The Hanged Man (XII) Upright

(Card Descriptions Based On Original Rider-Waite Colors – Still Under US Games Inc. Copyright)



(To Follow)

On first glance at The Upright Hanged Man,  it already appears to be Reversed. The Hanged Man is often considered one of the most interesting and complex cards in the Tarot.

A man hangs upside down from a tree or T-shaped post. Leaves appear to be growing from the tree on either side and down its front. Only one leg is bound to the post while the other rests tucked behind it. His arms are tied behind his back and a yellow halo emanates from his head.  The background is totally grey.

The Hanged Man is a card that deals with surrender and sacrifice. We must not take an understanding of his meanings at first glance for they are often multi-layered. After all the activity of the Upright Wheel of Fortune, the positive change in circumstances, life and opportunities flowing with abundance, there now comes a time when all the having, getting and doing grinds to a halt. Life appears to be suspended or on hold.

As The Wheel of Fortune so aptly reminded us, there is a time or season for everything. The Hanged Man represents that time when no matter what we try to do, it just doesn’t work out. No matter how much we plan or try to force life to obey our commands and desires it seems to have a mind of its own and goes the opposite way.  It can be a frustrating time when we become impatient and negative, and compare our failings and obstacles to the apparent success and luck of others. We may feel powerless to change our circumstances and feel restricted.  Justice has appeared in our life to address our situation and now attempts to balance the scales.  Finding the right balance may be difficult, and may also take some time.  Justice has stepped in to remind us of our Spiritual Purpose and Duty.  She has stopped us in our tracks, hung us up and restricted our movement so that we may focus our attention inward for a while.  The knots Justice has tied cannot be undone by any mere mortal, and so The Hanged Man may as well surrender to his fate and wait.

The Hanged Man appears at this time to remind us that struggle at this time is futile and it is best to surrender to the situation and let it go, for as much as you fight to stay on top of whatever is involved, it will only succeed in depleting your energies, encouraging you to slide further into despair, negativity and pessimism. You are just not going to get anywhere at the moment or change much.

If we look closely, The man hanging from the tree doesn’t look terribly concerned or distressed about his dilemma. In fact he looks quite serene and contemplative. He hangs casually and his body appears relaxed. He is resigned to his fate. He knows that the ropes that bind his foot and hands are tight and well-knotted.  He knows that no matter how much he pulls, twists and writhes they are unlikely to become undone.  He may very well inflict more pain on himself in the process. Justice has tied him  up to learn a valuable lesson, and will only be let down when he has achieved this. This does not essentially mean that he has committed a terrible crime and now has to be punished.

The Hanged Man knows that if he was allowed to continue on his present course of action, rushing around, never stopping to think, then he would never learn the lesson and gain true understanding.  So here he is with nowhere to go except hang out on his own,  alone with just his thoughts for company. This gives him plenty of time and the space to go within to meditate on his situation. He can reflect on how he got where he is. Without his material connection to the world he can now focus on his spiritual one. The Hanged Man takes this time to go within and re-connect with his spiritual purpose in life.

By hanging upside down The Hanged Man has a wonderful opportunity to view the world, or his situation from a different perspective. He had been so engrossed and absorbed with all the things he was doing, getting and wanting, that he lost sight of the bigger picture. Upside down he is able to see things in a different light.

The Hanged Man can have tendencies towards feeling victimised or punished, but with his new vantage point, he may begin to see his own part in the drama, may start to accept responsibility for his situation instead of blaming others.  If he remembers what Justice had to teach him then he will understand that where he is in life at this moment in time is his own doing, and by his own hand. His reality is a result of his past actions.  If he uses this time wisely, The Hanged Man when released will have learned a valuable lesson and will be in the best possible position to move forward in his life.

The yellow halo around the man’s head indicates that although he appears to be outwardly tied up and restricted, much work and movement is going on within. He is giving much thought to his situation. By using this time of suspension to go within, he leaves the conscious outside world to delve into the subconscious realms in order to gain insight from his higher-self. It is a time for concentration on his spiritual concerns as opposed to worldly concerns. The leaves growing on the tree or post also suggest that during this time much personal growth can be achieved. In truth, this is often a welcome time when he is free to just be, with nothing to do, nowhere to go except reflect on his life and what is truly important to him.

The Hanged Man is also associated with sacrifice. Sometimes, for the greater good of all, we may have to sacrifice our own desires and plans for the needs of someone or something else. On the other hand The Hanged Man may feel that he has been sacrificed by those around him, or used as a scapegoat, and been punished unfairly. He may also have offered himself to be sacrificed so that others go free.  Therefore, depending on the question and surrounding cards, The Hanged Man can be connected with doing a good deed,  helping someone out when they are in difficulty, and doing the right thing without asking questions or making judgement. The Hanged Man is the volunteer, who renounces his worldly goods, personal security and stability as he heads off with just a rucksack on his back to work with tsunami victims, the starving or the oppressed.


If life is not going the way you planned or want, no matter how much you do, then much is to be gained by letting go of your constant struggle and look at things from another perspective. Take time to stand outside the situation and view the bigger picture. It is a time to surrender and trust that life will support you and deliver you to a better place than where you currently are. You must look within for fulfillment in life. It would be a useful time to meditate on the underlying currents in your life and see what part you play, or have played, in your predicament. A time to take responsibility for where you are now, and less blaming of others and feeling victimized. This is no time to struggle, for what ever you attempt under the influence of The Hanged Man is bound to come back at you and deplete your energies.

Enjoy this period of suspension and take the time to go within. It is only on the outside that things have ground to a halt. On the spiritual plane things have already started to shift, and time spent in reflection now will put you in a better place for when life activates again. It will allow you to apply your new insight and knowledge gained to what is truly useful and of worth. It can signify a quiet peaceful time after a difficult period.

If you are in a relationship then The Hanged Man might suggest that one of you may be withdrawing  to reflect on where the relationship is going. You may wish to give great thought as to making a further commitment. The other partner may not understand the deep, spiritual reasons behind this, and could feel impatient and frustrated. Maybe you feel that your relationship is going nowhere and that all progress has ceased. Are you seeing your partner in a new light?  It may also be a time when potential partners are scarce and that love seems to evade you. You may feel that no matter how hard you try to put yourself out there to meet someone it just never happens. Again, when The Hanged Man appears he reminds us that now is not a time for action. Your time would be better spent on developing yourself and discovering who you truly are.  You must trust that life will deliver to you, your soul mate when the time is right.

The appearance of The Hanged Man in a reading may suggest that you are being asked to sacrifice or give up something of great value to you. What is it that you have to sacrifice, and who is it that demands or expects this sacrifice? Look at the bigger picture and see if the sacrifice is worth it. Is there someone around you who needs your help? Don’t spend time wondering if they deserve it or whether they have ever done anything for you, just do it and do not judge. Are you thinking about giving up everything and heading off to volunteer for a worthy cause? Are you fed up with the grabby, greedy, material world around you and yearn for a more simple life where values, principles and caring are more important?

The Hanged Man may suggest that you feel you have been hung out to dry or made a scapegoat of by others.  What has happened and why would they do that to you? Have you been named and shamed and now feel humiliated? Traitors were often hung upside down in the town for all to see and abuse. Or is it that you feel like a martyr with all you have to put up with?

Remember that The Hanged Man (XII) numerically reduces down to the number 3 which indicates growth. This growth is more apparent on the inside than on the outside.

Now Go To The Hanged Man Reversed

Back to Lesson 5

The Fool Upright  The Fool Reversed

The Magician Upright  The Magician Reversed

The High Priestess Upright   The High Priestess Reversed

The Empress Upright   The Empress Reversed

The Emperor Upright    The Emperor Reversed

The Heirophant Upright    The Heirophant Reversed

The Lovers Upright     The Lovers Reversed

The Chariot Upright   The Chariot Reversed

Strength Upright     Strength Reversed

The Hermit Upright   The Hermit Reversed

The Wheel of Fortune Upright   The Wheel of Fortune Reversed

Justice Upright   Justice Reversed

The Hanged Man Upright   The Hanged Man Reversed

Death Upright     Death Reversed

Temperence Upright     Temperence Reversed

The Devil Upright   The Devil Reversed

The Tower Upright     The Tower Reversed

The Star Upright     The Star Reversed

The Moon Upright    The Moon Reversed

The Sun Upright     The Sun Reversed

Judgement Upright      Judgement Reversed

The World Upright     The World Reversed


Lesson 1   Lesson 2    Lesson 3   Lesson 4



14 replies »

  1. I am in the process of selling a plot that was for sale for the past 5 yrs, once sold my dream of building an Italian Villa on it, (which i have already designed) will be gone. This is the sacrifice i am having to make.


    • Hi Claire, did you eventually sell? The Hanged Man speaks of sacrifices when your hands are tied and there is nothing else for it. He also can relate to hanging on in there and just waiting to see what happens. Regardless, if we are to believe his spiritual lesson is that what is released or sacrificed will be replaced by something infinitely superior. A hard lesson to stomach if it is to be so. I wish you luck in the future for you have worked hard and that in itself must be rewarded. Don’t let it stop you from moving forward or tying again. I had thought I had already replied to this message but I can find no evidence of my reply so I felt inclined to send you something again.




  2. I have seen the Hanged Man come up as suicide. My troubled nephew committed suicide over a ex girlfriend. I was told his ex treated him terribly.


    • Hi Philip,

      I am very sorry to hear about your nephew. The poor young man, driven to such extreme action, and over an ex girlfriend. What a waste of a good life. Dreadful.

      Yes, The Hanged Man can point to suicide once it appears with cards that would support it. When I rewrite this card I intend to explore that area. The Six of Swords is another card that comes up for both suicide and accidental drowning. Again the cards that surround the six when it appears in this manner should clear up whether it was intentional or accidental. Negative Swords, Reversed Sword or Cup Courts especially, but any Reversed Courts could highlight distress and dysfunction.

      The tell-tale warning signs for suicide may be expressed differently depending on which Suit is affected. Wand Courts in Reverse may become manic, overly exuberant, burn too brightly, constant restlessness, pacing, recklessness, accompanied by periods of exhaustion and debilitation. Cups are more obvious. They might become morose, depressed, deeply emotional, emotionally disconnected/cold, distant, apathetic and sad. There may be self-harm. Emotional pain is intense. The Swords of course will display obvious mental distress, mania, psychoses, aggression, self-harm, recklessness, verbal outbursts, while the Pentacles will retreat within, shut down, push everyone away, build walls around them, self-neglect and self-destruct.

      The Hanged Man appearing among troubled cards and Reversed Courts would be a cause for concern. The Hanged Man in such instances for me seeks release from life or has it forced upon him by a lynch mob.

      The Hanged Man in a dysfunctional sense can feel he does not fit in, does not belong. He can be an outsider, not popular with the mass, perhaps unusual or different from the mass. Whatever he feels comes from within and typically surrounding cards would point to a depression or history of depression and disassociation from life.

      The Hanged Man may have been fine, happy and celebrating his uniqueness. That is until others picked him apart, systematically destroyed him. In his instance we find the lynch mob, who hound the Hanged Man into doing something drastic, make him feel he has no choice, push him to the extreme, make his life miserable. They may not put the rope around his neck but certainly play a part in him even contemplating it in the first place. The Hanged Man could highlight the plight of cyber bullying. We think of him placed in the stocks, hung out to dry, made a spectacle of. He can be the subject of abuse as all passers-by feel entitled to hurl abuse at him, insult him, hit or injure him, make fun of him. He is tied up and feels helpless in the scenario as they can get to him whenever they want. In the cases we read about where cyber bullying has resulted in an individual, often very young, taking their own life, it is typically discovered the victim to be a beautiful soul with so much to live for. They have been sacrificed, slaughtered for the fun and distraction of others.

      If you feel the Hanged Man highlights your nephew’s suicide, look to surrounding cards to see how it played out, how he arrived at that desperate stage. It would be wise to note you should only conduct such readings in a balanced manner. You are looking into the life of a third party without their consent after all.

      This reminds me of a reading I did for a woman many years ago. She didn’t really give much information but when her cards were drawn I saw they were quite negative. The Six of Swords Reversed, Page of Swords Reversed, Eight/Nine/Ten of Swords, Tower. I was quite taken aback and wasn’t sure how to proceed for fear of terrifying her. I could see right away there was a young person in terrible distress but should I say it or would I cause upset? I reluctantly brought it up and instead of the woman appearing shocked, she seemed relieved. This was what she had hoped for, the reason for her visit. She then told me her story. Her son had drowned two years prior to that. The authorities eventually determined that his death has been caused by accidental drowning but she had her own suspicions. He had been living away from home for some years when it happened and his friends all said he appeared fine, didn’t seem to have any deep worries or troubles. She had a gut feeling he had taken his own life and it haunted her. She had to get answers. Obviously I warned her of not seeking such serious information from tarot cards as they may simply be playing to her feelings, mirroring them, and not been objective. She was nonplussed by my concerns. Whereas she was not a tarot reader and had no knowledge of tarot, she could see through the imagery of cards in her spread what they implied. I told her I would not tell her one way or another, but I suspected he may have taken his own life. She said she could see it herself and the cards only confirmed her suspicions. I cannot be sure whether her son took his own life or died by accidental drowning but I couldn’t help but feel the Reversed Page of Swords’ anguish in the cards. Did he mean to die like so or did it happen accidentally? Who knows. He may have been miserable within, but the drowning may not have been his plan but something that happened coincidentally.

      I hope this gives some insight. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your very generous donation to my site. I was very touched.



      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your insight. I am grateful for the information you share.
        Bless you


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