One Card Weekends: The Hanged Man

Rider-Waite-Smith Hanged Man

This week’s card is the Hanged Man, a card that has been hotly debated as to meaning. Above is the image from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck; below is the Universal Fantasy card, and finally the card from the Tattooed Tarot. (If you’re wondering, the variation in decks I use is due to the comings and goings of the decks in my collection. The only one I’ll probably never let go is my Tattooed deck.)

Universal Fantasy Hanged Man

Tattooed Hanged Man

While it’s common to see the card interpreted as one of loss and of sorrow, I don’t always see it that way. A.E. Waite, creator of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, described this card as one of loss, defeat, and sacrifice, and the image on the Universal Fantasy card seems to bear that out. However, in talking in general terms about the meaning of this card, I also look at the face of the man who’s upside-down in the Tattooed deck. He doesn’t look broken or desperate; rather, he looks relaxed, as if he’s aware of the fact that his upside-down condition is temporary. This is an area where the Crowley-Harris and Waite-Smith schools of thought conflict, as in the Thoth deck and Crowley’s writings, the Hanged Man symbolizes the need for patience and a new perspective on things, and may signal a period of waiting. The number 12, in numerology, is considered the number of wholeness, of completion, and of the entirety of the universe, so there’s a basis for seeing it as a signal of losing everything, especially since the card is astrologically connected to the planets of Uranus (inversion and solitude) and Neptune (sacrifice), but it’s also a call to action. When this card comes up, it often means that a person is unwilling to make the changes s/he knows are necessary in order to move forward in life, and that the situation is stalled as a result.

While in its upright position, this card indicates the individual, and the effect that the individual’s fear of change may have on the situation. When reversed, it tends to point more towards groups of people and the querent’s position within the crowd. Seeing this card in a reading, I generally advise a person not to be content with the situation as it is, and not to allow hir life to become stagnant while waiting for something to happen. Patience is vital, but not so much so that one can afford to ignore the opportunity to act. Lying in wait only works for those who are willing to pounce when the time is right. The question the card asks is this: Is the loss one faces by refusing to make the necessary changes in a situation worse than the potential loss involved in the change?

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