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The Hanged Man

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on March 24, 2011 | Comments (8)

This card has changed a lot throughout history. It originally meant a traitor; someone who had betrayed someone or something. Later, it meant sacrifice, and some still read it as that. But more commonly, now, people read it as being in a kind of comfortable limbo waiting for a revelation or realization of some sort.

In this image in particular, there is a sense of balance. Many tarot cards suggest balance: Lovers, Chariot, Justice, Temperance. Even the cards with pillars, such as the High Priestess, or the Moon with its two towers. Examining all the different flavors of balance in the tarot…now that would be an interesting study.

I usually read it as a kind of time out, a suggestion to do nothing at the moment, but reflect and consider things. How do you read the Hanged Man?

image from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

Reader Comments

Written By megan
on March 24th, 2011 @ 7:56 am

Thank you I did not know the tradition meaning of this card.In my deck it geenerally refers to a period of indecision and/or surrender to a situation. The traditional meaning is useful as I often feel there is more to the card then this prior message.

Written By Sherryl
on March 24th, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

I’m so happy to see the historical meanings of the cards being discussed. I blend the medieval and contemporary meanings of this card by interpreting it as someone with a unique or unconventional perspective. In 14th and 15th century Italy, if someone thumbed his nose at a nobleman’s orders then skipped town, he might have his portrait painted hanging upside down on a wall. If you’re hanging upside down you certainly have a different vantage point from most folks, like those medieval free thinkers who didn’t knuckle under to their overlords.

Written By Chloe
on March 25th, 2011 @ 5:40 am

Hi Barbara,

Rather than a time out, I often see it as a time of being stuck, and that there may not be anything to “do” about it except, as you recommend, to reflect. That can be a pretty tough message in itself for people who are used to doing and solving. So, I sometimes suggest exercises in “being” such as meditation, though of course it’s not everyone’s cup of tea 😉

Written By Elizabeth
on March 29th, 2011 @ 9:51 am

I so agree Chloe quite the conundrum . My gut reaction is often heart over head. A most definite need for reflection,not a time to rush in to action. Hard to think with all that blood rushing to ones head.

Written By Ellen
on March 29th, 2011 @ 9:56 am

I was told a story long ago of how the energy and image on this card resonate to Odin, who willingly sacrificed himself on the tree of Ygraddsil (sp?) for nine (?) days and received the gift of the runes for his travail. It is the image of the sacrificial hero, a Christ-like figure (sorry if that offends anyone here, but there is a figure like that in all mystery schools). For me, it is a call to surrender to the forces that bind you (like Devil’s Snare in the first Harry Potter film) because greater good will come of it.

Written By Soror Sardonica
on March 29th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

There is a great initiatory aspect to this card as well, I personally think of Odin and the well of Mimir.one might think of gestation the processes of inner growth and reflection.

Written By Cindy
on March 29th, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

I usually read it as unselfishness and sacrifice. But I love the insight you just gave me. And as of any of the cards it depends on who I am reading for, and what cards are surrounding it. But I will take that into consideration next reading. Thank you.

Written By Laurel from Des Plaines
on April 6th, 2011 @ 10:14 am

I too see this card as being in a limbo period of waiting, but not necessarily a comfortable one. Hanging upside down isn’t really comfortable! When I see this one I know that things might not be easy in the interim, but I hope the subsequent cards show a good outcome!

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