The Hanged Man, Key XII:
Silent or Silenced?
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2007
We all have subjects or issues that we view as private matters. Some of these issues may even be secrets; things that we have never opened up and talked about with anyone and maybe never will. The question we need to ask ourselves about the secrets that we think we have so well hidden is "Am I being silent or have I been silenced?"
Key XII The Hanged Man in the Tarot is typically depicted with a young man hanging upside down from a living tree - usually in the shape of a T. He is suspended by one ankle, his legs are crossed, his hands bound behind his back and his head is surrounded by a halo. Some feel that it is a card of sacrifice and martyrdom, others that it is symbolic of trying to accomplish the Great Work within oneself and to others it is our sentimental nature protecting us from being overcome by materialistic concerns. It is a card that can tell us we have to give up old ways of thinking or old relationships in order to move ourselves forward. The rope around our ankle is holding us bound to an obligation or issue from our past which is preventing us from moving forward. It is not generally thought to be a card of suffering but more of entrancement, enchantment, deep thought, soul searching and contemplative silence. We are ready to dance the dance of life at the center of the universe with our soul mate but they aren't here yet. If they did arrive, have we dealt with our secrets and our domains of silence in such a way that we can move forward into that relationship?
All people and families have domains of silence; issues that are taboo for conversation. It may be sex, it may be violence, it may be humiliation or it could be religion and politics. It may be an addiction in the family that no one discusses but everyone is trying to deal with on their own, unsupported. It may be an issue of abuse within a family or relationship. We feel shame, guilt, unworthiness, anger, humiliation, helplessness, paranoia, frustration and even impotent rage. We may be silent because we think we won't be believed or we fear the responsibility of breaking the silence with all of its consequences, both intended and unintended. It is more likely that we have been silenced by fear, threats and intimidation. We may also think that no one has noticed our suffering in silence or is suspicious that something may be amiss.
The nature of the secrets we are keeping, or are forced to keep, may be informational: events, alliances and memories. They could be physical objects: souvenirs, mementos, gifts or guilty pleasures. They could also be activities: past, present and future. The people we are keeping these secrets from could be the public in general, casual acquaintances, family, friends, spouses or authorities. We could have been silent, or silenced, for days, months and even years and this is the rope that keeps us hanging here in a state of suspension. We are silent because we are unable to articulate our grievance or silenced by the fear of further injury, loss, risk, living in poverty and exposure. We may be silent or silenced about betrayal, grief, forbidden love, unrequited love, secret love, desperation, jealousy, rejection, self-abuse, the abuse of others, cruelty, desires, wishes, hopes, dreams, needs, wants, sexual orientation and lifestyle, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, inability to conceive, hate, neglect, lack of courage, injury, death and errors in judgment or choice. We think if anyone knows, they couldn't possibly love us, want us or accept us and maybe in some ways, with some people, that could be very true. These are deep wounds, infected, that will only continue to fester until they are cut open and cleaned out.
It is impossible to keep a secret if too many people know about it or if people have become suspicious and motivated enough to dig deeper. The more we keep telling the same lie or avoid the truth of our situation; the better we get at it, practice makes perfect. At some point though this is going to become a huge psychic burden and there will be personal, physical, spiritual and emotional consequences. There are some issues which we should keep silent about; repeating gossip of a spurious nature and respecting peoples privacy about health matters are two. Secrets can hurt people. By keeping your silence, you may be allowing someone who has abused you move on to abuse others in the same way. If you have knowledge of a serious crime and your silence is your protection, this person may involve you in the same situation again - which makes you a bigger risk to them as well as putting you in the position of condonation of their bad acts. It can be a hard truth to accept that we allow ourselves to be silent but we also allow ourselves to be silenced.
Burdensome secrets will find some way out no matter how hard we try to keep them buried in our denial. It may show in bouts of depression, outbursts of anger, physical illnesses or strange reactions to seemingly mundane events, dates and occurrences - the news is too painful to watch, movies and televison shows make us feel vaguely uncomfortable, we are unable to sleep. We are haunted by our own silence and we are grieving the loss of our self. We are afraid of the scars that will be there if we reveal the wound and allow it to be cut open so the poison can drain. We fear the telling and the sharing of our pain, we think no one will listen and that no one will care. Some issues require a proper therapist and it can take time to find someone you can work with, Other issues may require people who have survived similar experiences and have come through with wisdom, respect for their own strength with their lives redeemed by the acknowledgment of their own woundings. If no one is available to you, write it down somewhere, purge it, make it concrete, articulate your grievance, find your voice and put your truth down on paper. Everyone deserves to be heard.
We may think that speaking out will make no difference and that nothing will change. We may not have a full grasp of what type of consequences or repercussions we may face if we do give up our silence or break free from our silencer. We know how to live in our silent, secret world and no one even knows we are there. No one knows what we are thinking, no one knows the secrets that we keep. We don't want to be excluded, viewed as undesirable, lose our relationship or be abused again so we hold onto our secrets in a shamefilled silence. We have to recognize that our silence is willful and intentional even if it may be a byproduct of an oppressive and destructive situation. Are we silent and silenced because we have lost our voice or because we are afraid to scream and wail and roar and rage and cry and grieve at the toll this silencing has put on our souls? Words have great power to hurt, but what goes unspoken, unsaid and unacknowledged can have even greater power. Silence can speak louder than words.