The Hanged Man
The Meaning of the Hanged Man
The Tarot Hanged Man card meaning in a nutshell:
Major Arcana Tarot Card in Readings
Great personal sacrifice
that still doesn't hurt much.
Martyr - sacrifice.
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 about the Tarot Hanged Man Card
Click the header to read what A. E. Waite had to say about the Major Arcana Hanged Man Tarot card symbolism and meaning in divination.
- 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
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I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.