The Tarot Hanged Man card meaning in a nutshell:
Great personal sacrifice
that still doesn't hurt much.
The Tarot Hanged Man card is about personal sacrifice, of course. But this figure seems not to be broken, although hanging upside-down. He will bounce right back, as soon as he manages to get free. It's not that he heals easily. The Tarot Hanged Man is one of the few who is not hurt to begin with, as if invulnerable. Maybe that's what tempts other people to use him as a scapegoat.
The Tarot Hanged Man has a halo, and not a small one at that. Hanging from the wooden structure it makes him look a bit like Jesus on the cross. The martyr. He's probably hanging upside-down not to bear too much resemblance to Christ. That would have been blasphemy in the time when this image took its shape.
There's a parallel to the Tarot image of the Hanged Man in the early history of the Christians. The disciple Peter was crucified and asked to be done so upside-down, according to some old sources, because he felt unworthy of the same death as his master. Here's a painting of it by Caravaggio, made in 1601:
The Crucifixion of Peter. According to the legend, the disciple asked to be crucified upside-down, feeling unworthy of dying exactly the same way Jesus did. Painting by Caravaggio, 1601.
But the Tarot Hanged Man is a martyr that neither dies nor suffers that tremendously. He has a way of shaking it off, the essence of which is his unharmed belief in the universal power of good. An optimist, indeed. Someone who loves life so much that he sees the light of it and not its shadows.
When victimized by other people, and that happens frequently, the Tarot Hanged Man doesn't feel like a victim. When exposed to envy or even hate, he sees beyond it and pities the people who are so aggravated. The Tarot Hanged Man may even blame himself, but not for long. He has trust in all of mankind, however hard reality might whip him.
So, in a Tarot reading the Hanged Man card indicates a sacrifice, maybe even a big one, but it will not be harmful at length. You will come out of it on top. Like they say: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and in this case happier, too.
A. E. Waite's Texts
12. The Hanged Man. This is the symbol which is supposed to represent Prudence, and Eliphas Levi says, in his most shallow and plausible manner, that it is the adept bound by his engagements. The figure of a man is suspended head-downwards from a gibbet, to which he is attached by a rope about one of his ankles. The arms are bound behind him, and one leg is crossed over the other. According to another, and indeed the prevailing interpretation, he signifies sacrifice, but all current meanings attributed to this card are cartomancists' intuitions, apart from any real value on the symbolical side. The fortune-tellers of the eighteenth century who circulated Tarots, depict a semi-feminine youth in jerkin, poised erect on one foot and loosely attached to a short stake driven into the ground.
About the Tarot Hanged Man Card
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Hanged Man Card
The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross, while the figure - from the position of the legs - forms a fylfot cross. There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. It is a card of profound significance, but all the significance is veiled. One of his editors suggests that Eliphas Levi did not know the meaning, which is unquestionable nor did the editor himself. It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card a of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty; but we may exhaust all published interpretations and find only vanity. I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.
He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Hanged Man Card
Wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy. Reversed: Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool
This book by Stefan Stenudd presents an imaginative reading of the divination cards, i.e. focusing on what impressions the images and their symbols give. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. Also, it gives many examples of symbolic and allegorical imagery within and beyond the Tarot. This book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.