This card represents seeing something in a new way, surrender, inner or spiritual awareness, and peace. The Hanged Man is suspended upside down, but she doesn’t struggle and she doesn’t appear distraught.
Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says, “His number, 12, brings together the will of the Magician (1) and the soul receptivity of the High Priestess (2). The sum of their union is the Empress (3), who reminds the Hanged Man that his suspension, like her pregnancy, is but a precursor to a new awareness” (94). This is not a permanent state, but it is a necessary pause or surrender in order to bring about a new understanding or new inner or spiritual awareness. The snake in the Efflorescent Tarot depiction can be representative of a new beginning. The Animal Wisdom Tarot also suggests the Hanged Man as a representation of suspension between the physical world and the spiritual world.
I like how Joanna, creator of the Animism Tarot, says, “Why he is suspended, why he watches in reverse, only he understands. His reality might not make sense, but sometimes life needs to not make sense, and sometimes views must be shifted in order to achieve clarity. And so he holds on until he finds his release.” Things might not make sense right away, but by being patient and allowing things to come into focus slowly, we can achieve clarity. I think that statement also serves as a reminder to be gentle and understanding when others are going through a transition in their lives. It might not make sense to us, but it doesn’t mean they’re being silly or dumb. This could also represent being true to ourselves, even when it doesn’t make sense or conform to the expectations of others. Non-normative ways of being and valuing can be incredibly important.
Western culture is about speed and efficiency. The Hanged Man can remind us of the value of pressing pause. The Hanged Man can also represent sacrifice. We can’t have everything we want in our materialistic society, and this card can remind us of that and make us reevaluate our spiritual understanding of the world when we get wrapped up in materialism.
A shadow of the Hanged Man is feeling trapped or victimized. An opposite or reverse of this card is the end of a paused period in life, or a refusal to pause and see things in a new way.
Sometimes we feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t making changes. It would be wise to look at these places we feel stuck and to evaluate whether we’re really “stuck” or if we’re simply making changes from a position of stillness. Inner change as in progress before we can physically move forward. I think Huszka’s depiction does a good job of showing the vulnerability that can come from this. Her Hanged Man is not upside down, but she is naked and, even though she is right-side-up, her feet do not touch the ground.
If I were to assign an element to the Hanged Man, it would be water and air. Water for spiritual enlightenment and air for knowledge and clarity. These elements can be seen in the Efflorescent Tarot depiction which includes a jar of water and a hawk.
It’s been tough, but I am pressing pause right now in my life. I had been wanting to go to graduate school, wanting to push forward and actively being “doing something with my life.” After much honesty with myself, I decided that is not best right now. I need to hold still. I need to stop running full speed ahead when I don’t have the emotional reserves to do so. I will continue to teach online, but other than that I will stay home and do the work that is so often thought of as not “real” work. I am (a) allowing myself to pause and stay at home, to not push forward into projects I am not ready for and (b) seeing housework in a new way, as valuable and worthwhile. So both pausing and seeing things from a new perspective. It’s a good time in my life to emulate the Hanged Man.