The Hanged Man hangs upside down from an Ankh, the Ancient Egyptian symbol of eternal life. His spirit descends from the heavenly planes above and into the lower worlds of the created and physical. He surrenders willingly, feeling and observing the accumulation of all that he is. He purposefully sacrifices his actions and old way of life, in order to take passage into a new one filled with even deeper insight, and a grander awareness of all that is. He is akin to a baby, who flips upside down in a womb just before being born; held in a state of surrender between two worlds. He is about to give up his old life and enter into a new one.
The appearance of the Hanged Man is a call to surrender; a state where you are observing, integrating, and expanding inward with great emotional depth. In this there is a level of sacrifice – at the topmost level it is a call to sacrificial action as you wait for the “opportune moment”, but you can take this further if there is something in your life you wish to transcend, such as letting go of a bad habit or even doing a fast. Regardless, this card signifies that transformation is upon you, but there is no rushing into it – to try would be to put yourself at risk, and potentially step backwards in your flow towards completion.
The Hanged Man takes the flow of the Major Arcana and shifts the direction ninety-degrees in the direction of “metamorphosis”, beginning a new cycle by embodying the cessation of motion altogether, and expanding inwards to infinity and beyond! He is all about surrender, redemption, sacrifice, devotion, acceptance, and allowing.
In this card, we have Patch representing Jesus, Dionysus, Attis, and all the other archetypes of the “Sons of God” from Christianity and other ancient Mystery faiths. He hangs by an Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life – symbolizing the state of suspension between Heaven and Earth – he hangs awaiting his birth, like an unborn baby in the womb, who turns upside down awaiting a tremendous transition. He is immobilized, there is nothing for him to do but breathe and surrender to all that transpires both within him, and around him. Like the baby who must give up their womb and umbilical cord, or like Christ who chose to give up his body to experience resurrection – you too are called to make a sacrifice, even if that sacrifice is taking no further action until “the right time”.
In the background, there are many polarized states occurring simultaneously; a stormy night, a sunny day, a vibrant living field and a lifeless earth. These are the changes of life we must surrender to by our practice, both which we experience internally and externally. Below Patch is a serpent coiled in a bed of straw. The serpent represents both the lowest manifested realm (Malkuth on the Tree of Life), the place in which Spirit journey towards from its divine and formless state of existence. Upon arriving, the serpent also represents the Kundalini; the life force energy that we connect to in order to ascend upwards to heaven once more. His hands are pinned by the Hebrew letter called Tav, which is the binding force in the creation process, and links him with the Hierophant, thus describing his commitment to attaining higher consciousness and greater sense of spirituality.
The Hanged Man is a symbol of a turning point in life. All of the actions up until this point have been taken and are done with, there is nothing else for you to do but accept that each moment of your life has accumulated into this very moment. Now, allow the next one to transpire naturally, without rush or force; observe what happens next – wait until the opportune moment, and things will flow just right.
Take a deep breath; return to yourself. Suspend your actions, expand your thoughts. If there is something urgent you feel the need to do, see if you can take the time to reflect on it first; you may “see” but you do not “comprehend” – a change in perspective is necessary in order to truly “get it”. Try seeing a situation from another viewpoint to fully understand it, look at things in a new way.
The Hanged Man is in no rush, and invites you to do the same; remember, life is about the journey, not the destination. We are only passing through.
In essence, the reversal of the Hanged Man is a rejection of the state of surrender which your soul calls you to do. This comes with a loss of perspective; ultimately you are putting yourself in harm’s way as a rejection of your faith in your higher self. Doing so can be very damaging to your body of consciousness, because when we reject what we know in our hearts in favor of our egos, it further displaces us from our connection of the divine, and we lose sight of what is really important to us.
The reversal of the Hanged Man can even look like someone who has simply waited too long, and the “right time” to act has long since passed, leaving that individual feeling scared of change, and without any courage.
To turn this reversed card upright, we must effectively “put down” our egos, in light of a higher awareness or truth. This means slowing down, paying attention to our breath, and really looking carefully at the actions we all have been taking. Then humbly take a moment of prayer to listen to what Divine Spirit is really calling you to do – but we have to STOP in order to SEE. By doing so, and acting by the upright description of the card, we can correct the damage we are causing by our very reversal of the energy, and transcend it.
The Book of Thoth
The Golden Dawn
The Tarot Handbook