Suicide as Symbol
I’ve been spending a lot of time, lately, trying to be more cognizant of the symbols around me, especially those that show up in dreams. I’ve mentioned my depression before, and it seems that when it rears it’s ugly head, doing anything, especially something that might lead to getting better, becomes difficult to the point of being impossible.
I’d like to state, that, despite being in a dark place, and despite the symbols of death and suicide that I’m going to examine in this post, I am not currently suicidal. I have been, as recently as January, but right now, I am not seeking my own death.
If you are, suicidal or otherwise considering hurting yourself, please get help. There’s the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as numerous local helplines. If you’re the religious type, talk to your pastor. And, in the very worst case scenario, go to the emergency room. I know how dark and scary it is standing on that brink, but I also know that it can and will get better.
I’m also still hanging out at my parent’s house as I write this post, so I don’t have access to the books that I use to look up symbolism. I’m going off of what I wrote in my art/symbol journal. I’d also like to reiterate that when I talk about symbols, I’m bringing up what they mean to me–in no way am I writing a comprehensive symbol encyclopedia.
A few weeks ago, I had one of those dreams that is so powerful, it stays with you. In this dream, I have broken in to the school where my mom used to teach. I’ve gone there with the intention of hanging myself. I went first to her classroom, and, using her key, let myself in. I stand in the middle of the room for a while just breathing in the scent. I want to remember the way it smelled.
I then go to another wing of the school, and break into a random classroom, this time, picking the lock. Once there, I stood on a desk and looped a rope through the drop ceiling, and hanged myself.
Searching out the symbols in this dream have been difficult, naturally. It makes me wonder why my subconscious can’t be giving me rainbows and puppies and unicorns, but it is what it is.
I kept coming back to the tarot when looking for these symbols–specifically, the Hanged Man, and the Death card. Now, I’ve tried tarot, but the cards just don’t “speak” to me–and I’m slightly jealous of those who can read and understand the cards. If you are such a person, and see that I’ve missed something in my interpretations, please let me know in the comments. All that I’ve written here comes courtesy of Google.
Anyway, Suicide by hanging. Suicide is the act of ultimate despair. It’s forcing and ending by taking matters into your own hands. In the western world, it’s wildly perceived as the ultimate sin, while in the east, it’s more of a mixed bag. Hanging is a disgraceful way of dying, especially in places that execute criminals on the gallows. It’s also one that’s very easy to arrange. You can walk into any hardware store or sporting goods store and buy rope with no background checks or waiting period.
The Hanged Man of the tarot is hanging from the World Tree, like Odin seeking wisdom. He symbolises suspended action, feeling of being stuck, and sacrificing for a higher goal.
While researching symbolism of hanging, Tollund Man came to mind. This man lived and died in the 4th Century BCE in Denmark. Now, Tollund Man probably died by strangulation, not hanging, but the noose was left around his neck.
I don’t know if I have a genetic connection to Tollund Man, but I do know I have Danish ancestry, and it’s likely my ancestors worshiped in the same manner as those who sacrificed Tollund Man. (I am interested in learning about Pre-Roman Europe, especially the religion, but, alas, there’s just not that much information.) We can speculate as to why Tollund Man, and the other bog bodies were sacrificed, but, unfortunately, if there is a definitive answer, I could not find it. Tollund Man for me represents family, however distant, and the religious traditions that I don’t believe in anymore. He also becomes a symbol of mysticism, in that I don’t know why he was sacrificed, what god or gods the people were trying to appease (or even if he was a criminal or prisoner of war, rather than a religious sacrifice). He, and the culture he comes from, represents a lost knowledge, something for which there are currently not answers.
For all the negative imagery, death, in the Tarot, at least, is a positive thing. It represents change, endings, the old giving way to the new. I don’t know if I’ve talked about soil on this blog or not, but I know I’ve mentioned it with my therapist. The individual bits of soil–manure, dust, rotted leaves and other organic matter–are vile things, but when they are combined together, they create something beautiful and useful. Without death, not only would the world be over-crowded, but nothing new could grow.
In the modern, Western world we are removed from death, while for the generations before us, death was simply a part of life. So death, for me, becomes a symbol of knowledge lost.
The other powerful image in this dream is that of a key. I let myself into the school, I didn’t break in to the school, and it wasn’t my intent to cause property damage–I didn’t want to harm anything but myself.
In this light, the key represents being in charge of my own destiny, controlling what the change is I need to make in my life. A key can open or close, lock or unlock. Keys are associated with Janus, whom I’ve written about before. The image of a two-faced person, especially when the two faces represent opposites, has been a reoccurring symbol for me, and one that I’ve adopted to represent myself. I especially like this particular image, where the balance is between male and female figures.
As I was looking over these symbols and images in my art journal, I realized that they are all about being stagnant, standing still, and stopping, as well as being indicators of change. This flat out scare me. I tend to get comfortable in my ruts, and being forced out of them, even when it’s for my own good, is always a painful experience.
I mentioned in my last post that I’d been getting a lot of images about death and change, and this is only a small sampling of those symbols. I don’t know if the change I’m being asked to make is related to my recent medication change, or if there’s still something else that I need to do.