Welcome to the first harvest, the first cut of the grain, release of the fruit, emptying of the field, that is Lammas (Lughnasadh). Our blog hop wrangler, Aisling, has challenged us to work with the “union of opposites” in the myths surrounding this Celtic festival, which celebrates both the gathering of substance and the sacrifice necessary to clear the fields to allow that harvest to be collected and consumed.
So, here’s to Lugh’s (Celtic deity) foster mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion from clearing the woods for a replanting and thus saved the people from starving after the crops were destroyed by warring armies.
She reflects the ancient agricultural belief in the need for the god to die in order to be reborn, just as the crops are born, grow, produce fruit, and die to rejuvenate the soil in their endless seasonal cycle.
Ever since I read Aisling’s story and call for us to look at the union of opposites in one or two cards of the Tarot, the Hanged Man kept coming to mind, and I just couldn’t get rid of him. But I’m also one who believes in card relationships, so I had to choose Aisling’s two-card option for this blog post. Let’s look at the intertwining themes of hanging and releasing in The Hanged Man and its next step, the Death card.
So, let’s see where the hanging and releasing symbolism take us. Are these cards opposites, or do they carry the same message?
- Beginning with the most RWS/modern take: The Hanged Man is, well, hanging (fortunately by his foot and not his neck, or we’d be intimate with the Death card—interesting twist), and I get this feeling of suspension. Meanwhile, the lady in the Golden Tarot’s Death card has just released her last breath, and her soul, it looks like, to the angels for the trip to heaven (we assume the best here). So, opposites. Holding on (by a thread), and releasing (life itself).
- Going back to more traditional pre-RWS meanings: The Hanged Man and Death are both about losses and releases. Actually, they are almost about the same thing: death. Or in the case of the Hanged Man, at least punishment for misdeeds (which at worst could include hanging). Death is simply about losses. Period. Including…death. Ah, union of opposites here.
And then my thoughts go to these cards’ positions in the Fool’s Journey. Second series of seven, when the ego from the Chariot is broken to reveal the power of the soul behind the Priestess’ veil. The Hanged Man (card 12) in this role becomes a release of the attachments of the ego; he hangs suspended, with a little smile on his face or even a halo in some cards. Holding, but not holding, attached, yet not caring as he hangs. Still, he is, waiting for his own next move.
But he can’t hang forever, sit in meditation forever. Time moves ever forward, so Death arrives to ask him if he’s ready to be cut down. Oh, yes, he still has choice in this matter of dissolving his ego. Time to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to release the soul power that will become Temperance, the card after Death, and the uniter of opposites.
I know, third card, but I couldn’t resist telling the last chapter of the story. I wouldn’t leave you suspended in release, cut off from your soul. What is destroyed will always produce energy for the next creation.
Lastly, a short poem to leave you with the natural dance of opposites that makes death and life, and the conservation of energy in the universe. 🙂
Burnt leaf, black,
rocks and curls
in the flames.
at glowing veins
swallowed into ashes.
Pale dust swirls,
the wind inhales,
exhales over seed.
struggle emerges green
into the sun.