When I was very young I lived not more than 5 miles from the US-Mexico border (San Ysidro, what’s up?) While I am not of Mexican descent, I was heavily influenced by my Mexican teachers, classmates and friends in ways that reverberate even though I am now very far from the Baja California that feels like home.
It is no wonder, then, that as a college student I was naturally attracted to cultural anthropology. From what I learned in my studies, it is second nature for me to see the underlying human condition that the archetypes of tarot typify.
The Hanged Man, in particular, has so many cultural parallels that it astounds me. In fact, I am convinced that the Hanged Man is one of the most important (yet, sadly, underrated) cards in the deck. This card is incredibly powerful, unbelievable ancient, and supremely intimate.
As an adult looking back into my early memory, there are fragments of childhood fascination that entered my cosmological make up. One of these was a fascination with in the once indigenous (now Mexican) Danza de los Voladores. Pictures and graphics of these men taking flight were on my textbooks, and also I have one faint memory of seeing them in action.
As stories go, this ancient ritual was created when the people wanted to appease the rain god, Xipe Totec, so that the rains would appear and the land would grow again, but there any many variations to this story.
This is one example of how, throughout history, throughout vastly different cultures, voluntarily hanging oneself is a means of opening the communication channel to God.
I refer to the Hanged Man as the ‘check engine light’. We get the Gods’ attention by turning ourselves upside down, “Pay attention to our plight,” we cry.
“Help us with our needs. See how we brave this for you? See how we hang for you? See how we humble ourselves for you?”
We also, in some sense, emulate for a moment what we think a God might be like, soaring through the sky unencumbered, we gain a new perspective on the world.
The now ubiquitous bungee jumping also has ancient roots. Before it was appropriated, it was known as land diving on the southern Pentecost Island of Vanuatu. The people would erect wooden towers of up to 90 feet with their feet tied with jungle vines.
The lower platforms are for young boys who dive as a rite of passage into manhood while the highest platforms are for feats of courage and strength.
The Hanged Man is a rite of passage to ever greater spiritual maturity. We hang to ripen, we hang to show God and society that we are capable of handling things that scare us. We test the known boundaries of the world both desiring to be like God and also currying God’s favor.
We show the Gods that we can endure. We prove to ourselves we are capable of delayed gratification. We teach ourselves that we must give something to get something. The Hanged Man is an exchange. The Hanged Man is bartering.
The Okipa ceremony originates from the native North American indigenous people, the Mandan. The ceremony was tied to their complex creationist stories but also became a complex series of endurance tests for young men looking to please the spirits.
“The Okipa began with the young men not eating, drinking, or sleeping for four days. Then they were led to a hut, where they had to sit with smiling faces while the skin of their chest and shoulders was slit and wooden skewers were thrust behind the muscles. With the skewers tied to ropes and supporting the weight of their bodies, the warriors would be suspended from the roof of the lodge and would hang there until they fainted. To add agony, heavy weights or buffalo skulls were added to the initiates’ legs.” (Wikipedia)
Those finishing the ceremony were seen as being honored by the spirits; those completing the ceremony twice would gain everlasting fame among the tribe.
This ceremony has echos in a modern day Hindu ceremony called Charak Puja. Honoring the the God Shiva by acts of personal sacrifice means he will bless the land and people in the upcoming year. In this festival young men will also swing from poles using metal hooks that have been placed through the skin of their backs.
Our new perspective, through pain or through flight, through being upside down, or flying across the landscape, gives us the same kind of non-ordinary reality that shamans use to connect to a unified field of divine experience.
While this may seem inconvenient, if not downright gruesome, to modern eyes, it remains that the Hanged Man is an ancient archetype. I don’t want to put metal hooks in my back, but I can appreciate what sacrifice, bravery, modesty and inquiry means as a technique for getting to a new level in my spiritual relationship with the divine.
The Hanged Man is a detested card when it shows up in client readings because its appearance means that the person asking the question is not going to get what they want in the way that they want it. They are often being asked to adopt a holding pattern of asking without demanding the answer.
Fear of what the Hanged Man teaches is a core principal of modern society. A society that blocks individuals from greater connection to the Divine.
This flies in the face of what we are normally taught in modern, secular culture.
When we let go of ego, we are telling God we are ready to talk.
The Hanged Man is the Liminal Aspect of Passage. As a professional reader, I can tell you for a fact that it is exactly when people are approaching (or in) their own versions of a Hanged Man that they come for a reading. Whether it is divorce, illness, job loss, or bankruptcy these clients are in liminal space. “What will happen? How will I get through this? What will this look like on the other side? Why me?” They ask.
We all want to know the final outcome. But holding space for not knowing, for being the ‘check engine light to God’ that I talked about is a powerful (and necessary) part of the process to change. Damn right it is uncomfortable. It is absolutely hard and a lot scary. This is part of the journey, is required by the journey.
Rites of Passage have three inherent elements: separation, liminality, and incorporation.
First, we take ourselves away from normative experience by undertaking an unusual physical task. Then, the task we have chosen pushes us into liminal space, that is space that is inherently discombobulating and unclear. This is the space where we are choosing to no longer be in control. Disorientation in this step is not only encouraged, it is absolutely a required element in a personal rite of passage.
The Hanged Man is the liminal aspect of the rite of passage. Without embodying the Hanged Man, we are denied passage to the other side.
Finally, we have incorporation. It is only through the passage that Hanged Man delivers that we can meet Death, the next archetype in the major arcana. In this sense, Death is the death of an old identity (boy to man) or (plebeian to shaman). Once the old self dies in some aspect, can we be reincorporated into normative society as the new, shiny being we have become.
Have no fear, reentry is part of this process
How to Create Your Own Modern Day Hanged Man Experience
For the purposes of the Hanged Man, I think we have to consider that there must be a physical element to the process. Our body must also be involved in the rite we wish to enact.
But our society inherently eschews anything dangerous, so it hard to create the conditions that ancient humans utilized to push their spiritual consciousness to the next level, but here are some ideas:
Ariel silk dancing
Ayahuasca (Shamans use psychoactive drugs to create a rite of passage, I guess this would be considered a hack.)
Even moving to a new country
These are just a few ideas, please share yours below!
I hope I have convinced you to see the Hanged Man as an incredible aspect of the human condition. When the Hanged Man appears in a spread, I take notice, smile a little, and take my hands off the wheel.
The last couple of months have been challenging because I live with chronic migraine. My health dictates what I can and cannot do.
I have to limit how much I work, my exposure to noise, light, stress, and wine (oh, sweet heavens not the wine, too!). But in the ways that it has limited me, it has taught me so very much.
What I have learned from my illness is that people are uncomfortable around hurting.
It is so anxiety producing that the first thing a person grasps is to try to fix the dysfunction.
We are not taught how to bear witness to suffering. We have not learned that our kind and loving presence is enough (it is). If we cannot fix it then we don't know what to do with ourselves.
It feels like actual help when we toss off a recommendation, “Have you had enough water?” or “Did you try X, Y, or Z?” What do I know, what have I experienced that might help? Surely more information is needed! Perhaps I hold the key to help this person! Our suggestions alleviate the anxiety we feel. The certainty of giving a suggestion feels so much better, doesn’t it? Wrapping up a problem with a bow feels so good! “Just try this one weird trick!”
But what I have learned is this: those who suffer are the experts in their own pain. Wide awake at 3 am on the 10th page of Google we pull together all the fragments and try to stitch together what makes sense. It is amazing how knowledgeable we become on the nature of our suffering whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
You are an expert in your own pain.
And as an expert in your pain you probably know far more than those attempting to help. As an expert in your pain you require something other than a suggestion or recommendation. As the expert, you know exactly what you need.
What broken heads or hearts need is emotion, action, and presence. Perhaps a trip to the grocery store, or run a load of laundry, or swoop in with a diet-busting gallon sized container of chocolate-chocolate fudge. But first, the most important thing to say to your beloved one hurting is this:
How can I help?
This question changes the dynamic. We lay ourselves down as servants to the afflicted, we hold space for them. Leaving room for uncertainty, for endurance, for patience and for faith that cannot yet see relief is massively hard. And even if we do have a reason or cure, it does not always heal the wound, the heart, the spirit.
I do not believe in noble suffering. I am no martyr. Pain is ugly. Pain is hard. Pain challenges who we are. Pain can strip us of our humanity bit by bit. But, pain can be eased somewhat by asking four words: how can I help?
As a reader, I am no expert to your pain, you are. What I wish to be is a servant to what hurts, what feels broken, to hold that space to strengthen your resolve, your focus and to support your coping.
As Ram Dass famously said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
How to identify, isolate, and evade takers, ‘brain pickers’, and manipulation makers
About half of these consultations do not lead to a partnership. This is due to various reasons such as my approach and philosophy not working for them, or them needing something I cannot offer. Sometimes, they are not ready, and a conversation helps them to determine that.
Honestly, I appreciate the fifty percent conversion rate. A good coach does not take every person who crosses their proverbial door, and this consultation is exceedingly important in the process.
However, I’ve had a recent experience that truly flabbergasted me. I saw that someone made an appointment for one of these free business coaching informational chats. It was the same day that they subscribed to my newsletters. They had never been on my radar before. This is quite unusual as there is typically a dance that happens where people check me out, maybe come to a Zoom session, or get a reading before reaching out to me for business coaching. Usually, they are on my radar.
This person decided to book themselves for my last slot of the evening: 8:30–9pm. This is a precious and highly sought-after time slot because that is when kids are asleep, the workday is done, and people have time for a session. It also is a big sacrifice for me because working evenings also means I do not see my family, or friends who work 9–5. I only offer them two or three times a week.
At the appointed time, we connect, and she immediately launches into a story with her background before even introducing herself kind of as an afterthought. She was gushing about the things she had read about me and how great they were. But, then came the true request: “I am not interested in coaching. Maybe later. But can you help me with this aspect of business? I have looked everywhere on Google and cannot find anything.”
I felt my skin flush because it literally did not compute that someone would even think to cross a boundary like this. And honestly? I let her know, “If you had no intention of getting coaching, then why did you book this session with me?”
“I know, I am so sorry. But I saw that it was available and so I took it.” She said.
“But…don’t you know that when you take a slot like this, especially this kind of time slot, you prevented a client the opportunity to book?” I asked.
She was contrite. She apologized profusely. And, I think (hope) she learned as valuable a lesson as I did. I mean, she certainly inspired me to write this. So, lady that booked me for a session when you just wanted free advice, I thank you.
What you thought was just a friendly outing (and boy, do you need one, right? Entrepreneurialship can be lonely, thirsty work,) you are dismayed to see, wasn’t a social call it all. It had an agenda.
You will find people come out of the woodwork: old friends, acquaintances, other readers who “befriend” you, and with it comes the open hand, expecting that you will just give, “Because we are friends.” Usually, the moment you place a boundary and ask for them to pay for your time, they are as silent as the first snow in winter.
Either that or they will say they would love to pay you or they will pay you or they will consider paying you…later. Always later. Because, they are not thinking about you. They are only thinking about themselves. They do not understand that their “goodly intention” is actually robbing you. Robbing you of time. Robbing you of respect. Robbing you of genuine friendship and camaraderie.
Because, the thing is, is that you are probably a very generous person at heart. If these people had just asked and offered to pay you, you would have said, “That’s ok” and given them a few pointers because that is just what you do. Because I know that you care.
In the beginning I used to agonize over putting my boundaries in place. It made me feel like a bad person. But what I learned (the hard way) is that feeding these “hungry ghosts” will make them only demand more. You are rewarding them for bad behavior and training them to expect that relationship to continue.
So, let me spell it out with some pointers that will help you easily discern if the person coming your way is a hungry ghost:
The Ambush: They corner you and try to use your social niceness against you in order to get what they want. Maybe they will brazenly do what that person who inspired this post did and actually book a session to put you on the spot. They might invite you to lunch without telling you the agenda ahead of time and corner you at your favorite Mexican joint (shame on them, ’cause who doesn’t want to focus on their enchilada?).
They might find you at a conference or call you out on social media and corner you there, where you would look like a “bad person” or maybe a “miserly person” for not giving them what they want. Remember, the surprise attack here is key. You are not being asked, you are not being offered a choice. Moreover, they are definitely not saying that they want to compensate you for your time.
The Butter Up: These people will seem like they are your biggest fans, and they will use that as leverage. They sing your praises from here to the high heavens, but those praises come with strings attached-long emails or DMs asking you for your time and expertise. Because, they just love you! Why can’t you help? Aren’t you a good person like they thought you were?!
The Slippery Sloper: They start off with an innocent request of your time. It isn’t much, really. You could totally help out, and you want to. It’ll only take a minute. This tactic reminds me of that a crappy high school date at the movies: first comes the hand on the arm, then the yawn and fake-out boob graze, and the next thing you know, you have a tongue jammed down your throat. Usually, there is no consent asked for, and it is a slow, meticulous evolution into much longer requests, and even entitled demands on your time.
Debtor’s Prison: These hungry ghosts start off with telling you that they totally did something for you: like sent so many clients your way or gave you exposure on their platform. Then they will ask for a favor in return.
You are put in an incredibly difficult spot, right? It is so tricky to use gratitude and guilt to gain an advantage. This typically goes hand-in-hand with people who are well-trained in Victim Complex, “Well, I did this and this for you, and you can’t even do that for me?” (sad face).
The Ties that Bind: These are family, friends, and people connected to your partners who will take advantage of you and use emotional ties to do so. “But we are cousins! Remember that time when we had that Jell-O fight?! Come on, man, you know me! Help me out!”
These are typically the most entitled because they know you as the friend or as the brother’s girlfriend. They have hung out with you. They know you. They like you. Of course, you will help them, ’cause they would help you! You would be a monster to charge your own family member. How could you possibly do that, right?
Gee, I guess it’s “all business now, isn’t it?” they might say with a condescending snort. They might even pull the, “I guess you are just too good for me (us, this place, our relationship, etc.)”
RUN, my friend, RUN
And, when you inform them about their transgression, it is a chance for them to learn. Maybe they didn’t know, haven’t figured it out, or are panicking. Perhaps your firm boundary is the thing they needed to really get all of this, and so you have done them a tremendous favor.
On the other hand, some people are just takers. They know exactly what they are doing. It is a tactic that has worked for them for a long time. The sooner you identify these hungry ghosts and mitigate their hold on you, the more you will be able to focus on those who DO value you, who RESPECT you, who are a JOY to work with.
As a result, many of these creators decide to put everything behind a paywall, or they just stop giving: such a loss to the community they contribute in.
What a damn shame.
Personally, I offer a lot of free content and low-cost content. I have written extremely comprehensive books, all quite affordable. I could have put it all behind a pay wall and extracted even more. I chose not to take that route. I offer a free, monthly meeting for Spiritual Entrepreneurs — no strings attached. I write weekly fortunes, not to mention content like this to help others.
And because I offer free content in ways that bring me joy, I am confident in the boundaries I have in place everywhere else. I am a naturally very giving person so I want to honor that about myself. But I need to help others in a way that is sustainable for me. Because to do anything else would mean burn-out, bitterness, and resentment towards the takers. I stay in control of the situation, and I do it in a way that makes me happy.
Then, with the space you have built for yourself with all of these luscious boundaries you have made, you can give back in ways that feel true and good to you. If you were socialized as a female, this can be especially hard, as it goes against all of the social lessons you have learned. It is hard for women to say, “No. Absolutely Not. Get The F*** Out Of Here With That Nonsense.”
Because we don’t want to make people mad. Because we are afraid of confrontation. To that, I say, “Psst, hey friend, I have a secret: the more you do it, the easier this gets.” And with takers? If you have made them mad, that usually means you are not giving them what they want. It means you are doing good!
Entitlement is one helluva drug. Some people were raised without learning boundaries. But the better you are with your boundaries, the more you can invite into your life people who will offer as much (if not more) than they get. See the takers out, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya
I want to leave you with a good story because there are amazing people all over the place.. Recently, I had a pro reader sign up for one of my classes. When I asked her why she was taking it (as it is more of a tarot 101 class) she said, “You give so much for free, I wanted to give something back.”
It made me cry.
Find these people. Hold them close. They are worth their weight in gold. These are the ones who deserve your time.
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