Wasted Lands

The section titles in this work surprised me. Why? They match the titles of certain very interesting and mysterious subplots in a game I play called Fallen London. I didn't get the references until now. For the vast majority of you who will be unfamiliar with this game--one of the things that can happen to your character in Fallen London is the accruement of nightmares and recurring dreams. The atmosphere gets quite Lovecraftian, honestly. But these recurring dreams are all named after chapters in The Waste Land. I can't help but be interested in the nature of the connection between the game-dreams' content and the poem's text. Details and a brief overview of the "recurring dreams" can be found here: http://echobazaar.wikidot.com/recurring-dreams . Cross my heart and hope to die if a virus therein lie.

An aspect of the first two sections of The Waste Land that intrigued me was the reference to tarot cards. The specific line "I do not find the Hanged Man" is something I frequently see quoted elsewhere. I consulted the notes section and read what T.S. Elliot has to say about referring to tarot cards in this poem, but the explanation doesn't satisfy me. In fact, when I read over the notes in general, I found myself quite disappointed. The Waste Land was something that really got my imagination going, and it brought to mind all the stories I've encountered over the years that allude to it and draw on it--granting The Waste Land additional meaning. Analyzing it outside of everything else that has been influenced by it proves far less interesting to me than taking supplemental material published later and inspired by it into account.

The Hanged Man card is one of the more well known of traditional tarot sets, as it is a member of the Major Arcana. My first encounter with it was in the game Persona 4, which uses a different tarot card to represent each major character in the game. For example, the game's main character is represented by the Fool. The Hanged Man's meaning varies, but almost without exception it is a transitional card representing transformation, ambiguity, and halfway states. In Persona 4 it is assigned to a character who blames himself for his sister's death, and who is struggling to get over his self-hatred; he's very much in a state of living death, like a man hanging, and the Hanged Man card symbolizes his main arc as a character--which is getting past that and moving on in life.

"I do not find the Hanged Man". This line suggests to me that the fortune teller does not find this situation in the cards--that is to say, she fails to find a transitory state. Perhaps the the situation she is reading is frozen and static with no potential for change. It's like... looking in the deck for a way out or guidance and finding none. The Hanged Man can be an ominous card or a hopeful one alike. Its noted absence speaks volumes.


Your insights on the Hanged Man are so interesting! I don't know much about tarot, but your characterization of the Hanged Man makes sense from what I know about The Waste Land. In post-WWI Europe, there was a definite feeling of stagnation and despair--the feeling of "how on earth do we move past this horrific war?" Also, many men who did not die in battle experienced survivor's guilt, not unlike the guilt that the character in Person 4 seems to exhibit. I had no idea of the existence of these new layers of meaning...so cool!

You mentioned Persona 4! I admit, somewhat abashedly, that my first encounter with many mythological and occult effects was through the Persona series. It's helped me a lot to better understand poems and pieces of literature, though, as I've been able to relate certain aspects - such as The Hanged Man - the situations in the games, furthering my understanding. I kind of agree with you that after encountering so many games, books, TV shows, etc. that have been influenced by works in the Western canon, reading the original perspective is a bit disappointing.

That being said, your comment about The Hanged Man social link really helped me when re-reading that section of the poem!