The Hanged Man (Trump XII) is a card of opposites, paradox, waiting, and patience. This is the card for my 38th year.
Every year I draw a tarot card for my birthday. Reviewing the cards I’ve drawn in the past, and the years I’ve had alongside them, allows me to view my own life through the lens of the Hero’s Journey, which is really the story of the Major Arcana.
The Trumps, 22 in number, all symbolically represent the stages of the mystical journey of Fool-to-Magus and back again. It is within the view of that larger Great Work that the Hanged Man is best understood.
This is the place in the Hero’s Journey when the Magician sheds the mortal coil, forsaking the physical to mystically unite with the spiritual.
This is a card of transition. Symbolically, transitions such as baptism and death will move us between worlds, between levels of understanding so great that they move our very consciousness from one reality to another.
This is the transition that readjusts the world, once you re-perceive it with awakened eyes, the journey between before and after.
From The Corax:
The Hanged Man is a symbol for the turning points in life, showing a need to stop and assess a situation. We’re hanging in the air until we find a new view of the things around us, a proper way to rearrange or restart.
But the Hanged Man is a ‘silent’ card – there’s no pressing need for change. No big change is waltzing towards us – we can peacefully keep on hanging and complaining. The Hanged Man just shows that we’re just ‘hanging’, he requires a new viewpoint, and sometimes a lot of patience.
In its positive aspect, the card shows the need for a time of consideration, the forced relaxation gives the opportunity to relax and reflect, to sort thoughts and ideas and find a new way to cope with a situation.
The Hanged Man is straddled over limbo, at peace with his sacrifice, attaining enlightenment because of it. He is at the position of changing perspectives, when the focus on the material world is shed in favor of deeper spiritual understanding.
What a powerful card for this year!
Interpretation of The Hanged Man
The easy (and incorrect) way to interpret this card is the sacrifice. The loss of something dear. While a loss may occur, it is usually in the context of a changing system of values, transmuting what used to be important into the dross that is no longer necessary.
So yes, sacrifice is what this card is made of – but it is a sacrifice of what is no longer necessary, and it is only through the transition of this sacrifice that we are able to lose nothing.
“The important thing is to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
– Charles DuBois
I could interpret this card through the lens of my career, or my finances, and optimistically assert that my transition of perspective this year will enable me to either gain a great fortune, or to realize that such monetary wealth is trivial and unimportant.
Or I could pessimistically fret that there is some injury or loss in my future year, one which could break my body (like a Parkour injury) or portend a grave illness in my close family. There’s good reason to interpret the card this way, as it foretells a transition from the physical to the spiritual realms.
Traditionally, I see The Tower (XIII) as the card that rules such reversals of fortune, while The Hanged Man is where we sanctify ourselves before any loss can affect us. The element of Water, whose symbolism is plentiful in this card, illuminates the path upon which we can follow this card with grace: in flow, always bending and flexible, allowing everything that happens to be exactly how it is.
Any one of these interpretations could be valid, but like the card of this year, I withhold any firm interpretation, and instead, I will just wait and see.