XII. The Hanged Man

Keywords for The Hanged Man 


In the image on this card, we see a man hanging upside down by one foot, arms tied behind his back, in a state of total suspension. He hangs from a Tau cross, made of still living tree trunks. In this, he is similar to Odin, the god of Norse mythology, who was once hung from Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, in order that he might have access to greater wisdom and spiritual knowledge. 

The same is likely true of our Hanged Man. In fact, he does not appear to be suffering in his suspension; rather, his face, surrounded by the soft, powerful golden glow of enlightenment, carries an expression of great peace and even contentment.

Here, the Hanged Man is in a state of total surrender. He fully accepts where he is, and struggles not against his fate.

For the moment, he has renounced all active participation in any outer, worldly affairs—he chooses instead to go within. 

His energy and attention is concentrated on pursuing his own need for meaning. This is a process which only he can undertake for himself. This quest for truth is an interior one, a sacred journey possessing no map, as the road is one which is paved with each passing step.

The Hanged Man Interpretation

When the Hanged Man comes up in a tarot reading, it often refers to a situation characterized by letting go of something. It is one where, either by choice or by force, we give up our typical ego-driven need to control, and allow ourselves to surrender to that which is greater or more powerful than ourselves.

It can also indicate having reached a point where we may feel a bit stagnant or stuck. We might find ourselves unable to move forward, and have no other option than to wait and watch for further developments.

This card is also associated with themes of sacrifice and renunciation. However, when the Hanged Man is involved, we usually tend to find that this is not the painful martyrdom we might have imagined it might be. 

The renunciation implied in this card is no burden, but in fact, a liberation. Here, we let go of things which are now only holding us back from our true purpose and destiny.

This can mean letting go of previous self-concepts and ideas which no longer serve us. Usually, this will require a reversal, one in which our world is turned upside down. In this case, the very things that we once attached so much importance to may no longer seem to matter very much at all. 

This reversal can come in the form of turning away from falsehoods and lies that we once clung to as truth. It can mean the renunciation of beliefs, concepts and values we were once socially conditioned to accept as the one and only valid reality. 

Here, we can begin to have a greater trust in ourselves, even when others may think that we are wrong. This is an experience which points us to a clearer understanding and connection to the Universe or God as we understand it, as well as to our soul’s deepest knowing. 

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