Hello fellow Taroters! Today, the Tarot Card By Card series returns. On the menu: The Hanged Man. I’ll analyze one particular card of the classic deck and mix personal insights, historical facts and common knowledge. I hope this will help you discover unknown aspects of a particular card and show how very rich and complex each Tarot figure really is.
The Hanged Man is a controversial card and both consultants and fellow Tarot readers often have strong feelings about it. And when you think that this card holds symbols of Nordic paganism, Christianity, depression, drug addiction, sacrifices or personal changes you can of course understand why. So many things coexist on the Hanged Man card that it is indisputably one of the most fascinating image of the Tarot.
1- DECK CONTEXT
The Hanged Man is the 12th card of the Tarot deck. It is preceded by Strength and followed by Death.
Relationship with card XI: The Hanged Man is a tormented card either needing, abusing or lacking the necessary strength in a given situation.
Relationship with card XIII: The Hanged Man is linked to radical changes. Changes that are about to happen or changes that are being hindered.
2 – ASSOCIATED SYMBOLISMS
Odin: Odin was the most powerful of the main group of Nordic gods in the Germanic mythology. Odin had a complex personality and a thirst for knowledge. This lead him to give up one of his eyes to drink from a magic well of knowledge. It also lead him to hang himself upside down from Yggdrasil, the tree of life (world tree), for 9 days in order to open up his mind and get a different perspective. The aim was to be able to read and understand the Runes. Metaphorically speaking, to gain a new level of consciousness and knowledge, by seeing things differently.
associated meanings: enlightenment, illumination, inner sight, change of perspective, unique wisdom
Saint Peter: It is said that Saint Peter requested to be crucified upside down as he felt he was not worthy of the same death as Jesus. The St. Peter’s cross is therefore a symbol of humility and unworthiness for the Christians. These notions can also be applied in certain contexts to the Hanged Man when the card tells a story of depression, self-hate or profound self-doubt.
associated meanings: depression, sadness, lack of self-esteem, spiritual suffering
Debtor’s torture: in the Middle Ages debtors who could not pay back their loans would often be hung by their feet on a public square to be mocked by the crowds and to be publicly known as individuals who were unable to honour their debts and therefore their words. If you mentally connect the Hanged Man to this punishment, he becomes a liar, a treator or someone simply not worth your trust.
associated meanings: secrets, lies, legal issues, administrative issues that need addressing
3 – USE YOUR EYES
Beyond the story of Odin or the martyrdom of Saint Peter remain all the actual symbols you can see with your own eyes (and inner eyes!) on the card itself. This will depend on your deck but on the classic representations these are usually the same: the head is hanging down, arms are crossed behind the back, one foot is tied to a rope and the left leg is crossed behind the right leg. What does this all say to you? Here are some leads based on my experience of the Hanged Man.
- the person represented by this card is currently stuck in a situation. They can not move, they can not take a decision, they can not move on. This would usually apply to situations of grief, uncertainty, unhealthy but addictive relationships or simply a time in life where the wheel of fortune is stuck for a while (example: the person represented is stuck in a job they dislike but can not leave at the moment?)
- the person represented by this card is having a depression. The Hanged Man can represent self-hate, self-doubt and the incapacity to see one’s real qualities (just like St. Peter’s)
- the Hanged Man announces a profound sacrifice made by the consultant or someone close to them.
- Associated with the Devil or the Fool the Hanged Man often speaks of addictions (drugs, alcohol or other substances).
Associated star signs: Pisces, Libra.
Associated times of the year: Saturday. The End of the Winter (February/March)
Associated locations: Rivers, foggy and wet areas, closed areas, mystical or sad places (churches, convents, hospitals, prisons)
Depending on the deck you are using you’ll find different symbols and keys that will apply to your own reading, case by case. For instance the Hanged Man on the Rider Waite deck has a halo around his head that you won’t find in the Marseille or Ansata decks. It is up to you to use your best judgement and make the most of the information the card you hold in your hand is giving you. As I always say, study, read and practice. But in the end, follow your intuition first and foremost.