“The Hanged Man here is an androgynous, non-binary individual hanging gracefully by their billowing robes from the branches of the tree. The figure holds the “apple of knowledge” in one hand and the “egg of creation” in the other.” -Joe Lee (Pride Tarot Guidebook, © US Games Systems, Inc)
Suggested Archetype: The Consenting Sacrifice
Throughout world mythology, there are countless gods and demi-gods who allowed themselves to be hung, crucified, or otherwise tortured. These beings and the brave humans who embody their archetype accept personal suffering as fair value to obtain something spiritually significant for themselves or all humankind. One of my favorite myths that captures this is Odin who hung himself upon Yggdrasil, the tree of life, for nine days and nine nights in order to receive the runic language and truths about the fate of the worlds.
In a world where the risk of exploitation is rampant, having the free will to decide when and why we will sacrifice is truly sacred. This often underrated and unappreciated Major Arcana speaks to me about that freedom and the mytheme of letting go in of tangible “worldly” things as part of the enlightenment experience.
The tree: It is traditional for the figure in the Hanged Man card to be hanging from a living tree. In this particular version, the tree is drawn in a way that depicts to me the qualities of strength, wisdom, and renewal. It is contoured in a way that mirrors the sinewy muscles of the figure’s limbs that don’t think is coincidental.
The serpent: There is a long green snake pressed against the tree with its head near the figure’s lower leg, the one attached to the tree. Most people are familiar of the Garden of Eden story and this particular serpent brings it easily to mind. Green as a color is associated with nature, renewal, growth, and rebirth. Snakes, in general, are easily associated with transformation, wisdom, and the deeper occult mysteries.
The white robe: In tarot, white is a color of purity, healing, and divinity. This particular vestment only covers half the figure and seems to have its own esoteric properties. It makes me think of silver and quicksilver moreso than merely white. Quicksilver aka mercury is fluid and often symbolic of transgender and non-binary modes of existence.
The long wild hair: It’s notable that the figure’s mane of golden locks is not affected by gravity but rather maintains independence from natural law. That hair symbolizes freedom, self-empowerment, primal or feral human nature, and antinomianism to me.
The apple of life: Apples are a part of many mystical and mythical traditions as a symbol of life, creative power, and immortality.
The egg of creation: The cosmic egg or world egg is another mytheme found in a wide array of cultures. The way the figure holds the egg and apple suggests they are balanced polar opposites, which white and red often are in classical RWS tarot.
Reading The Hanged Man (In General)
Upright this card could mean something like:
- Take all the time you have available to just contemplate the problem and come up with your own conclusions after weighing the facts.
- Do not let the beliefs and opinions of others affect and distort your sense of self. You are allowed to create your own identity, inside and out.
- Whatever activities bring you pleasure, relaxation, and serenity? Do them more not less.
- In this specific matter, you should trust your own instincts and intuitions but it might not be time yet to express them to others who are involved.
Reversed this card could mean something like:
- Pause for a minute and try to see the problem from a radically different perspective.
- If you are feeling exceptionally stressed and anxious, you need to tackle the root cause instead of just treating the symptoms.
- Now might be the right time to let yourself accept “what is” instead of waste your resources fighting for “what should be”.
- If you have been isolating or holding back for a significant time, this card reversed is auspicious for returning to a place or group or taking a well-considered action in this specific situation.
The Hanged Man In Questions About Relationships
You as the Hanged Man Upright: This card suggests that you are best served by staying in what is comfortable and familiar rather than getting involved in a new relationship, especially if this person is high-maintenance or excessively impulsive, passionate, or extraverted.
You as the Hanged Man Reversed: It is the right time to leave your comfort zone or a solitary life to pursue a romantic (or other) partnership. Make this a fresh start, something new, that isn’t haunted by experiences of relationships past. Focusing on the present vs. either the past or the future is the best approach right now.
The Other as the Hanged Man Upright: Be appreciative vs. impatient with this person’s pacing in how and when they act. Pay attention to subtle hints or gestures they make, both positive and negative. Don’t pressure yourself or them to jump into commitments too quickly or radically.
The Other as the Hanged Man Reversed: This person might have just left a relationship or other experience that brought them new maturity and self-understanding. Have some long deep conversations together to learn more about them. Share your own experiences from a place of thoughtful sincerity.
“Never hide things from hardcore thinkers. They get more aggravated, more provoked by confusion than the most painful truths.”
― Criss Jami
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