Tarot: The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man

Tarot: The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man tarot card represents a major shift in perspective. This card usually appears when the future seems uncertain and the path ahead is murky. You may be feeling your life has become stagnant and you find yourself unable to move forward. Rather than struggling against the feeling of being stuck, take advantage of this opportunity to change your perception rather than your circumstances.

This moment in your life will require complete surrender in order to gain valuable insight. The twelfth card of the major arcana asks you to be ready to sacrifice your old beliefs in order to make room for new ideas. The Hanged Man announces that something new is emerging, and you will only be able to read the signs ahead by pausing, sitting with the unknown, and letting go. Allow clarity to come on it’s own.

The Hanged Man Reversed

The Hanged Man reversed suggests a reluctance to let go of old perspectives or beliefs that may be hindering personal growth. It suggests a resistance to surrendering to life’s natural flow and a desire to maintain control at all costs. This card prompts the need for self-reflection and a willingness to release attachments or preconceived notions that no longer serve one’s higher purpose, ultimately paving the way for renewed clarity and personal transformation.


“I surrender to the present moment, release my attachment to the outcome, and trust the universe. I find peace and clarity through stillness.”

Major Arcana Symbolism

Tarot Card NameThe Hanged Man
Traditional Card ImageryA man hanging upside down by one foot
Traditional SymbolismTransition, suspension, fresh perspective, breaking patterns, sacrifice for gain, healthy detachment, initiation
Card NumberXII, 12
Classical ElementWater
Influencing ElementAether / Akasha, Earth
Traditional Upright MeaningPause, surrender, uncertainty, metamorphosis letting go, waiting, sacrifice, new perspectives, spiritual advancement, contemplation
Traditional Reversed MeaningDelays, inability to release, stalling, disinterest, stagnation, limbo, resistance, not seeing from all sides, stalling, indecision, apathy
Archetype In NatureConsciousness returned to its earthly connection by reversing our habitual inclinations
ChakraThird Eye, Sacral, Root, Earth Star
Astrological CorrespondenceNeptune, Pisces, Capricorn, Scorpio, Cancer
Yes or NoMaybe (Let go, the answer will come on it’s own)
Crystals and StonesLabradorite, Lapis Lazuli, Blue Calcite, Sodalite, Blue Sapphire, Celestite, Azurite, Kyanite, Iolite, Dumortierite, Celestite, Ceylon Sapphire, Tanzanite, Citrine, Melo Pearl, Brown Tourmaline, Orange Calcite, Amber, Boulder Opal, Orange Tiger’s Eye, Tangerine Quartz, Cognac Diamond, Orange Tourmaline, Chocolate Opal, Coral, Hyacinth, Petrified Wood, Orange Selenite, Smoky Quartz, Peach Moonstone, Axinite, Carnelian, Sunstone, Dunilite, Ruby, Mookaite Jasper, Garnet, Fire Opal, Red Coral, Fire Agate, Red Carnelian, Red Jasper, Brown Tourmaline, Chocolate Opal, Coral, Petrified Wood, Smoky Quartz, Axinite, Carnelian, Dunilite, Black tourmaline, Obsidian, Gray Moonstone, Hematite, Tahitian Pearl, Apache Tears, Hematite, Onyx, Lodestone, Jet, Black Kyanite, Coal, Shungite, Lava Stone
Tarot: The Hanged Man

Tarot Through the Ages

Tarot was originally invented as a card game in the mid 15th century. French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as “Etteilla”, was the first to assign divinatory meanings to the cards in the late 1700s. Many others have followed in his footsteps, bringing their own unique interpretation of the cards. In our exploration of the Tarot, we weave together contemporary insights with the timeless wisdom of the past. This blending of past and present perspectives offers a more holistic view, allowing us to connect with the evolving narrative and lineage of wisdom that has shaped our understanding of each card over time. Let’s dive into some of these historical interpretations…

Allegory of The Hanged Man

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 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)

The Hanged Man (XII)

The Hanged Man (XII)

The Hanged man is the symbol which is supposed to represent Prudence, according to Éliphas Lévi. The figure of a man is suspended head-downwards from a gibbet, to which he is attached by a rope about one of his ankles. The arms are bound behind him, and one leg is crossed over the other.

The prevailing interpretation indicate he signifies sacrifice. However, current meanings attributed to this card are based on the card reader’s intuition, apart from any symbolic value. The fortune-tellers of the eighteenth century who circulated Tarots depict a similar image. A semi-feminine youth, dressed in a jerkin, is poised erect on one foot and loosely attached to a short stake driven into the ground.

The Hanged Man is a card of profound significance, but its meaning is veiled. It has been falsely called a card of martyrdom, a card a of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty. I believe this card expresses the relation between the Divine and the Universe. This card represents a man who is capable of understanding the story of his higher nature. Such a man will receive divine revelation. In his great awakening he will understand that in the sacred Mystery of Death, there lies the glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The Hanged Man Card Imagery

On this card we see a man suspended from the gallows, forming a Tau cross. The figure, from the position of the legs, forms a fylfot cross. There is a halo around the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves sprouting from it. The face of the hanged one expresses a deep entrancement and does not indicate suffering. The scene suggests life in suspension, but is not associated with death.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)


The Hanged Man Meaning

A man hanging by one foot to a gallows, resting upon two trees. Each bears six branches, which have been cut off. The man’s hands are tied behind his back. The fold of his arms forms the base of a reversed triangle, of which his head forms the point. His eyes are open and his fair hair floats upon the wind. His right leg crosses his left, forming a cross. This Hanged Man serves for an example to the presumptuous. His position indicates discipline, the absolute submission which the human owes to the Divine.

-Modern Translation of The Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

Significations of The Hanged Man

  • Equilibrium of Necessity and Liberty = Charity, Grace (Preserving Power of Love)
  • Equilibrium of Power and Courage, Reflex of Prudence = Acquired Experience (Knowledge)
  • Equilibrium of the Potential Manifestation and Reflected Life, Reflex of the Astral Fluid = Equilibrist Force

-Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

The Hanged Man Card

The Hanged Man Card

The Meaning of The Hanged Man Card Throughout History

The Tarot deck is a beautiful synthesis of esoteric thought and archetypal imagery. The journey of the deck, shaped by the events and values of each era, has continued to evolve and take on new significance as it adapts to a larger cultural story. Often a tarot card will have a variety of names and meanings. Exploring the historical interpretations of each card will create a deeper understanding of this powerful method for divination and self-discovery.

Various Names for the Hanged Man Card

Tarot de Marseille (1650)The Hanged Man
Court de Gébelin (1781)Prudence
Etteilla (1783)Prudence / The People
Paul Christian (1870)The Sacrifice
Golden Dawn (1888)The Spirit of the Mighty Waters
Papus (1892)The Hanged Man
Rider-Waite (1910)The Hanged Man
Thoth (1943)The Hanged Man
The Spirit of the Mighty Waters

Card XII: The Hanged Man

This extraordinary symbol is almost unintelligible in the double-headed cards. Properly, it represents a man hung head downwards from a sort of gibbet by one foot (his hands are bound behind his back in such a manner that his body forms a triangle with the point downwards), and his legs a cross above it. (Two sacks or weights are attached to his armpits.) He symbolises Sacrifice.

Upright: Self-sacrifice, Sacrifice, Devotion, Bound
Reversed: Selfishness, Unbound, Partial sacrifice

-The Tarot by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (1888)

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Their mission aims to strengthen the fragile ecosystem and keep local bookstores an integral part of our culture and communities. We have put together a collection of some of our favorite Tarot items. The deep symbolism of the Tarot can be used to access a wellspring of inner wisdom and guidance. This method of divination is also an incredible tool for accessing your own powerful intuition.

Mystic Doorway is supported by our readers. When you purchase items through links on our site, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

The Hanged Man (XII) - The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain
The Hanged Man (XII) – The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain

This guide by Arthur Edward Waite, the designer of the most widely known Tarot deck and distinguished scholar of the Kabbalah, is the essential Tarot reference. The pictorial key contains a detailed description of each card in the celebrated 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot deck, along with regular and reversed meanings. Contents describe symbols and secret tradition, ancient Celtic methods of divination, and wonderful illustrations of each Tarot card. This book is the perfect complement to old-style fortune telling and also serves to make the Tarot entirely accessible to modern-day readers. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is the classic guide to the Rider-Waite deck and to Tarot symbolism in general.

Golden Botticelli Tarot

The Hanged Man (XII) - Golden Botticelli Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2007 Lo Scarabeo srl, All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Hanged Man (XII) – Golden Botticelli Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2007 Lo Scarabeo srl, All rights reserved, used by permission.

The great work of this Florentine master enlivens this Golden Botticelli Tarot deck with Renaissance flair and grace. Let Botticelli’s timeless art, reproduced here with gold highlights, take you to new dimensions of nature, beauty, and spirituality.

Ancient Italian Tarot

The Hanged Man (XII) - Ancient Italian Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2000 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Hanged Man (XII) – Ancient Italian Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2000 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

This Ancient Italian Tarot deck marks the coming of age of Tarot in Italy. The classic design of the Marseilles decks, reinvented by an anonymous artist, exemplifies 19th-century Italian art: detailed, symbolic, and richly colored in vibrant greens, muted reds, and vivid golds. The whole, decadently costumed array of Tarot archetypes are presented here, along with delicately ornamented Marseilles style pips.

How will you Harness The Transformative Power of The Tarot?

We invite you to walk into a cosmic narrative in which we are all a unique element in each other’s story. Humanity has long used sacred tools for awakening the soul and illuminating our path toward enlightenment. The Tarot is simply an instrument. These cards amplify your inner wisdom and empower your highest truth.

What aspects of The Tarot can serve you as you walk through your own Mystic Doorway?

Check Out Our Pinterest Gallery for More Inspiration

What you have read is only the beginning…

Mystic Doorway is always gaining new insight into the rich symbolism of Tarot. We are looking forward to sharing with you as we continue to expand our knowledge of this divinatory tool. Check back with us soon to see what we’ve added to our Library.