12. The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man (XII), also be known as The Traitor, is the twelfth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks.


The card shows a man hanging by one foot from a Tau cross – sometimes from a bar or tree. His legs are bent to form a cross, while his arms form an inverted triangle. His face is always serene, never suffering. Sometimes his hands are bound, sometimes they dangle. Sometimes coins fall out of his pockets or hands. Modern versions of the tarot deck depict a man hanging upside-down by one foot. Red pants represent human passion and the physical body. Blue coat for knowledge. Yellow (gold) shoes to represent his high ideals. The halo showing spiritual attainment, with the grey background suggesting invisibility (a good reminder to not flaunt your spirituality). Ambiguity results from the fact that the card itself may be viewed inverted.


The Hanged Man is a card about suspension, not life or death. This is a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. The Querent stops resisting; instead he makes himself vulnerable, sacrifices his position or opposition, and in doing so, gains illumination. Answers that eluded him become clear, solutions to problems are found. He sees the world differently, has almost mystical insights. This card can also imply a time when everything just stands still, a time of rest and reflection before moving on. Things will continue on in a moment, but for now, they float, timeless. The Hanged Man symbolizes such moments of suspension between physical and mystical worlds. Such moments don’t last, and they usually require some kind of sacrifice. Sacrifice of a belief or perspective, a wish, dream, hope, money, time or even selfhood. In order to gain, you must give. Sometimes you need to sacrifice cherished positions, open yourself to other truths, other perspectives in order to find solutions, in order to bring about change.
The passivity to which we are condemned in such phases is at best illustrated with the image of an illness, which is often actually indicated by this card. C. G. Jung says of the experience that the Hanged Man expresses: To hang can ( … ) even be a positively seen ‘hanging on’, which on the one hand means apparently insurmountable difficulties, yet on the other hand presents that unique situation that requires the greatest effort, and therefore calls the entire person into action. The Hanged Man represents reversal of view. The significance of this card is that everything isn’t as it appears to be on the surface. The man appears to be hanging but in fact he is in perfect control and balanced and centered within himself.


The Hanged Man’s symbolism points to divinity, linking it to the Passion of Christ in Christianity, especially The Crucifixion; to the narratives of Osiris (Egyptian mythology) and Mithras (Ancient Persian mythology, Roman mythology). Ultimately, The Hangman, like St. Peter who was crucified upside down for his witness to the message of Jesus, has sacrificed himself, dying on a Cross to emerge victorious. Its relationship to the other cards usually involves the sacrifice that makes sacred; personal loss for a greater good or a greater gain.
The Hanged Man also reflects the story of Odin, the primary god of the Norse Pantheon,who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. is often associated with Odin,. Odin hung upside down from the world-tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days to attain wisdom and thereby retrieved The Runes from the Well of Wyrd, the source and end of all Mystery and all knowledge. The moment he glimpsed the runes, he died, but the knowledge of them was so powerful that he immediately returned to life.


The Hanged Man represents a need to let go and give oneself over to something for spiritual enlightenment. In a relationship reading, this may translate to a relationship where you are willing to give up almost anything to be with each other. You allow your egos to stay behind while you approach each other with a certain ‘nakedness’ of your souls.
It may be that you have to sacrifice your previous beliefs or even way of life, but it is a time of renewal and your life will go forward. Sacrifice and surrender will be applied to changing circumstances. These sacrifices will result in the obtainment of your desires later in life. Decisions that need to be implemented will be postponed. Sometimes The Hanged Man signifies a lover for whom you must wait patiently. When the time is right you will be ale to get to know this person more intimately.
When the Hanged Man is reversed you are involved with a nebulous, evasive individual who could, at worst, have a m, but is, at best While indisputably romantic and sensitive, your partner remains elusive about lasting commitment. This person is unlikely to be ready for a serious relationship, do not be misled, for you will only receive unhappiness if you persist.
The Hanged Man reversed suggests a loss of faith in your ability to surmount life’s obstacles. You may be refusing to go within for spiritual nourishment. Know that this difficult time will soon pass – accept your circumstances and be at peace with yourself. It may also denote a person close to you that has drink or drugs problem, unable or unwilling to give you what you need or want.

The Hanged Man in the Tarot of Marseilles
Opposing cards

Magician – acting, doing
Chariot – self-assertion
Seven of Wands – defiance, struggling against
Ten of Wands – struggle
Four of Pentacles – holding on, control

Reinforcing cards

Fool – faith in what is, going with the flow
High Priestess – suspending activity, waiting
Strength – patience, taking time
Four of Swords – rest, suspended activity
Ten of Swords – sacrifice, martyrdom


And then I saw a man in terrible suffering, hung by one leg, head downward, to a high tree. And I heard the voice:–
“Look! This is a man who saw Truth. Suffering awaits the man on earth, who finds the way to eternity and to the understanding of the Endless.
“He is still a man, but he already knows much of what is inaccessible even to Gods. And the incommensurableness of the small and the great in his soul constitutes his pain and his golgotha.
“In his own soul appears the gallows on which he hangs in suffering, feeling that he is indeed inverted.
“He chose this way himself.
“For this he went over a long road from trial to trial, from initiation to initiation, through failures and falls.
“And now he has found Truth and knows himself.
“He knows that it is he who stands before an altar with magic symbols, and reaches from earth to heaven; that he also walks on a dusty road under a scorching sun to a precipice where a crocodile awaits
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him; that he dwells with his mate in paradise under the shadow of a blessing genius; that he is chained to a black cube under the shadow of deceit; that he stands as a victor for a moment in an illusionary chariot drawn by sphinxes; and that with a lantern in bright sunshine, he seeks for Truth in a desert.
“Now he has found Her – The Symbolism of the Tarot by P D. Ouspensky (1913)