Saturday, April 9, 2016

Paulette Spescha-Montibert writes

A boy on a tree

Orb of fire above the hill
the sun was rising
as the boy looked
at the men
binding his fists
enough light
for him to see
he could expect
no mercy from them
they would pull up the rope
hang him at the nearest tree
they would start beating him
as soon as his feet
had left the ground
they wanted him to confess
to give names of
people and places
the boy knew
the boy had nothing to say
there was no yesterday

there was only now
now the sun was high
in the midday sky
the boy was hanging
empty of words
empty of thoughts
no anger
or rancour
no pain in his heart or body
so very slowly that day
the sun
came down again
to set
gold and round
behind the hill
as an empty man
was hanging
on a tree

Hanged Man -- Will Worthington


  1. "The Hanged Man" is the twelfth trump, or Major Arcana card, in most Tarot decks. Traditionally it illustrated a "pittura infamante" [a 1393 decree for Milan and Lombardy stipulated a traitor's punishment: Let him be drug on a [wooden] plank at a horse’s tail to the place of execution, and there be suspended by one foot to the gallows, and be left there until he is dead.]; but some versions portrayed Judas and included bags of silver in his hands, and others depicted the Norse god Odin, who suspended himself from a tree in order to gain knowledge. Modern versions usually depict a man hanging upside-down by one foot, suspended from a wooden beam (as in a cross or gallows) or a tree. Tarot is often used in association with the Hermetic Kabalah, particularly as interpreted by the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. (The images were drawn by Pamela Colman Smith following the instructions of Arthur Edward Waite and were published by the Rider Col in 1910.)
    Writing of the Hanged Man, Waite said, "It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death.... It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty,... I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe."

    Playing cards were introduced into Europe in the late 14th century, probably from Egypt, with suits of coins (called disks or pentacles in divination), batons or polo sticks (wands, rods, or staves in divination), swords, and cups. These suits were very similar to modern tarot divination decks and are still used in traditional decks of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese playing cards. The English and French word "tarot" derives from the Italian "tarocchi," which has no known etymology, though it may be related to the Arabic "turuq" (ways) or "taraka" (to leave, abandon, omit, leave behind). (The singular "tarocco" is a type of blood orange.) Picture-card decks, with images of the Greek gods and suits depicting four kinds of birds, first appeared in Milano between 1418 and 1425, but the first "carte da trionfi" (triumph cards), traditional four-suit decks with additional cards with allegorical illustrations known as trionfi, which became "trumps" in English, were created between 1430 and 1450 in Milano, Ferrara, or Bologna in northern Italy, so the name may come from the Taro river, near Parma. Though many variations exist, the standard tarot deck is a pack of 78 playing cards. Like a common deck of cards, tarot has four suits with pip cards numbering from one (or ace) to ten and four court cards (king, queen, knight, and jack). In addition, tarot has a separate 21-card trump suit plus a single card known as the fool. Occultists call the trump cards and the fool "the major arcana" and the others "minor arcana." Some occult writers trace the cards to ancient Egypt or the Kabbalah, but no documented evidence of such origins exists. An early literary attestation is in the 5-novel series, "La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel" (written between ca. 1532 to ca. 1564 by Franciscan monk François Rabelais), in which two giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, played "tarau." (Rabelais applied his knowledge of Greek to the invention of hundreds of new words, some of which became part of the French language. Wordplay and risqué humor abounded, and lists of explicit or vulgar insults fill several chapters. Rabelais said "Pantagruelism" was rooted in "a certain gaiety of mind pickled in the scorn of fortuitous things.") Since the late 18th century tarot has been used for divination, but no evidence exists of any earlier such practice.

  2. "The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forlì" (1540) prescribed a method of using cards to select a random oracle, but the cards themselves had no meaning. "The Square of Sevens" (1735) and "Pratesi Cartomancer" (1750) began to prescribe a system for laying out tarot cards and assigning divinatory meanings to specific cards. In 1781 a former Huguenot pastor who later belonged to Benjamin Franklin's Masonic lodge in Paris, Antoine Court (who renamed himself Antoine Court de Gébelin by adding his grandmother's name), the intellectual grandfather of much of modern occultism, compiled an etymological dictionary (which he called a universal grammar) and wrote discourses on the origins of language. He also discussed the ancient origins of allegory in antiquity and recreated a history of the calendar from civil, religious, and mythological perspectives. Beginning in 1773 he began a massive, unfinished 15-volume series on "The Primeval World, Analyzed and Compared to the Modern World;" volume VIII appeared in 1781, with a chapter on the tarot. He claimed that he realized immediately, the first time he saw a tarot deck, that it held the secrets of Egyptians theology. He asserted "tarot" came from the Egyptian "tar" (path) and "ro," "ros," or "rog," (king), so it literally meant the Royal Road of Life. The secrets had been distilled into images which were subsequently taken to Rome and, during the papal schism of the 1th century, to Avignon. Then he appended an essay by the Comte de Mellet which connected the "fool" and the 21 tarot trumps to the Hebrew alphabet, along with his own suggestions for cartomancy. (In 1784, while investigating Franz Mesmer's theory of "animal magnetism," de Gébelin died of an electrically induced heart attack.) Within two years of de Gébelin's work, Etteilla published a technique for reading the tarot and was the first to issue a revised tarot deck specifically designed for occult purposes.

  3. Jean-Baptiste Pitois (who was also known as the journalist Paul Christian), had been raised in a monastic community but became an associate of Charles Nodier, an early French Romantic, who inspired and shared his interest in the occult. In 1859 Pitois began writing his "History of Magic, the Supernatural World and Fate, through Times and Peoples," which was finally published in 1870 and coined the terms "major arcana" and "minor arcana." An important modern tarot deck is Aleister Crowley's "Thoth Tarot," which Frieda Harris designed according to Crowley's specifications from his "Book of Thoth and Liber 777," an expansion on the methods he learned in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Ordo Hermeticus Aurorae Aureae), founded in the late 19th century by William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, who were Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA).(Aurora Aurea inspired many concepts of ritual and magic that are central to contemporary traditions, such as Wicca and Thelema. The order's "hermetic" tarot deck, designed by MacGregor Mathers, was developed to teach the gnosis of alchemical symbolical language and was used by Carl Gustav Jung in his exploration into the psyche and imagination.) Crowley's Thoth deck employs astrological, zodiacal, elemental, and Kabalistic symbols and is an important part of his religion/philosphy, Thelema. The central tenet is "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will." The word "thelema" (signifying the appetitive will: desire, sometimes even lust) is rare in classical Greek but frequent in the Septuagint, the Greek Bible. Early Christians writings used the word to refer to the human will or Satan's will but usually to God's will, for example in the "Lord's Prayer" (Matthew 6:10), "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." St. Augustne of Hippo's 5th-century Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12 implored his audience, in Latin, "Love, and what thou wilt, do." But Crowley borrowed the term from Rabelais' fictional abbey Thélème, whose only rule was,
    "Do what thou wilt."


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