Card Spotlight: The Hanged Man

Occult Ornithology Deck: Available to pre-order

This weeks card spotlight is the twelfth card in the major arcana, The Hanged man.

My version of The Hanged Man is represented by a ring necked pheasant. When I fist discussed creating this deck with my partner we were suggesting different birds for cards, the first suggestion for the hanged man was a pheasant and since then nothing really seemed to fit. There are less macabre images I could have gone with, many garden birds hang upside down, but the imagery of a shot pheasant hung by its legs just stuck with me strongly.

In the upright position: The hanged man can represent suspension of time, pausing what you’re doing to see the world from a new perspective. Let go of what is driving you for a while and be still, sometimes it’s useful not to rush into things and instead observe. Surrender, circumspection, breaking old habits.

In the reversed position: the card can mean that you’ve been pushing through a task or event instead of taking the time to pause and shift your attention for a while. it can show a resistance to change or refusal to focus on something that urgently requires your attention.

Pretty boy fabric pattern

Why a ring-necked pheasant? I wish I could give you a detailed folklore session about pheasants, but the truth is it’s mostly rooted in nostalgia and interest in the bird on a local level. The UK’s pheasant population isn’t native, but rather introduced from Asia for hunting purposes, every time the pheasant population depletes more are added to hunt. In the specific area I live in Liverpool, the land used to be part of a Lord’s estate, mostly developed on but with some green areas still with pheasant populations, so it’s a bird I see fairly regularly. Growing up I’ve always felt pretty bad for pheasants, they’re very beautiful birds and I often saw them hanging upside down in a farmers hand after being shot. I also grew up watching a British cartoon series called The Animals of Farthing Wood, it was a story about animals trying to escape from their wood which is being redeveloped for housing to somewhere safe, in the series is a pair of pheasants (Mr and Mrs Pheasant) whose deaths in the series are some of the most heartbreaking i’ve seen in a kids show.
So how do these memories relate to the card? I’m sure many of you are asking… I would be lying if I said a large reason I chose this bird wasn’t aesthetic, I associate them with being hung upside down and the pheasant being hung amongst herbs like the Hanged Man being hung on plant covered cross was an inescapable image in my mind. On a symbolic level however in a way I see part of why pheasants are so hunted and often killed is because of their inability to change their nature or behaviour. They aren’t a particularly shy bird and don’t really try to run away when a human walks near them, they regularly make their presence known by screaming randomly into the air and fairly often dive in front of speeding cars. Their inability to change this natural behaviour is likened to the hanged man’s reverse position of being resistant to change or being unable to study ones own behaviour. Mostly, though this card just felt natural and I went with my instinct with the design.

Symbolism in the card: The Rider- Waite card shows a traitor being hung upside down by the foot for his crimes. The man is fairly relaxed with a halo around his head suggesting martyrdom, which is also enforced by the T-shaped cross the prisoner is hanging from. The largest difference between the Waite depiction and my own the the fact that the hanged man is in fact alive to observe, whereas my hanged man is unambiguously dead. I wanted the bring across some of the themes of martyrdom and sacrifice but didn’t feel that it would be appropriate to have a living bird with these themes. My hanged man also has a halo, his is blood spattered though, the Waite card shows someone looking at life from a new perspective, my card shows what happens when you cannot change perspective.

Previous spotlights:

The Hierophant
The Wheel of fortune
The Star
The Hermit

Occult Ornithology is available for pre-order via Backerkit!

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