, to the abyss of the subconscious mind. The Hanged Man obeys this downward attraction in which, upside down, his hair falls and takes root into the depths. In The High Priestess there is an egg being incubated; The Hanged Man is ready to be born. The High Priestess is the mother, The Hanged Man the son.

2. The fall or descent, as illustrated, is an ascension. To be able to be born, a stop must be made; this stop could be imposed (an illness or setback) or looked upon through meditation. On a spiritual or nonphysical plane, The Hanged Man ceases identification with the material world, and with the comedy of the world, or with his own neurotic world. He offers the worries of his ego in sacrifice to his inner core.

3. The two trees that hold him could be interpreted as the mother and father, an inheritance from which we are hung. From this perspective, the hands hidden on the back are the shame, the hidden abuse, the past invisible and present. There is a secret. This card can point out to imaginary crimes and guilt — this represented by the 12 bleeding wounds on the trees — and the condemnation, the sacrifice we have to pay for it. [If this is about projection of something hidden from us, the ‘friend’ and collaborator becomes the ‘enemy’, but we see what is hidden in that form.-pt]

So, we are presented with a potent symbol, if a gruesome one, but for sure, one that we will remember.

Perhaps for further discussion another time, here is the chart of Saddam being turned over by the United States to the Iraqis on Saturday morning. He was hung about 20 minutes later. This is the chart for the inevitable turning point before the execution. Twenty minutes later, we have Pluto and the Galactic Core a few degrees closer to the ascendant. For now, I will post it without comment, except to say that Sagittarius is rising, Mars is exactly in the ascendant and Pluto is close behind. In case anyone is left wondering, this execution was neither a gesture of peace, nor of justice, but then, they never are.

Observations on this chart from Paloma Todd

1. Midheaven 4+ degree in Libra; Aries Point axis is angular (MC/IC) and squares Pluto, Mercury and Sun in the 1st house. 

We have a major public event; it involves ancestral role-playing of authority. Mercury makes it a message overblown by the Sun; death is magnified in an act that has some aesthetic value to it, or the memory of it [indicated in part by Libra on the government angle]: the image of hanging a man is part of the collective subconscious, we recognize it, therefore it is part of us, therefore we connect with it. The experience is visual, as Mercury makes it all about sensing it.The Moon in Taurus in the 5th make me very uncomfortable; there is an expression of something archaic, some old values are relived through the collective mind…there is something about pleasure too here, as the 5th is about fun and Taurus physical pleasure. The 5th is also the house of taking a risk, and Isabel Hickey says it is the house of hidden karma.2. Mars hangs on the ascendant from behind (the 12th house), and Jupiter in the 12th.

This image is amazing. First, I see the rope in Mars symbol (the arrow) right about to loop the ascendant’s ‘head’; this is passive violence, as the most violent expression of Mars is a bit concealed; if we think about it, two things come up: one that the actual hanging wasn’t visible, so we were spared from that final violence, and Mars was a bit behind; or two, that hanging might be felt as a less violent form of execution… as it is so old, an antique form of execution; so no blood, no electric shocks, no injections. So this is Mars. Traditionally, Mars also represents falling. Plus squaring the lunar nodes feels like the nodes are the trees from which The Hanged Man is hanging…past and future.The Sagg connection and the fact that Jupiter is hanging on the horizon in the 12th house points to a very old religious background, with Pholus there, going back a couple of political generations.

3. Pluto’s first exact conjunction to the Galactic Core is up front in the 1st house.

For me this is IT. This execution has a lot of past hanging to it, but it is all about the future. I am not sure how, but there is beginning here to be seen unfolding. This is a first act. The bridge between Sagg and Capricorn + then the Galactic Core being so prominent here tell me that this is an extremely symbolic action that might be connected with all the 2012 saga.



Weekly Horoscope for Friday, January 05, 2007, by ERIC FRANCIS

Capricorn Solar Returns, part three

Now is the time to dissolve the boundaries between yourself and others that have seemed like they were made of solid rock. Your approach to this, however, need not go much further than refining your approach to life and to relationships — refining, not renovating. Where you are at now is one of those rare places where if you change your mind, the world will change along with it.

I keep reading and hearing that life could always work this way, but we all know there are times when it does, and times when it don’t. Though now is clearly one of the “does” moments, a measure of precision is called for. Because there is so much going on, indeed, so much behind the scenes, in front of the scenes and above and below them as well, you are also in a moment that is requiring a careful balancing act, and where better to start than with your own mind.

You can experiment with the idea that your consciousness is such a powerful factor in your own life, that the way you think and how you feel influence the world instantly. They do — because your perception is the thing you see and experience most vividly. The whole effect of consciousness being receptor mediated is overlooked because the effect of external reality is so strong, and the things that happen “out there” are so compelling. There is indeed an “out there,” but at this stage of your growth and under the current astrology, it stands in the background to everything that is “in there.”

But I suggest you experiment in an innovative way. Wherever there is a question, work, first, on getting into alignment with what is important to you. Set priorities that are based on your actual values. You are being influenced by a variety of factors and you may feel pulled in several directions, by seemingly conflicting emotions. You may also feel something pretty big is shaping up for you, though this may be coming in the form of a feeling of nervousness, apprehension and in your darker moments, a touch of dread. Let all those things be.

Right now, in these days of your solar return, I suggest you focus on knowing what is important to you, and why. I suggest you make a list no longer than you can memorize, and make sure that even that short grouping of values — the values that ideally would drive your life, under the best possible circumstances — be set in an order that is uncontrovertibly true. The idea behind being scrupulously clear about your values is to erase any inner conflict over what you want, what you need, or what should be — and most particularly, why from your own viewpoint it needs to be that way.

You are clearly under a lot of unusual pressure, or at least you feel that way, and it may be difficult to discern the source of the energy for a while. This is why I suggest you stick to extremely basic values, what you feel is right and wrong, and understanding your motives clearly. There is something shifting deep within you and it will be some time before you have a clear picture of what it is, and before you experience the benefits of that transformation process. But at the moment, you are, as ever, in the position of making the decisions that guide your life, and the simpler the basis for those decisions, the better you will feel, and the more effective your choices will be.

And when you are focused only on what is the most meaningful to you, I trust that you will experience both a sense of safety that is indeed unusual, at the same time the people who surround you display empathy, clarity and understanding of your needs and desires.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You’re in no mood to have your precious ideals challenged, but I suggest you not take this as far as looking for a fight. You finally have clear goals that you value more than your beliefs, and it’s time to keep your focus on what really makes a difference. Indeed, your time this weekend would be well spent focusing your priorities and sorting what actually matters from what does not, and there is a difference. It may seem that real progress is going much slower than you had planned, but early next week, a series of rapid developments on the professional front will call for swift decisions that you get right the first time. To the extent that you’ve gained ground as a leader, you now need to back it up with clarity and vision.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
In any situation involving a team approach, remember to work with a clear strategy. Everything you say or write needs to support that agenda, and therefore a light must come on in your mind every time you verge on defeating yourself. You know you have the most experience and the greater wisdom, but most people don’t care about these things. What they tend to care about is protecting their own image, particularly when three or more people get together. Your strategy needs to either outfox this quality of human nature, or put it to work for you, and thus for everyone. Remember, most people have no clue what they really want, and their attachment to outcomes is in essence little more than a drama. You have a different agenda.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
A long-awaited financial deal seems about to come to fruition, but you must guard your interests vigilantly. Fortunately, you are in a position to do just that. In part based on your own considerable experience, and in part based on the position of a key ally. Indeed, no matter how good an offer or opportunity looks, I suggest that someone with legal training go over the details. You have a lot to gain, and just as much to lose. Be particularly leery of anyone promising that your loss or expense will somehow benefit the ‘common good’. You can afford a slight delay at this point. As the game is being played right now, the object is looking after your own interests, and that means not only getting it in writing, but also agreeing with every word on the page.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Sometimes our worst fears point to precisely the opposite of what we are dreaming. Indeed, in any emotional situation where honest feelings are on the line, at some point the fear of abandonment is going to come to the surface — so I suggest you work with yourself on that level. Most of what we presume others feel is a projection on our part, and this is the time to name those projections, claim them as your own, and recognize the power they once had over you. There is a romantic myth that commitment is something made with passion and a little blaze of glory. We all know that real commitment actually takes its time, and speaks few words. Actions, a sane environment and results seen over time speak for much more.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
It may seem like a relationship has been reduced to a game of chess, but this seems to be one where everyone comes out a winner. Indeed, as events develop this week, everything needs to be considered in the context of what benefits the many rather than the few. Humanity has a long way to go before the idea of a win-win situation is even considered a possibility, but you have figured out that it’s not only a possibility, but a necessity. You are taken care of, and what matters most now is how the energy of your relationships spreads into the community that surrounds you. Using that as a formula, over the next few days, you and your colleagues will be able to move mountains.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You clearly have the most brilliant ideas going, and a simple strategy is all you need to have them accepted and appreciated. Ideas and strategy, however, must take this particular walk hand in hand. Intelligence is not usually recognized for what it is. Most people don’t know a terrible idea from an innovative one, and sometimes it’s harder to explain than it should be. Therefore, much of whether you succeed this week involves how you position yourself, how you present your concepts, and most importantly, whether you can foresee the bumps and wrinkles in advance and know precisely how to handle them. Your intelligence is not in question — only how you apply it to the situation.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
You are embarking on a course that will lead you through a series of breakthroughs, but you need to be prepared for what progress will bring. The first steps involve addressing certain concerns about your security that are, in truth, spiritual issues rather than material ones. Any time a seemingly material question arises, make sure you transpose it to a more relevant level, or see the issue behind the issue. It would also help immensely to set some clear boundaries in an emotional or sexual relationship, so that a partner or partners are aware that there’s a time to play and a time to work. You won’t need to go as far as being the ice queen, but the moment may come when a puff of cool air does the trick.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
You have come a long way toward working through difficult financial issues lately, and are benefiting from what seems like a wave of good fortune, luck or at least a rare moment when people are actually doing what you need them to do. But by all indications, of all things currently benefiting you, your own initiative is the main one. This is partly based on a conscious choice to express your most confident side, as well as an odd feeling that your life is working out exactly as you need. Over the next week, as your will power and confidence increase, make sure you take each step from a centered, confident and honest place.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You don’t need to push, persuade or even hint at what you want. Your entire being is vibrating with your intentions right now, and this factor is strongly influential in your environment. What you require more than anything is to be clear within your own mind, to think logically, and most of all, to not skip any important steps. If you keep a conscious sense of what you are trying to accomplish, and do your part to remove any pitfalls from your path, you will actually get where you are going. I would remind you, however, that your most vital goals now involve who you are — not what you do or what you are able to achieve. No matter how far you have to go or how daunting the tasks ahead, your feet can stand in this destination any time you like.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
This week’s Sun-Mercury conjunction in your birth sign brings yet another opportunity to overcome your fears and find some common ground with certain partners who could use a little instruction in the aspect of life known as cooperation. As usual, you are taking a formal and perhaps cautious approach to the question of how you must handle others, which is a good idea considering they may not be able to see past the end of their nose. A calm, straightforward approach to the situation will work the best, as will stating clearly what you need and what you expect. Remember that behind this facade is a well of emotion, passion and drive that has you in the mood to accept nothing other than the best. Live it, don’t talk about it.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Of all the ways to earn money, two stand out as the big possibilities. One is making cash for its own sake. The other, your usual method, is allowing the funds to come in as the result of a job done well. At the moment, you need to blend these methods. You are someone for whom idealism is like the air you breathe, and you’re good at setting aside your own interests for the sake of others. At this point, I recommend against doing that, but rather, stretching your mind to use every juncture or decision as an opportunity for mutual benefit. You are clearly being driven to achieve some unusual goals at the end of which everyone can come out ahead. Therefore, any situation calling for a sacrifice must be questioned, and another approach applied.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Your star is rising, and I suggest you respond to that by narrowing your goals, and taking an unusually orderly approach to what must be done. The faster things seem to go, and the more driven you are, the more methodical you need to be. When in doubt, apply formality and a reserved approach to any situation rather than a casual attitude. The less you take key allegiances for granted, the more they will be there for you. The softer and more reserved your tone, the more others will recognize the passion and determination that stands behind your objectives, and the more likely they are to provide their assistance and support. Most of all, make sure each dollar, pound or euro you spend follows your financial strategy. Make every financial transaction, no matter how small, a vote for success.


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