Climbing Down from the Tree

Druidcraft Tarot

I’ve been truly feeling the energies of Beltane this year. It is a joyous festival that celebrates love and passion; the natural world explodes into life; the greening and blossoming cracking open our senses.

Traditionally, Beltane honours the ecstatic union of opposites, of goddess and god  – it is about sacred sex and the alchemical transformation that we are offered when we open ourselves to another. This ‘other’ is not limited to a person but can include all elements that live outside of us, and so we can discover this union not only with our lovers but with the world itself. A key word for Beltane is ‘opening’, a process in which we allow ourselves to be deeply touched by the environment outside our perceived boundaries. It helps us to recognize that life is a circuit that flows between self and other and like the blossom that unfurls for the bee, in that contact the potential for something new is born – we are fertilized by life.

Being open takes trust and to truly trust the heart must be free to engage fully and yet when our hearts have been bruised, our natural response is to close down. Initially, this protective mechanism is necessary; if life has dealt us a painful blow, strengthening our boundaries can aid us in catching our breath and re-centering ourselves; it is a part of the healing. Sometimes shutting ourselves away to lick our wounds is all that we are capable of. At those moments we need to show ourselves a little compassion;not judge ourselves so harshly for turning our back on life. However, if the hurt has been profound, we can become stuck, not wanting or feeling able to take down our defenses and let life in.

I have spent the last four years intimately exploring the impact of grief and depression – coming out the other side, I have been pondering the nature of our inner seasons. Of course, the seasons in nature flow endlessly one into the other; we can generally predict the length of time that winter will be with us; we can look forward to the coming of spring. Our emotional seasons are a little less easy to judge. When we find ourselves caught in a harsh emotional winter, the certain return of spring can feel, well, a little less certain.

Depression is a world apart from the expansive energy of Beltane. When we are depressed, nothing truly touches us, we close down – we become numb to the inspiration that contact with ‘other’ can bring. If we use the metaphor of seasons for our emotional states, depression is a painfully harsh winter. It is helpful not to place judgement on whether this season is ‘natural’ or pathological – psychologically speaking – like winter in the natural world, it is a vital part of a cyclical whole. Rather, we must ask ourselves, what is winter’s value, its meaning and its gifts? Winter brings needed rest – a stasis that is actually a pause between the breath of living – its pulse slows and deepens until it can barely be felt. It is a stillness that asks that we turn inward and open to our inner life, to see what dead wood needs to be cleared and released, what treasures lie hidden.

I am a huge fan of Tarot. All through my journey with depression and grief, my personal Tarot spreads were haunted by the Hanged Man card. The Hanged Man in Tarot symbolism is an archetype of surrender. In life, he can represent sacrifice – the giving up of something precious and the trust it takes to surrender to this process, long before hindsight has given you the opportunity to see the deeper meaning of that sacrifice, or the gifts it may have eventually brought.

Rider-Waite

In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, the Hanged Man is hung upside down from his foot and around his head is a halo of light. He is suspended and passive, although not bound – his hands are free and so he could easily untie himself and walk away from that tree. This suggests that something more profound is happening here. There is a purpose to this stasis, to this lack of movement. In fact, there is movement occurring but it is subtle and happens beneath the surface. Being hung from his foot, he is forced to see the world from a completely different angle -not exactly a comfortable thing to do as the blood rushes to his head!

Every time I saw him appear in my spreads, he pissed me off! I wanted him to go away and I could feel this powerful resistance to his presence. But as time went on and I was forced to go inward – to sit patiently with my feelings of sorrow and loss – his presence began to make perfect sense. I was being required to embody that stasis, the crippling lack of emotional movement, the discomfort of it and rather than fighting it, I had to surrender to it, trusting that it wouldn’t destroy me. And in that trust – the kind of trust that has absolutely no guarantees of happier times returning – in that perfect trust, in that act of faith, the path back to my heart appeared.

To open my heart again, I had to surrender to life and trust, and to do that fully I realised it was time to let it all go, let the hurt and pain be taken by gravity as I swung in the breeze, suspended by my foot. I had to go inward, sit, wait, be…

Green Witch tarot

The Hanged Man takes us to a place where we can forgive life for striking the killer blow; where we can forgive others for hurting us; where we can forgive ourselves for not measuring up, and in that forgiveness and non-judgmental acceptance of exactly where we find ourselves, the cracks in our heart start letting in the light and warmth, and that Beltane blossoming begins; there really is no stopping it.

My heart has been opening gradually petal by petal and it is the best feeling! It is a common quote now but one that is still beautiful and poignant,

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~ Anais Nin

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Carl Markham said,

    May 19, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    P.S. I just love the Druid Pack’s ‘interpretation’ of the Hanged MAN’ also! It really ‘says it all’ for Equality in all things doesn’t it? (First time I’ve seen this illustrated in a Tarot Pack.)

    • luckyloom1 said,

      May 27, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      It’s great isn’t it Carl! The Druidcraft Tarot is one of my favourite decks!


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