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.
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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 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 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.
The Hanged Man Card as a Person
If the Tarot Hanged Man card refers to a person, which it often is, it is someone who is willing to make the sacrifice needed for things to find their solution — even if that sacrifice is completely unrewarded. It is an attitude worth admiring, but people tend to do so only secretly, keeping it to themselves. That may be out of guilt, knowing they should have volunteered to make that sacrifice.
The Hanged Man Card as an Event
If the Tarot Hanged Man card in your divination spread refers to an event, which is not that common, then it is one where a personal sacrifice is needed. It may be yours or someone else's. The question is who is prepared to accept making it. If no one does, there will be no solution. If one does, whoever it is, things will be fine — for everyone but the person making the sacrifice. Life is not always fair. The consolation for the one making the sacrifice, if anyone does, is personal satisfaction. That's quite something.
The Hanged Man Card as You
If the Tarot Hanged Man card has a position in the spread referring to you, it means you are the one readily making any sacrifice needed — either in the present situation, or as a constant personality trait. You have no fear of becoming the martyr, so to speak. Others will admire you for it (without telling either you or anyone else), but they will also urge you on to make your sacrifice, whenever the situation is such that there is something to gain from it — for all or just for them. Don't make your sacrifice for any little thing.
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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Archetypes of Mythology
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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.