The Hanged Man Tarot (XII)

Key Meanings

Sacrifice. Delay. Suspension. 

The Hanged Man tarot card.The Original RWS Hanged Man tarot card.

Meaning of the Hanged Man Tarot

The Hanged Man tarot card shows a man hanging by his foot. This can be interpreted as a  voluntary action because of the peaceful, almost contemplative expression on his face, and the aura around his head. However, it is sometimes considered to be enforced hanging. 

Therefore, the meaning varies. It can mean restriction, indecision, delay, sacrifice (or enforced sacrifice), and martyrdom. This could be about sacrificing one thing in order to gain another.

It can also be about letting go, and taking a different perspective of a situation. Seeing something from another point of view and gaining wisdom.

Punishment, loss, and suffering are also possible meanings. Look at the other cards in the layout in order to determine the meaning of this card in a spread. Sacrifice and martyrdom is more likely if accompanied by the Ten of Swords.

A reversal of a situation could also be suggested.

The tarot can also be very literal, and I once drew this card when I lost my sight. Many of the above meanings were true, but it was also literally true, in that my doctor instructed me to spend the next two months face down on my bed with my head lower than my body—almost upside down.

A hole was cut in my hospital bed to allow for this. I had to sacrifice much during those months.

Incidentally, I listened to many instructional podcasts during the first month, and visualized revisions to my second novel during the second; hopefully, gaining in wisdom as I did so.

The Marseille Hanged ManThe Marseille Hanged Man (Jean Dodal)

Images, Symbols, and More

The dying (then rising) god story is repeated throughout the world in many cultures, with the god suffering death and then being reborn. The Hanged Man is one aspect of this story. 

In Norse mythology, Odin sacrificially hanged himself from Yggdrasil (the World Tree) to gain knowledge. 

The death is not permanent, but part of a cycle, in which a different perspective is taken.

Therefore, the Hanged Man has also taken on the meaning of wisdom (or wisdom gained)—as well as sacrifice.

The bright halo around his head shows enlightenment. 

In Italy, at the time that tarot was created, hanging upside down was the punishment for traitors, although the Hanged Man tarot card has taken on different meanings since then, it’s possible that if this card is drawn with the Seven of Swords, that betrayal might be a meaning. 

The Hanged Man tarot is astrologically related to the planet of Neptune, which is related to idealism, dreams, delusions, spirituality, fantasy, and illusion.

The Major Arcana

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