In The Hanged Man we see a man hanging upside down by one leg from a wooden cross. His right leg is bent and falls behind the left leg while his two hands are behind his back. His eyes are open and staring at us, a halo surrounding his head. Garlands can be seen decorating the cross.
The Hanged Man in the Tarot is a symbol of new sight. Hanging upside down, the Hanged Man sees that what is above is below, what is below is above. The Fool that began his journey has seen the truth and he is no longer living in ignorance. Coming just after the midpoint of the major arcana, the Hanged Man points to a new way forward, one in which we move with our eyes fully open, aware of the world and all it contains. The halo of light surrounding The Hanged Man’s head illustrates the new awakening that has taken place.
This understanding of the card is reinforced by the card number 12, which added together gives 3 the number of realisation and creative growth.
With eyes open and mind illuminated, it would be reasonable to conclude that The Hanged Man has put himself in this position. The card suggests that this is not an accidental awakening, but one we have deliberately undertaken. We may find ourselves at a point in our journey but it is important to realise that we have put ourselves here. We have set out to arrive at this point.
Suspended, The Hanged Man undertakes no action but understands his position. This may suggest that we are entering a period of reflection but not one of action. Right now, it is more important that we understand the issues that face us rather than leaping into action. This card is a call to us to consider and reflect on the situations that face us, where we wish to go, what the results of our actions may be. Like the Hanged Man, the card may be telling us we need to find a new way of looking at things before we move on.
As this is a card of little action, it may also be suggesting that we simply let ourselves be. There is an element of surrender to The Hanged Man as he neither attempts to free himself nor struggles against his situation. Patience, understanding, clarity, vision and knowledge are all more important facets of this card than attempting to free ourselves from our predicament.
The garlands hanging from the cross suggest it is a living cross, not dead wood. The connection with nature emphasises the natural enlightenment that has taken place, that the Hanged Man understands the universal truth available to all but obtained by so few. If we see ourselves as the man depicted in the card, it may be wise to let the universe decide our course and accept that we cannot control everything that befalls us.
There is great relief in acceptance. This is not a card that says we must accept every fate that befalls us but a card that tells us that we can accept the situation we are in. Every moment passes, every crisis ends and our situation too will pass. We should aim to come out of this time with a new understanding of ourselves, stronger and more clear in our thinking.
The Hanged Man reversed suggests that we have not yet attained an understanding of our position in life. We may be at a point where we are feeling frustrated, wandering in circles or finding life difficult. We are stuck. There is something amiss yet we cannot put our finger on it, we keep pushing and attempting to make things go our way.
The Hanged Man reversed says to let go. We need to allow ourselves to suspend our desire for control and let the universe decide. It calls us to look at things from a different view, to nearly turn ourselves upside down until we can understand our situation. This card reversed urges us to turn our attention to those little voices inside us that are calling us to follow our gut instinct or pay attention to the subconscious mind.
In a way, the Hanged Man reversed tells us that the power to find a new way of looking at things is already within us. The Hanged Man can turn himself upside down and find illumination at any point he wishes to do so. It is up to us to try find a way to free the block that impedes us and to seek a new way of understanding.