The hanged man tarot card is just like an onion, with multiple layers of meaning and intent. Many tarot scholars have debated the subtle differences in meaning that can be found in this card over the course of the centuries.
What does the hanged man tarot card mean?
The main figure in the hanged man tarot card is, as the name implies, a man hanging down from a branch. But contrary to the traditional image that comes to mind when you try to think about a hanged man (you most likely imagine a thick rope around the neck, used as a form of punitive justice in many medieval or Far West movies), here the character is hanging upside down, tied by one ankle (usually the right foot) with his other leg crossing the first one perpendicularly. In most decks, this character also has a bright halo around his head.
As mentioned above, the meaning of the hanged man tarot card has been heavily debated throughout the centuries among tarot readers and scholars of the occult. However, the main two elements that are often brought forth are wisdom, and sacrifice.
It is often implied that the hanged man tarot card does not represent the victim of punitive justice, but a seeker of wisdom who deliberately hanged himself to acquire knowledge, wisdom, or clarity, like Odin deliberately hanging himself on the world tree Yggdrasil to acquire knowledge of the runes. In another interpretation, the hanging is also deliberate, but the result of selfless sacrifice, a way to solve a dispute by deliberately suffering someone else’s penance or punishment.
Regardless, this is a very introspective card, and usually a trigger for some greater enlightenment represented by the halo around the hanged man’s head.
The hanged tarot card is far less positive when it is reversed. While it does not necessarily mean that bad things are afoot for the Querent, it does showcase a rather negative outlook on his or her part, highlighting the selfishness inherent to their current course of action. While not necessarily bad in strict terms, when analyzing cause and consequences, it clearly means that the Querent is not on the right side of any argument or struggle the reading focuses on.
The Fool’s Journey
The lesson held within this card is an age-old one, as the Fool’s journey becomes an echo of the famous “Hero’s Journey” found in various myths and used excessively in works of fiction and various Hollywood movies. After experiencing themselves and the world, seeing the great tapestry, and humbly discovering their ultimate place in it, the Fool now has to face their first great obstacles.
Finding the inner strength required to face these obstacles head on is what defines those who have the potential to be fully awake and proactive in life. Usually, the first great trial challenges the Fool to let go of something that matters to them, to learn to go with the flow when needed instead of spending all of their time pushing their willpower onto the world. Every former lesson is turned upside down like the figure in the iconography, but ultimately the Fool must understand that this is but another step on the same path of enlightenment.
The Hanged Man love tarot and meditation
The hanged man tarot relationship with love is just as complex. Usually, when it is drawn in a love-based reading, it means that the only solution through a conflict or dispute between the Querent and his or her significant other is through letting go, deliberately “losing” the argument or dispute in order to keep the relationship alive and be the winner by strengthening their bonds through this sacrifice. Just like the enlightenment brought by the hanged man tarot card meaning, this should help them take a step back and see their relationship in a better light, ensuring a brighter future for all of them.
Whenever you are faced with a particularly difficult conundrum or problem in your life, and cannot see any way out, the hanged man tarot card can be used to meditate on the problem at hand and try to find an acceptable solution.
This meditation session should be done in complete silence, maybe even in the dark (this is optional). Try to imagine yourself letting go of everything irrelevant to that problem, strip your mind clear of any stray thought, and as you imagine yourself in your mind hanging upside down from a tree, try to look at your problem from various angles and points of view, opening options and understanding that were not readily apparent.
If the solution to your problem is not clearly accessible right away, try to see how different things might be if you deliberately sacrificed something relevant to the problem, and how it might change things and open doors leading to its ultimate conclusion and solution.
Traditional meanings associated with the card
Complex, layered, but ultimately a great source of wisdom and knowledge, the hanged man tarot card can teach a great lesson, and offer wisdom and initially hidden solutions to many problems through a deliberate sacrifice of the self. When you had to lose something in order to gain something greater, the value of the latter is made even greater in retrospect, and helps you find your place in the greater scheme of things.
Letting go, sacrifice, inner wisdom, and challenges.
Reversed: Helplessness, being stuck in a dead-end, and selfishness.