Tarot Tuesday: the Meaning of the Hanged Man

The Hanged Man Tarot Card

We continue our series on the meaning of the Tarot imagery this week with the Hanged Man, symbolizing sacrifice, surrender and martyrdom. 


The Hanged Man depicts a man hanging upside down. With his hands folded behind his back and one leg tucked behind the other, he appears to be in a yogic position of his own free will. The halo around his head indicates the enlightened spiritual awareness he’s achieved. He is hanging to symbolize his surrender to the greater good. 


The Hanged Man symbolizes self-sacrifice and martyrdom.The Hanged Man no longer identifies with his physical form—he suspends his actions and rests in an uncomfortable pose to show his ascetic transcendence of sensational pleasures. He has completely surrendered himself to spirit. 


When the Hanged Man appears in readings, it’s usually a time to suspend any action. This is the card of being in limbo or being in transition. As the Hanged Man rests between the world of spirit and the world of man, so too are you in between the old world and the new. Usually, the Hanged Man indicates that the old circumstances are falling away, but the new circumstances have yet to arrive, leaving you feeling listless. You may be tempted to make big changes in response to your restlessness, but the Hanged Man warns that now is not the time for action. Rather, you should surrender to the deeper underlying process that is generating change in your life. If you hang tight, the situation will naturally change on its own, without your having to do anything. 


The Hanged Man indicates a period of indecision. Important decisions are best delayed now. Actions of all kinds should be limited or restricted completely. When you receive this card, it means you should wait patiently rather than act impulsively. 


The Hanged Man may also suggest that you need to make a sacrifice for the greater good. You may need to pause and reflect on how your actions affect others and how you might offer yourself in service, rather than trying to gain something for yourself.


In reverse, the Hanged Man indicates victimhood, martyrdom, or indecisiveness. The reversed Hanged Man indicates someone is playing the martyr in a passive aggressive way. Or the reversed Hanged Man may be someone who simply gives away too much of themselves and lets others treat them like a doormat. The reversed Hanged Man can also indicate that others may metaphorically crucify someone by scapegoating them for problems. Oftentimes, the Hanged Man can mean receiving punishment for crimes we did not commit. 


Overall, the Hanged Man symbolizes sacrifices and urges you to consider how to give up a little something of yourself for the greater good. 

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