The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man


Copyright Tabula Mundi Tarot

Position 1. Self

When do I see the Hanged Man? When I have no control over a situation whatsoever, there he is. If I am having difficulty pulling the trigger on something–a project, a breakup, quitting a job, applying for jobs, there he is. He often comes when I am sick but I don’t perceive him as a warning of illness. He’s the great St. Peter’s cross tricking people into thinking he’s an ill-omen when his message is much more subtle.

Often readers shudder at the Hanged Man. That can’t be good, right? Though no tarot card is inherently “negative,” nor is one “positive.” I  have often noticed that the querent is unsurprised to see himself in the card, hanging there looking like a martyr. They often feel put out by their situations in one way or another which is why there is no action, right? Which is interesting because there is, present in the card, a warning against false martyrdom. As is clear from most portrayals of the Hanged Man, he is in no real danger. His face is placid. And aside from the nails through his hands and feet, he kind of looks like he’s just hanging out.

The Hanged Man represents the descent into the darkness from the light. His lengthened body moves from the purity of the open heavens which are now at his feet into the depths of murky, (and in Crowley), snake-infested waters. This can be correlated to moving from spirit into matter and from the active into the passive. In a way, surviving  the influence of the Hanged Man is the process of wresting your big ideas from your stubborn Self. St. Peter of the inverted cross, requested to be crucified upside down to differentiate him from Jeshua. His was a statement of non-martyrdom so he wished to be presented differently. The Hanged Man asks that you check your ego and delusions of holiness and join the 

In this way, the Hanged Man demands inactive action. He says “be like the Buddhist monk who remaps his own brain with each fleeting thought he allows to pass without comment.” The silent and often still process of detachment is a powerful game changer. The power of consciousness over the body is paramount. The Hanged Man looks undaunted by the nails through his extremities and his severe circumstances. That level of acceptance does not come easily.

When a person moves through the Hanged Man, having shed so much, she is ready to drop into the world again. The Hanged Man represents an impending baptism in that way. The Hebrew character associated with the him is the motherly Mem which means “water.” You are not truly born until you break through the waters and you are covered in them. Neither can you will yourself there.

When this card appears as a present or future state for the querent it might mean it’s time for a spiritual reset, a stripping down of the ego to basic consciousness and a humble offering of the self to the world. That said, the Hanged Man’s feet are nailed so it isn’t going to be a pretty picture getting down. Usually the Hanged Man’s process is one of letting go into the world and not acting upon it. Some questions you can ask are:

What is there to let go?

How do you process the loss that goes along with that?

What do you DO when you are stuck and action isn’t the answer?


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