A Personal Journey Through the Tarot: The Hanged Man and the Knights

All roads lead to Ragnarök

Odin is known for his great sacrifice. He cuts out his own eye and he throws himself on his spear, then he hangs himself upside down on Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights in order to gain knowledge of other worlds and be able to understand the runes. He surrenders himself to the sacrifice in order to gain great wisdom. The image of The Hanged Man is Odin during this time of sacrifice and surrender. 

In the BOTA deck we see Odin hanging from a symbol that looks like: ת. This is the Hebrew letter Tav. (In the Rider Waite this is turned into the letter T) Tav is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the last letter in the Hebrew word for truth and the symbol that was carved onto foreheads of the loyal that kept them safe from the Angel of Death during Passover. It is a symbol of loyalty, discipline, truth and determination. All qualities associated to the practice of chivalry for the medieval Knights. 

These qualities are explored in the Hero’s journey. Where the Fool’s journey is about personal self discovery the Hero’s journey is about sacrifice for the common good. We see the story of these sacrifices in the Knights. 

Knight of Cups: Baldur is the son of Odin and Frigg. Baldur had a prophetic dream of his own death. For the love of his mother and to appease her despair Baldur sacrifices his normality allowing her to cast a spell upon him that makes him indestructible. This makes him the subject of a popular Asgardian game: Lets throw sharp objects at Balder. This game ultimately leads to his death through the trickery of Loki. 

Knight of Swords: Váli is the son of Odin and the giantess Rindr. Váli has no life of his own. He is born out of Odin’s grief over the death of Baldr and is conceived in the nightmare of the rape of Rindr. For the sake of revenge, Váli sacrifices his entire childhood as he grows to adulthood in one day so he can slay Baldr’s killer and imprison Loki. 

As with all good stories one thing leads to another and before we know it everything has been blown out of proportion and we are at Ragnarök. Odin dies during Ragnarök. He is devoured by Loki’s son the great wolf Fenrir. 

Knight of Pentacles: Víðarr, son of Odin and Gríðr and possessor of the iron shoe, is as strong and brave as Thor. Víðarr is the killer of Fenrir in vengeful retribution of his Father’s death. Sacrificing his voice he takes on a ritual silence which often accompanies acts of vengeance and is hence forth referred to as The Silent One. Even though Víðarr survives Ragnarök his silence suggests otherwise.

Knight of Wands: Odin’s son Thor defeats the serpent that is devouring the world during Ragnarök only to succumb to his injuries nine steps after the epic battle. Thor makes the ultimate sacrifice giving up his life so the world can live.

The typical Hero’s journey hinges on a devastating event that not only changes the life of the soon to be hero but also ultimately threatens his tribe. There is no going back to the way things where so the young person is faced with a choice. Wallow in the loss, or accept the new reality. Wallowing in the loss leads to victimization, accepting the new reality leads to victory. The Knight chooses victory. 

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