Rohit Arya_Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Hanging Man

Sacred India Tarot

Notes on its Creation:  Card 12, The Hanging Man:

The Story of Trishanku

“The Hanging Man” in Jane’s hermetic Tarot deck, 1991

Correspondence: Jane – 31 July 2002

“Did you get my email on 21 July with my thoughts on Durga and card 12?  I need some visual data for 12 – how does Rohit see it?  I have been waiting for your and Rohit’s input before resuming, but did not hear from you, and our computer’s been on the blink – back in action now.   Regards to you both, Jane.”


Correspondence:  Gautam – 31 July 2002

“Hi Jane, apologies for not replying earlier.  I was away on a 2 day seminar, and Rohit has been unwell.  He did mention he had something ready for card no.12 for you, so I will check again and send the same.  Meanwhile, we will revert on Durga as soon as we meet up.  Warm regards …”

Rohit’s Notes:

The story of Trishanku has never been represented before in Indian art, so in a sense we are pioneering it here. Trishanku is to be shown keeping in mind “the spirit of ruined majesty”.  An analogue would be Odin or Wotan, not as the All-father, but as the weary and travel stained Wanderer seeking knowledge by hanging from the World Ash.  Chandalas are usually depicted with grotesque features and shaven heads, but we can avoid that if we wish.

What will be most difficult in this depiction, will be proportions.  Trishanku can be shown hanging upside down in space with a constellation of stars or galaxies around him or behind him.  It would be wonderful if he could have his legs crossed over the knee, making a Figure 4 in the standard Tarot pattern for figures of the Hanging Man.

What is difficult here, is to convey a sense of heaven from which he is being rejected, and the earth, down where there should be a miniature sacrificial fire of the Yagna visible.  Perhaps we can have the Earth section in the lower left corner, and the Heaven section in the diagonally opposite section of the card.  Some sort of cosmic gates would do to represent his expulsion from there, I suppose.  From the text we send, it will be obvious that he is literally hanging upside down, just as the hanging man always does.

The face should not express torment as much as deep lessons learnt through pain, which are deemed well worth the price.  For the rest, please feel free to do as you interpret it.

From Rohit’s Article:

“Trishanku was originally a King like Rama, ruling from Ayodhya … The King, first called Satyavrata, seemed to have led rather a typical boring king’s life … One day however, he was seized with the strange desire to ascend to heaven in his bodily form, a process that is usually possible only when the flesh falls away in death.  The usual procedure for achieving the impossible in Hindu myth, is a Yagna, a great Fire Sacrifice/festival.   Satyavrata’s guru, the great sage Vasishta, refused to officiate in a proceeding that smacked only too strongly of hubris.  Royalty is impervious to rebuffs however, and he approached the sons of the sage to act as officiating priests, calculating that they would be desirous of position and influence with him.  The outraged sages cursed him to lose his royal status and become a Chandala, the worst form of outcaste, and a punishment far worse than death.

“In this miserable condition, he chanced upon the sage Vishwamitra, the great rival of Vasishta.  This worthy was a holy terror in the literal, as well as metaphorical sense.  Originally a king himself, he felt humiliated by Vasishta’s display of spiritual might, and he set about acquiring spiritual stature in the universe with a demented determination that eventually humbled the gods.  At this point, he was only a Rajarishi, a Royal sage, while Vasishta was a Brahmarishi, the pinnacle of spiritual evolution and his ultimate goal.  Vishwamitra might have looked like no match for the other sage, but the whole world was to see how wrong they were.  He was not called the tiger amongst Rishis for nothing.  He promised to set Vasishta’s nose out of joint, and he was not the man to be above a little malicious compassion.

“The sons of Vasishta tried to thwart the Yagna (Fire Sacrifice) Vishwamitra was holding for the purpose.  The rage of the sage burst forth, and he incinerated them with a curse and condemned them to outcaste status for seven hundred more births to boot.

“That took care of all earthly opposition, but when the power of the sacrifice caused the body of Trishanku to ascend to heaven, the gods formed an unwelcoming committee at the gates, and hurled him back down to earth.  The poor man was speeding head downwards in space towards Earth, when the angry Vishwamitra halted him, upside down as he was.  He then proceeded to create a new set of constellations around the Hanging Man.  Finally he decided to replace the King of the gods with Trishanku.  By which time, the universe was in turmoil, so the gods agreed to make Trishanku an immortal, eternally suspended between heaven and earth.  They also agreed that in the next cycle of creation, he would ascend to the position of the King of the gods.  He is still out there in the constellation of stars known as the Trishanku Nakshatras.  His long inverted sojourn is spent in meditation and increasing Awareness – an accumulation of spiritual power that will get him the position of King of the Gods as his just desserts, not because of his desires and will power alone.  It is therefore a spiritual discipline he is undergoing.

“… … As a myth of what is possible by the determined application of will, and as an allegory for rising above one’s oppressive caste destiny, the myth cannot be better.  Though it becomes a story of the great sage, it is set into motion only because the King has thoughts that nobody had before, simply because they did not think it was possible.  He is a great opener up of the human spirit, unwilling to accept perceived wisdom as the last word on any subject.  It is like a living illustration of Blake’s famous dictum, ‘The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.’”


Jane’s Notes – June 2012

The abidance between the worlds, belonging to neither, is a strange ripening.

Suspended mind, suspended manas:  is a plaything of opposing forces, like a pendulum.  The quiet centre through which all moves, is the plumbline.

Trishanku hangs in a disordered way, awaiting the new constellation to stabilize itself, but his inner hands are crossed over his breast in acceptance.  He is trying to walk on heaven, but knows it will take time.

Premature spiritual activity generates an uplift of old Karmas to burn off.  The only possible posture is interior peace and acceptance while this is going on.  Liberation is in the package.  The background is deep violet, rather than dark blue, with gold ornaments on Trishanku.


Here is a story.  Trishanku’s face, and that of Lord Yama in the next card, is that of a young man who was allocated a  flat – no.40 – in our building, and died.   His features spontaneously surfaced, through the drawing;  I realized it afterward.   In the whole context of the jiva, or soul’s path through lifetimes, he suffered a temporary entrapment, and his death was a mercy.  It released him like a butterfly.  His neighbours – some of us helped him buy groceries and gave him some bedding – were relieved of a terrible worry;  for his daily life collapsed from bad to worse – a chaotic cold-turkey agony.  The drug rehab programme had dumped him brutally into an empty flat with no belongings, money or hot water, and he couldn’t cope.  Yet he was deeply touched by the kindness shown him here.  A sweetness in his personality opened our hearts.   He had been burned, and bore the scars – a casualty of the deep Shadow of our times.  He was vulnerable.   Finally, his state benefit arrears arrived;  then the dealers on the street caught him, he was almost clean;  he overdosed that same night, and died.  Yet it felt like a caged bird flying into space;  a song, Liszt’s Canticle d’Amour accompanied him.

In the contemporary paradox of the light and dark, some of the souls caught in drugs and gang culture, go to rock bottom, turn right round within the condition, become aware, and ascend.   Their strength and presence assists other lost ones, whether actively in community work, or from the hidden dimension.   Maybe they undertook, before birth, to take on the task.   There is a Power behind the story.

Surface appearances tell us very little of the generations, struggles and enlightenments in a soul – in Trishanku’s case, the King.  Sometimes their essence shines through, and the insight is contagious.   We may not know why, but we act, or we are moved, and see.   Some, like this young man, were too naïve to survive;  the ordeal is of their tapestry of experience:  one thread.

The Hanging Man, just past the Major Arcana tipping-point, marks the place where reversals happen – a change of direction.   Some call this, the most profound card of the Tarot – so profound, that prediction drowns, and a reader will terminate the session.   It is the deck’s messiah – the anointed One who submits to the world’s tight place, and allows the waters through.   The bodhisattva’s expression, as time in his strange situation ceases, is always radiant and serene.   The Hanging Man evolves revolution.

After the young man died, his features entered the deck, as a reminder of an enigma, an interaction, an intuition of where he came from, and where he was going.  It was through a dark valley.  We are not what we appear to be.

14 August 2002


We see with you

not as your linear boxes of time’s desert –

we see your trees cut back

as London’s green fire

incessant in the street springs growth.

Our ‘now’ is your grunting sow of years or hours.

We look within a jerking strand, to where unchanging,

we are born anew.

We see and seize the essence of your toil

to transmute back to you.

This is strangely, your delight as ours.


I dreamed I was on a large boat or ship, and we were on the calm, sheltered, shining sea, rather shallow, near the shore.  Suddenly, big broad waves made the ship pitch and steeply roll.  It was vertiginous and scary;  I knew if it went on, I would become very sick, like the people in Sekeeta’s ship sailing to Minos through a storm.  The body sensation was almost intolerable, the semi circular canals in disarray – a desperate search to accommodate it somehow.  The motion became more and more physical, until returning me somewhat to the location of my bed, it forced me into the only position which could hold equilbrium;  and that was upside down.   Inexorably my body turned, to stand on its head.  At which point I woke, aware of Key 12 the Hanged Man, and what this means.

For a Capricorn to tolerate the astral interface initially, means in some way to reverse the position.  The symbolism is accurate.  Key 12’s Hebrew letter is MEM, the mother-letter of the Waters;  its gematria is 40.  The Hanged Man points to the completion of the Great Work through the remaining Arcana.   He is the unmoving midpoint of the pendulum which swings, and therefore surrender.  He is in the birth position, head downwards through the MEM, a gate or womb.

The sensation was a polarity reversal.  My north and south magnetic poles flipped over.  I was rolled in the wave.  For any voyage or relationship, there are waves on entering the sea – the turbulent interface of neighbouring densities, as we cross over from the etheric into the astral sheath – from subjective to deeper objectivity;  from continental-plate into the Atlantic.  In this light I regard my intermittent dreaming of stormy seas and smashing waves.  The fishtailed Goat (Capricorn Sun, Cancer Moon) discovers and absorbs this initiatory element.  Subconscious fear of it, inhibits my sleep.

The reason I write, is that the ideas in it refurbish and refresh my etheric field with Cosmic reality.  I awake through it;  my insomnia doesn’t matter; holes are repaired with natural quicksilver, the fountain is restored, speak Lord thy servant heareth.  It sings around me like salt, like ions along the coast.  It sparkles brief points of rainbow fire – atoms – in the etheric sheath.  I inner-see it around me now, subtle white and shining.  I feel its song through me.  This is the fountain – the alchemical vessel in Hermes’ hand.

15 August

He was found dead yesterday, there were a string of ambulances …  … I became dimly aware how the fragment we knew as Alexander belongs to a great river of evolution, work and children of its own – the things he longed for, to define and earth himself.  He at 38, and for all that has happened to him, looked much younger, like a child.   We used to joke how life begins at 40.  When I last saw him a few days ago, out in the street, he was tall, upright, clean and manly, off to fetch and look after his woman from the hospital, because misguided as that might be, and leading to ever more dramas (the Karmic abyss) – to take care of someone in need and cook her meals for her, as he did before he came here, was his repeated ideal.   If death overshadowed him, it wore a garment of Light.

… I didn’t burn any incense, as that encourages fixation.  I want him to be free to travel his destiny and meet his second death, protected from astral vultures.  It is astonishing how emotional the Canticle d’Amour sounded.  It was rather like when I ‘sent off’ my grandfather from the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh – the wave of a hanky, the current released. Then I blew out two candles, left the lamp to burn down, opened the window and went out for a walk on the Green – whose grass was drenched in dew.   It was about 11.30pm.  Though I was in my thoughts, my walk accompanied this soul along the dark river, as an escort takes a ship through the harbour to the sea.

…  … He had a sensitive intelligence, and an interactive personality.  Each time he visited, he asked me about my art and writing, said he used to do some creative writing himself, and he hoped one day soon to commission me a drawing of his son.  He was an Essex cockney, with a refined charm in his battered and emaciated face, grey eyes sometimes smokey, and a wide motorway burn scar spiraling around his scalp through lumps of thick black hair. When he sat with us in the kitchen, he took off his hat to show us.  He was courteous in his wit, and painfully honest.  When he was ill or hanging out with the Finchley Road Bench Mob, he did the thin, jerky crack walk – that time I ran away and hid – but when I last saw him, he strode along the pavement like a man, and I only recognized him by his funny hat, then spoke to his clear eyes, high cheekbones and clean shave.  He had a longing for baths and cleanliness, and wouldn’t drink milk in his tea if it had any lumps in it, he said it was off.   I gave him food, aspirins and the bits of small change he needed to keep going.  I was disturbed and unsettled at night – the tension of his never ending string of incidents… …

Up Finchley Road today, I noticed my perception opens to the utterly other worlds which pass through each other.  The crack world is a reality, a way of life, a hunger, same as any other…. Their steps are quick, nervous and blind as if about to trip over, their sad little grey faces, their cloudy eyes.

There is a strange fulfillment in the capacity to see.  It is not identifying.  Souls pass through each other, their extraordinary temporary passages and confinements.  Death is an abundant advisor. Clarity of sight is compassion.  It sweeps away acquired prejudice, and feels newborn.  There is something in the world community’s having to see daily the horror of what it fears.  It is so Pluto in Capricorn (western astrology), remorselessly being brought up to the light, and affecting all our views.  We wore blinkers.  Our enormous and intricate intelligence of earth’s surface is only a tiny fraction of Reality.  No prediction can cover life.  Only one of innumerable possible ‘quanta’ can settle, at any given moment.

Yesterday I began to paint the Hanged Man for India Tarot.  The mythology is called ‘Upside down in outer space.’   My sister saw it, and said he looks like me.

24 August

The figure in the Hanged Man, and in Yama the Lord of Death, has the same face, is the same person …

Correspondence: Jane – 21 August 2002

Dear Rohit and Gautam – in your paragraphs about cards 13 and 14, you mention attached articles on the mythology.  I have one for 14, Ganga, but none for Yama and Kali, except for your guidance notes as to the imagery.  If you have them, please send them to this address?  thank you. Hope 12 was well received.  The background is deep violet rather than dark blue as on this scan, with gold ornaments on Trishanku.  I don’t know whether it comes out better on your printer than on Mr E’s.

Correspondence: Gautam – 22 August 2002

Hi Jane, am sending these right away;  we had sent them many months earlier as well, by regular mail.  Will revert on Trishanku.  Best regards, Gautam.


Correspondence:  Jane – 22 August 2002

Many thanks, the writings on Yama and Kali are most illuminating.  I had already begun the Yama drawing, and it is along those lines already.  Rohit’s essay on Yama is so good, that we are wondering if we could use it for the coming issue of Self Enquiry?  We will acknowledge your website with it.  Unfortunately today I have – unusually – a very bad cold and cannot work, but hope to be better tomorrow, so will be in touch shortly.

Gautam – 23 August 2002

You may certainly use the Yama article, although with the credit line Copyright  I will be sending pictures of Kali soon … Rohit too has been under the weather.   Will revert on Hanging Man as soon as I sit with him.  I like it a lot.  Warm regards.

Gautam and Rohit – 27 August 2002

“… this most unusual and incredible of Indian Rishis, whose sheer will defeated the gods and earned him the title of the Friend of the World.   … This illustration is absolutely fine!!!  Will revert on Yama and Kali soon.   Rgds, Gautam.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

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