Upside Down: The Hanged Man

From one of my challenge cards, Justice, we move on to one of the cards that sometimes feels threatening or scary for clients who aren't used to tarot imagery. The Hanged Man does, after all, typically show you someone who's literally turned feet over head. But by infusing your readings with some positivity and perspective, it's possible to find opportunity in this precariously positioned Major Arcana character.

Deck used: Divina Tarot (Mary Elizabeth Evans, Spirit Speak)

Deck used: Divina Tarot (Mary Elizabeth Evans, Spirit Speak)

The Hanged Man shows someone whose world has been flipped. Things aren't working out the way you expect them to, situations have you thinking on your feet or walking on eggshells, and people you encounter just don't fit the neat little boxes you perceive them to fit into. One quality I love about the Hanged Man is how unperturbed he is despite all the unexpected circumstances he finds himself in. The Divina Tarot's take on the Hanged Man is markedly different because it doesn't show the actual man suspended upside down. The energy of the card is still present, however. The bound hands represent restriction—especially in a part of the body that we use to reach out to the world. But we see the bird in flight and are reminded of how this dis-ease we feel can actually bring us to a freer place.

There is no place I feel Hanged Man energy more literally than in yoga asana. When you're up in a headstand or handstand for the first time, there is fear and a lot of questioning. Can I hold this pose without a wall? Am I strong enough to stay here? The more jittery you feel in this upside down position, the more likely you are to collapse and fall over. But if you're able to find some ease and are able to connect to your breath, you can actually hold the inversion without drama.

Decks used: Centennial Smith-Waite (Pamela Colman Smith, US Games), Wooden Tarot (Skullgarden), Lumina Tarot (Lauren Aletta, Inner Hue), Metro Tarot Cards (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Decks used: Centennial Smith-Waite (Pamela Colman Smith, US Games), Wooden Tarot (Skullgarden), Lumina Tarot (Lauren Aletta, Inner Hue), Metro Tarot Cards (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Pretty Standard Stuff About the Hanged Man (check out the Centennial Smith-Waite, Wooden Tarot and Lumina Tarot depictions pictured above):

  • The halo beneath the head of the Hanged Man in the classic RWS can represent the enlightenment that comes from being placed in a dicey situation. The light behind the bat's head can also represent this very same insight.
  • We see the Lumina Tarot's arms crossed in front of him, possibly a mark of contentment and comfort in the pose. He's not flailing his arms out and perhaps he knows that staying still can be a simple act of self-preservation.
  • If you turn the classic RWS Hanged Man around, you will find that his leg position is exactly the same as that of The World's woman. I like to think that this shows how he's well on his way to figuring things out by living his story (this could also be represented by the infinity symbol and tree of life of the Lumina Tarot's Hanged Man).

But what about cards that go off the beaten path? (see the Metro Tarot depiction in the photo.)

  • He's wearing a blazer, which to me, says that he means business. There's absolutely no need to diminish the importance of the times in our lives that catch us unawares. They're important — and if we give them as much attention as they deserve, then we can find ourself empowered enough to handle them.
  • The flowers behind his head as he hangs upside down can stand for the inevitable growth and creativity that can spring during times of dis-ease — as long as we can quiet ourselves!

How are you feeling about the Hanged Man, tarot tribe? I hope my own observations bring you some new insight that could help you with your own tarot study and readings. On to one of the most popular cards of the Major Arcana next week, Death *insert scary music*. :)