Hanged Man Tarot Card Meaning
Keywords: Limbo – Surrender – Insight
A man hangs by his foot from a tree. Despite the uncomfortable position, the Hanged Man appears to be relaxed. Perhaps he voluntarily opted for this position. His legs form a cross. In the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Arthur Waite refers to this as a fylfal cross. Instead of an executioner’s scaffold, he appears to hang from an unusually shaped tree limb. The illuminated aura around his head suggests enlightenment. Somehow through this strange position, he’s gained a profound insight. The Hanged Man is the 12th card of the tarot. It’s a card of revelations, surrender, the liminal, and embracing the unknown.
Upright Meanings for the Hanged Man Tarot Card
The Hanged Man can represent a period of limbo. More will be revealed, but for now, there’s a period of contemplation to endure. Often, this card will show up during a time where you must wait before answers reveal themselves. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable position to be in. But, the Hanged Man’s relaxed manner in the face of being turned upside down is a challenge to find a way to cope, maybe even enjoy, the process.
The Hanged Man will often ask you to reconcile your anxieties related to uncertainty. Allow things to take their natural course. You’ll arrive at your revelation in due time.
Similarly, this card can represent liminality: the state of being between two worlds. The tension between having one foot in and out of a situation. This can manifest as many different scenarios. For example, the tension of waiting to transition from one job to another. This is especially true if the transition hinges on approvals or processes outside of your control. Weather this uncertainty with grace and surrender. The outcome for your highest good will manifest for you.
Surrender and grace are at the heart of the Hanged Man’s energy. Just because it feels difficult, doesn’t mean anything is wrong. There are new insights and lessons to be learned as you endure this phase.
The Hanged Man is deeply connected to insights and new perspectives. It can be a call for an unorthodox approach to a problem. The bright aura of enlightenment around the figure’s head suggests that this temporary, uncomfortable perspective is worthwhile to receive the truths to be revealed.
The visual motif of the Hanged Man invokes imagery of crucifixion, and hence, sacrifice. It is also a nod to the Norse god Odin who hung himself from the world tree for the ability to read runes and gain magical knowledge.
Historically the Hanged Man was a known as the traitor card. This adds an element of public punishment to this card. Of course, it’s not fair that iconoclastic ideas usually make you a target for an angry mob. This card can appear when challenging the status quo brings blowback.
The Hanged Man in Love and Relationships
The Hanged Man can symbolize a purposeful waiting for a new relationship. This is especially true if you are still working through issues from a previous relationship. This card indicates that there are more insights to be gained before jump back into the game too soon.
For established relationships, The Hanged Man can relate to a time of passage in a relationship. It’s a neutral card, so it could suggest anything from engagement to filing for divorce. Context is king here! Sometimes it appears during a period of stagnation in a relationship. Things just don’t seem to be going anywhere. Examine whether there’s something to be learned from the slow down. Maybe the outside influence of work or family obligations has put a damper on moving to the next level of a relationship? Or, it could be very obvious barriers such as a long-distance relationship. The Hanged Man challenges you to decide whether to wait things out or untie the cord that binds you.
The Hanged Man can also represent a relationship that’s on again/off again. In this case, the tension of one party (usually the seeker) to see the situation resolved is causing issues. Get clear on what you want from the relationship (this also applies to friendships too!). Ask yourself whether you’re okay with the amount of effort you’re contributing to the relationship versus what you’re getting back. Do you need more commitment from your partner? Maybe you’re totally cool with the way things are. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but make sure this situation is what you truly desire. Don’t settle for anything less.
Career and Work
In a career reading, the Hanged Man can represent the in-between job, or role, that’s a stepping stone to a better opportunity. It can speak to insights that challenge your understanding about your work situation. Sometimes, it’s going back to school to advance your career. In less than ideal circumstances, it can represent endless broken promises and delays regarding career advancement. Temporary discomfort is worth it for a better future. But, keep your eyes open as to whether you’re being led on.
The Hanged Man’s connection to liminal states can represent job positions or time periods at work that are transitionary. This could manifest as an internship that becomes a full-time job, going from a part-time to a full-time position, preparing for retirement, etc.
In terms of workplace culture, it can suggest a workflow that’s stop-and-go. You may find the company structure bureaucratic. Be prepared to endure a lot of downtime as things move through the chain of command.
Work related to the Hanged Man typically involves periods of downtime such as monitoring, security, and seasonal work (i.e. agriculture, tax preparation, etc.). Of course, government jobs certainly cover the bureaucratic atmosphere that this card can represent. With the energy of being in limbo, sacrifice, and enlightenment, it also speaks to jobs in the nonprofit or academic sector. The Hanged Man’s voluntary discomfort and self-sacrifice could suggest political protesting and advocacy. The transitional nature of the card could represent a day job that funds a side-hustle or creative career.
People and Personalities
Individuals represented by the Hanged Man are unconventional. They may appear to be slow to commit or a little aloof. They’re typically spiritual and altruistic. You’ll usually find they live a minimalist, spartan life. They’re often creative, forward-thinking people. This card is astrologically ruled by Neptune, infusing individuals represented by it with Neptunian qualities such as creative, visionary, and compassion. This is often a person who sacrifices something for a greater vision, such as a creative work or social cause.
The Hanged Man Reversed Tarot Card Meaning
Reversed Keywords: Revelation – Resistance – Martyrdom
Reversed Meanings for The Hanged Man Tarot Card
There are a lot of ways to read reversals. It’s a common misconception that reversed tarot cards are a negative aspect of the upright meaning. Case in point: the Hanged Man reversed is often a sign that an uncomfortable passage has been cleared.
Along with passing through a transition, this card reversed can symbolize a powerful revelation. If you flip the Hanged man card upside down, then a new emphasis is placed on the figure’s illuminated head. In this case, information you need has already been revealed. Trust the insights that you’ve gathered recently. You have a new awareness of what’s really going on.
Of course, reversals can symbolize a blockage of the upright energy of the card. This is true if you have been resisting doing something difficult that would ultimately be for your highest good. We sometimes resist the hard work that could help us grow into our best self. If you are feeling like you’re procrastinating and stagnating, then take a hard look at what you’ve been afraid of. Are there things you’ve been avoiding because they take too long? Do they require too much vulnerability? Do you need to make a plan because you’re not sure where to even begin? Find the root cause to free yourself from this stagnation. You may need to reach out to others for help with this.
The Hanged Man reversed can indicate a victim/martyr mindset. This can be real or imagined. You might truly have other’s best intentions at heart. But don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Offer help and support from your heart -without the expectation of getting something in return. And as they say, fill up your cup first before trying to help everyone else. Doing otherwise will set you up for disappointment in your personal relationships. If someone is guilting you for help, create boundaries. Take your power back. You don’t have to be everything to everyone.
Reversed Love and Relationships
This card can often appear when a revelation is made about the nature of a relationship. Again, it’s a neutral card, so the realization could be positive or negative. Either way, you’ll view everything in a new light.
It can also indicate that you’re ready to move into a new relationship. This is a good indicator card if you’ve been trying to cultivate new connections.
Reversed Career and Work
When this shows up in a career related reading, be prepared for interesting news. For a potential job, more information will be revealed to you soon. For a current position, you most likely already know the answer. It can show up when we need to be reminded to trust what our eyes, ears, and heart are telling us. It can also indicate that a phase you’ve been stuck in is finally passing.
The Hanged Man reversed can suggest that a project is ready to get the green light. This can be great news if you’re a freelancer or waiting on funding for a project to go through.
One aspect of this card to watch out for are surprise revelations that could shake up a company. There could be ramifications from ignoring new information that’s come to light.
Reversed People and Personalities
Generally, you’ll find people represented by the card to be refreshingly woke. They’re humanitarians at heart. Difficulties can emerge if the humanitarian ideas turn in to a sense of martyrdom, victimhood, or apathy. If this resonates, consider channeling hurt into something that empowers yourself and others.
Numerology: 12 or 3
I am comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Some of My Favorite Examples
In the Light Grey Tarot, a collaborative deck from Light Grey Art Labs. Artist Mike Puncekar taps into Norse mythology with its Hanged Man card. In this version, the Norse god Odin hangs from the mystical World Tree, Yggdrasil. By enduring the discomfort of hanging upside, Odin was able to read the runes. Above him, I believe, are the Norns, giantesses who controlled fates and who also reside in Yggdrasil. It’s an appropriate interpretation, considering how tied tarot is with ideas of fate and divination. I’m unsure of who the figures below Odin are (if you do, please let me know!). If I had to guess, I would say possibly ancestors or residents of the underworld. In Norse myth, the underworld is ruled by the goddess Hel. This could be a metaphorical reference to the hell we may go through to for wisdom and transformation.
I love the depiction of the Hanged Man in the Ethereal Visions Tarot. It’s a reminder that the “Hanged Man” situations that we put ourselves in are usually of our own doing. It’s often in our power to leave them as well. Of course, the payoff of enduring might be worth the struggle. And letting go of the rope that binds us might hurt on the way down.
The Starchild Tarot reimagines both the Hanged Man imagery and name. Let’s be real, sometime when you’re giving a reading to someone who’s unfamiliar with tarot, a card with the name Hanged Man is about as appealing as other “scaries” such as Death or the Devil. The Starchild tarot uses a gentler approach that still hits the nail on the head. The Hanged Man is often simply a call for a new perspective. Viewing your situation through the mirror of another trusted friend, or your own objectivity, is often the solution.
In the Wooden Tarot, the Hanged Man is portrayed as one of my favorite animals: a bat. Bats use extraordinary senses in addition to vision to navigate its world (it’s a myth that they’re blind). The bat’s connection to the nocturnal also suggests something hidden from the seeker. By looking beyond what’s in front of you, you may find unexpected information.