A figure is suspended from a gallows. He hangs from one leg, with the other crossed at the knee. His hands are behind his back, possibly tied there. Or are those his hands hanging down below his shoulders?
His tongue sticks out, mocking the seriousness of the situation. A halo of light shines from his head. Each post of the gallows has six knobs where branches have been severed. Growing up around the posts are beautiful flowers of many colors. A small pool of water is below the figure. Floating in the water are Runes, ancient alphabetic symbols revealing the secrets of the the universe.
This card is a mixture of symbolism from several different decks. I mostly referred to "Le Pendu", the Hanged Man, from the Noblet Tarot of Marseilles. References to this card include the tongue sticking out, the "hands" below the shoulder (that always look like angel wings to me), and the gallows with the knobby posts. I decided that I wanted to add in the "halo" from the Waite-Smith deck, which makes the figure even more "heavenly". The runes in the pool allude the to the story of Odin, who had the mystery of the runes revealed to him after he hung for nine days and nights on Yggdrasil, the sacred world tree.
I find this to be one of the most interesting cards in the deck. In Italy during the 15th century, the Hanged Man's image represented a "shame painting," inferring that the person depicted was a traitor. In fact, this card was called 'The Traitor' for hundreds of years in Italy. The way the figure is hung is reminiscent of how animals are sometimes hung in a meat market. In France several centuries later, he was identified as Prudence, and even turned right-side up, taking on a more thoughtful and virtuous nature. Waite added an additional 'christ-like' feel to the image by adding the halo. So a card that may originally have represented one of the most unpleasant and negative cards in the deck was transformed into one with many positive connotations.
Today, many readers see this card as "Changing your perspective", "Self-sacrifice", "Taking time out", "Devotion to a worth-while cause", "Rebirth", or "Suspension of progress".
Digital camera, Photoshop, Illustrator, Bryce.
Originally, I wanted to hang the model upside down to take the photo, but when the time came we thought it better to have him lie on the floor. I stood on top of a bookcase and tried to get as even a shot as possible. Another person pulled on the rope to keep it tight. Then I took some brown twigs from my yard and made a gallows, and shot this. I combined the images in Photoshop with a sky from another shot I had taken. I bought some feathers at a craft store and scanned them in and built the wings.
At this point, the image had come together, but something felt like it was missing. I wanted the image to be "magical". I went out again with the camera and shot the trunks of two enormous trees in a park near my house. The trunks have huge exposed roots that climb down the hills beside where they sit. They have bright white bark, but I don't know the type of tree they are. I also shot the gardens in the park where thousands of dahlias were in bloom. Using Bryce, I turned the gallows silver-white to match the tree trunks then morphed the two together, and added in the flowers. I created some water for the pond and added more texture to the sky.
I downloaded a font for the runes, typed them out, added an embossing to them, then placed them in the water. I used Illustrator to create the halo. By adding in the wings, halo, silver/blue theme, flowers, and runes, I finally felt that the card had the "magic" that I was hoping for.
I've always been interested in the arts. I've been involved with everything from theater, to writing, to design, to photography for many years. I dream of making my own deck one day, and have used this project as an impetus to get going on it.
Go back to the project index, read the traditional card meaning, or get a free tarot reading with this deck.