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The Hanged Man in Tarot

Updated on October 24, 2017
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The Hanged Man in tarot is one of those iconic images that often appears in movies. It is instantly recognizable, yet many people have problems with its interpretation. This article attempts to reveal some of the mystery that shrouds the Hanged Man in tarot readings.

First off, it might be better if the card was named, “The Hanging Man”, rather than the Hanged Man, which sounds somewhat terminal. The man in the image is clearly not dead or even struggling. In most decks he is illustrated hanging by one foot. He’s usually relaxed and as calm as someone in an easy yoga pose.

The Twelfth Major Arcana

The Hanged Man is the 12th card of the Major Arcana. In the order of the tarot he comes right after Justice and right before Death. That still doesn’t mean it is connected to a death sentence, despite the previous and following cards.

In Numerology, 12 is reduced to three, so this card is related to other three cards in the deck: the Empress, the World and all the minor threes.

The Traditional Interpretation of the Hanged Man

The most common interpretation of this card is that the seeker is temporarily stuck. That s/he is in a holding pattern waiting for things to change. The advice from this card is that it’s best to go with it. To hang in there, to not rock the boat until the energies change and transform into something a little more active.

The Hanged Man from the Tarot of the New Vision
The Hanged Man from the Tarot of the New Vision

The Spiritual Meaning

The spiritual meaning of the Hanged Man is a little more complex. In essence the card means ‘surrender’. To let go of resistance.

We can see the same message in the Empress, who sits easily upon her throne while abundance grows around her. She doesn’t have to do anything or take action to make something happen, it just happens.

In the World card, the same holding pattern can be observed. Although the figure looks active, the World appears when we are in between life-cycles. When we’ve achieved a certain level of understanding, or even some practical goal. There’s nothing we have to do right now.

The Hanged Man shows that the seeker hasn’t quite got the hang of acceptance just yet, so it is being forced upon them. That there’s nothing anyone, especially the seeker themselves, can do to change the situation apart from accept it. As soon as true acceptance occurs, the energy becomes free to move again. As soon as resistance is released, the flow will begin.

Most people hate feeling as though they are not in control of their life, yet, in most cases we are not in control of anything. Sure, we can make our choices, but when stuff happens, it’s not usually because we made it happen it. We do not have a life-based remote control, as useful as that would be. Instead we can learn to move with, and work with, the ebb and flow of the Universal Laws. That’s one reason why tarot is so helpful and fascinating—you can know when to move (the Magician, Chariot, Judgment) and when to stay still (Empress, Hanged Man, World).

The Hanging Man is often illustrated with a halo of light around his head. This demonstrates clearly that he has reached a certain level of spiritual maturity. He has learned the importance of accepting rather than fighting, and knowing when it is most appropriate.

The Hanged Man in a Love Reading

When the Hanged man appears in response to a question regarding love, it is almost certainly about non-action. The seeker might be pushing for an answer, pushing to make the relationship change, pushing to make things go faster, or maybe even pushing to end it.

In every case, the advice from the card is to stop. Stop over-thinking, stop nagging, stop everything. Just relax and let it go. It will work itself out in good time. Do nothing. Pause. Make no decisions. Make no accusations. Wait and see. All you can do is to adopt a perspective of serene reflection. Eventually, you will begin to see some clarity emerge from the gloom.

Are They Cheating?

One of the most common love questions in tarot is ‘Is my partner cheating?’. The Hanged Man answers neither yes, or no. However, he suggests that given enough rope a cheater will reveal him or herself sooner or later. A non-cheater will always be able to prove his or her innocence given time. Tying yourself up in knots will have you swinging by your ankle, and it’s not a position you want to be in as your love walks off and leaves you hanging. So keep your suspicions to yourself and you will probably be able to let them float away in due course.

From left to right, the Hanged Man from the Robin Wood, The Everyday Witch, the Gilded Tarot, the Universal Waite and the Tarot of the New Vision.
From left to right, the Hanged Man from the Robin Wood, The Everyday Witch, the Gilded Tarot, the Universal Waite and the Tarot of the New Vision.

In a Career Reading

Should the Hanged Man turn up in a career reading, again, hard as it is, you have to do nothing. Take no action to force change. If you do, you will regret it. Relax, and see what transpires. It may well work in your favor.

Past, Present, Future

When the Hanged Man shows up in a past position, it could mean that the time for inaction is passing, and it is a good idea for you to take action and move forward. Hopefully, you will have used the forced inaction usefully and will know just what you have to do next.

If the card shows up in the present position, take on board the deeper meaning of surrender. What does surrender mean in your present situation? Are you resisting something that you really should accept?. Are you fighting when you should be flowing?

Should the Hanged Man appear in a future position, then know that taking the path of least resistance is going to serve you better. Prepare for feeling slightly (or a lot) frustrated. Work out how you will deal with a period of inactivity.

Action You Can Take When the Hanged Man Shows Up

Despite the card’s overall ‘take no action; put up no resistance’ message, there are certain things you can do to help get that sluggish energy moving. Without impinging on the issue that’s bothering you, you can take the opportunity to have a bit of a life clear-out. De-clutter your home, prune your schedule, even distance yourself from people who aren’t helping you. Just because you can’t do much about your situation, doesn’t mean you are allowed to waft around in the breeze.

© 2017 Bev

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