The Hanged Man is the 12th Major Arcana card of the tarot deck and depicts a man hanging upside down from a gallows, stripped of his worldly persona, and suspended from his daily life and activity. This card symbolizes the necessity of retreating from the world in order to potentiate a shift in perspective on one’s life.

The Hanged Man Tarot Card Upright and Reversed Keywords
The Hanged Man tarot card upright and reversed keywords.

The Hanged Man corresponds to the element of water, the Pisces zodiac sign, and the planet Neptune, which is associated with imagination, mysticism, and surrender, as well as to states of illusion and confusion. It speaks to relinquishing attachment to one’s ego and yielding to feelings of oneness with all that is.

The Hanged Man Keywords

Upright keywords

Reversed keywords

surrender, sacrifice, perspective shift, spiritual growth

resisting surrender, discomfort with inactivity, confusion, clinging to old ways

Description of The Hanged Man Tarot Card

After the reckoning with truth in Justice, we find a turn toward acceptance and surrender in The Hanged Man. This card comes before Death and represents a period of liminality and pause before the composting of old ways that follows. This card’s number 12 is an inversion of 21, the number of the final World card, which points to the necessity of surrendering our egos on the journey towards true freedom and fulfillment.

The classic Rider Waite Smith tarot deck depicts the meaning of the Hanged Man as an upside-down figure dangling from a gallows by his right foot. The positioning of his suspended, physical body resembles an inverted triangle. This indicates that he’s in a period of forced inactivity, and suggests a reorientation or submission of the personal consciousness and will to the superconscious or divine will. It is through this reversal of psychic and physical orientation that he learns to adopt new perspectives on his life.

For all his seeming discomfort, his expression is peaceful, his left foot hangs free, and his head is encircled by a glowing halo, revealing his ability to see the eternal truths that lie beyond the surface of everyday life and representing the inner illumination he is seeking through the experience of submitting his old life and identity to the ultimate surrender.

The Hanged Man Upright Meaning

In the upright position, The Hanged Man symbolizes the necessity of retreating from the world in order to potentiate a shift in perspective on one’s life. If this pause feels forced upon you, it may be uncomfortable, but there are important insights to unlock if it is approached with acceptance, grace, and a desire for different perspectives and spiritual or emotional growth. If approached consciously, this period of surrender can be a purposeful action rather than a passive waiting.

You could be realizing that you no longer resonate with a previous ideal or idea of self and are taking a deliberate pause to re-align with your truth. There may be themes of sacrifice as you give up something that you once held dear. This represents a period of liminality or sacred pause, where you know you must leave something behind, but what to embrace remains unknown.

During this period, it is possible to come to terms with regrets, mistakes, or resentments from the past and release yourself from holding onto them. Whether these resentments are directed at yourself, another person, or life itself, it is possible to access compassion and forgiveness in order to heal and move forward unburdened.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In the context of love and relationships, the upright Hanged Man suggests that your relationship is currently requiring many sacrifices of you or your partner. This card suggests that this is an important temporary period of discomfort, which can lead to greater improvements down the line. When you emerge from this period, you will have a renewed appreciation for the importance of temporary sacrifices for long-term gains.

This card can also suggest that you are temporarily pausing from dating and romantic relationships and that this is a wise decision, which will afford you the time and space to connect with your own spirit. Rather than seeking external approval from others, you are going within to make contact with your deep self. It can also indicate that you are now able to release resentments from bad situations in the past and move forward with an open heart.

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

In the upright position, The Hanged Man suggests that you are taking a purposeful pause or sabbatical from work and using this time to regroup and reassess your priorities and desires.  This could be an important period where you release attachments to your former responsibilities and roles so that you can exist in the liminal void for a while.

This card symbolizes the courage it takes to tune out the conventional wisdom you may be receiving and focus on the voice of your inner truth and human passion. You could be shifting how you engage with your career path and taking a fresh perspective or unorthodox approach to achieving your goals. When you commit to following your own desires over the expectations of others, you can emerge into a relationship with your work in a more conscious and dedicated way.

Love/relationship upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

temporary sacrifices, taking a pause on dating, releasing resentments from the past

purposeful pause or sabbatical from work, releasing attachments, courage

The Hanged Man Reversed Meaning

In the reversed position of a tarot reading, The Hanged Man suggests a need to examine old attitudes and behaviors which are no longer reflective or supportive of your current life. When you allow the time and space to reevaluate this stagnation, a genuinely new perspective on your life can emerge.

This card can appear when you are trying to force activity in a season of rest. It may be that the pace of life has slowed down, and while this may be frustrating, there is wisdom in tuning into the quiet. You could be trying to persevere through this discomfort with active problem-solving rather than listening for clues.

It suggests fighting against the flow of life rather than going with the current. It can show up when you are either stalling or resisting letting go of something or someone, clinging to outworn attachments, wrestling with indecision, or white-knuckling the control of your life. This card reminds you that the way through your discomfort is to surrender to it and listen for what it might be trying to teach you.

It can also appear reversed when you have internalized the wisdom of this card and are ready to emerge from a period of rest. You’ve assimilated its teachings and have a new perspective on your life, which you are ready to apply in grounded and practical ways. The sacrifices you’ve had to make can now be understood within a larger context, and you can feel proud of your ability to let life show you where you need to grow rather than forcing it to conform to your expectations and desires.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

This card can appear when you and your partner are emerging from a difficult period where your future was uncertain, you were forced to make sacrifices for the relationship, or you were feeling stuck in repeating negative patterns. This represents that you have learned the wisdom of this period by turning inwards and searching for new perspectives and are better equipped to meet challenges together moving forward.

It can also represent a period of emerging from solitude and back into the world of relationships. You may have been examining and releasing outworn patterns in relationships and building new tools for healthier ways of relating. With this new self-knowledge, you are prepared to welcome a new connection into your life.

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

In the reverse position, The Hanged Man suggests that you might be tuning out a deeper need for introspection with constant work and noise. You could be aware of an inner urge to slow down, pause, and rest, but fear of the unknown or the quiet may be preventing you from doing so. It is a reminder to take conscious time to reflect and slow down or risk feeling burnt-out and energetically drained.

This card can also appear reversed when you are emerging from a temporary sabbatical and are ready to return to work. You could be seeing the payoff and greater good resulting from sacrifices made earlier and the ways in which you can apply your newly acquired insights to your work.

Love/relationship reversed keywords

Money/career reversed keywords

coming out of difficulty, releasing old patterns, emerging from solitude 

distractions, tuning out the need for rest, burnout, returning to work

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