The Hanged Man

XII: The Hanged Man

enlightenment sacrifice perspective suspension reversals

The reversal of a situation brings powerlessness, doubt, reunification, brings stillness and reflection. The head the rational mind - no longer controls so that a new and greater sense of life can emerge. Old pattern of behavior will die and with willingness and a full acceptance of the suffering that might be required implies an acceptance of waiting in darkness. This situation opens ourselves to life and life can hurt us, we feel terrible vulnerable. But this price of giving up our defenses and making the journey into loneliness seems to be necessary for any real sense of what supports us - the true faith can only be gained through risking ourselves in life.
Inverse: Suffering in order to manipulate others, staying passive about a situation from which one could extricate oneself quite easily.



  • Seeing growth opportunities in unpleasant events.
  • Experiencing a dramatic change in personal perspective.
  • Making the best of an unforeseen change in your life or work.
  • Suspending disbelief.
  • Making sacrifices.
  • Shadow

    • Being untrue to yourself and your values.
    • Refusing to make sacrifices when appropriate.
    • Refusing to adapt to new situations.
    • Blaming others.
    • Profiting at the expense of others.
    • Symbolism

      The inverted traitor

      Renaissance audiences would immediately recognize a hanged man as a traitor because hanging traitors by one foot was a common practice. Are you bound to any old habits that, in this situation, betray you?

      The serpent

      One occultist taught that the image of the Hanged Man was "originally" drawn right-side up, as a man stepping over a snake (thought to be a representation of the missing virtue of Prudence). What would be your most prudent course of action now?

      The halo of enlightenment

      The Marseilles Hanged Man is clearly being punished. As they mapped concepts of sacrificial enlightenment to this card, occultists added the halo. What have your own trials taught you? How might those lessons apply now?

      The Hanged Man's Advice


      • What doesn't move forward isn't growing.
      • If you're hanging by a thread, it might be time to grab the scissors.
      • If you can learn from what's not working, do so, but don't equate learning with having to stay.


      • Occasionally, no amount of effort will move a project to completion; progress simply isn't the cards, despite your best efforts.
      • Learn from setbacks; turn disappointment into opportunity.


      • Sometimes the best action is no action at all.
      • Suspend your need to have a hand in things.
      • Consider, too, the value of small sacrifices.
      • What you give away will come back to you greatly multiplied.

      Personal Growth

      • One sign of maturity is your ability to deal effectively with the unexpected.
      • Rather than be decimated, look for the lesson.
      • If you're true to your own values, no disaster will get the best of you.

      Fortune Telling

      • A traitor is revealed.
      • One of your friends is working against you.
      • Change your ways or suffer the consequences.


      • When you least expect it.

      Questions to ask

      • How can I radically alter my perspective?
      • How might being stuck actually be a blessing in disguise?
      • How can I help myself see the glass as half full?

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      Major Arcana

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      Parts of this page's description of the The Hanged Man tarot card are taken from "A Guide to Tarot Card Meanings" by Mark McElroy.