The Hanged Man tarot card sits at number 12
The Hanged Man is traditionally suspended between two upright poles which are sprouting new growth. These leafy poles are the equivalent of two ace of batons, two active new potentials in life. He is suspended by his ankle symbolising that he renounces any pleasure or pain which might result from any action he chooses. This suspension by his foot also symbolises that he is choosing not to move forward in life as feet mobilise us. His hands are behind his back, symbolising that they are not being used, for hands rule touch, thought and action. With our hands we grasp at situations, both internally and externally. Hands hold on.
The Hanged Man’s legs are crossed in the same way as those of the Emperor forming a number 4, the number which rules one’s sense of “I AM” and ego. His bent knee symbolises flexibility and ability to bend to the will of a higher consciousness .
In some ancient tarot decks the Hanged Man was depicted letting go of money bags to symbolise both the renunciation of any reward, either financial or spiritual, from action, and that one’s knowledge of life thus far may yet be inadequate.
In its highest form the Hanged man represents “Action in non action.” Sometimes it is wiser to do nothing than to simply do something for the sake of action.
In practice the Hanged Man symbolises the questioner’s patience in a situation. They may be patient by nature or currently using patience before deciding on what to do.
Once again duality is signified and very often the questioner is presented with choices. To do this or that. Which is the correct action? Sometimes the correct choice cannot be made with adequate information from either deep within oneself or from another person. The Hanged Man commonly appears during house sales and purchases when so much depends on whether or not the other party has sold their property. All one can do is sit patiently and wait.
Alternatively the questioner is “sitting on the fence”, waiting for someone else to make a move first and therefore avoid culpability or blame. I recall seeing this very clearly for one woman who was intending to have an affair. Her marriage had broken down and she wanted to take a lover, yet refused to until her husband had an affair. “I will then be able to divorce him on adultery”, she said. Within two years that is exactly what happened and she eventually divorced him and saved face with her family by being seen as the one who was “squeaky clean”.
For others I have seen the Hanged Man as their need to be patient during both legal and business deals, thus allowing the opposition to show their hand first. The card frequently shows itself when the questioner is in a situation in which they can do absolutely nothing, and their hands are literally tied, while others do what they need to do.
Patience is a virtue, yet sometimes circumstances require that we stop waiting and take action before the vital moment is lost forever. That is when we find the Hanged Man reversed. Here he depicts impatience, or a need to stop hanging around and act. Many people are by nature patient and tolerant and find it difficult to take direct action. They wait for signals from their parents, husbands, wives or lovers before making a move. An absolute classic is when women say “I will start to be creative again once the children are grown up.” Yet it is in the here and now that their creative self is abundant and full of ideas.
I very often see another modern waiting game when clients ask the question of whether or not they will have children. Time and time again I see the same scenario of couples who are busy building their physical security in order to provide well for children and yet the time never seams right, they never have quite enough prosperity to feel safe enough to actually have the children. Here the Hanged Man comes up saying that the time is never “right” and that if they truly desire to have children that they need to get started rather than wait until it is too late.
Tarot interpretations need to be constantly adjusted towards modern day living and it is my clients who add insight, amusement and a fresh outlook to every single card. One young man asked the question, “And what about me and my mates. What do they think of me?” I asked him to take one card for the question and he turned over the Hanged Man. He laughed and smiled on seeing the image. “That’s summed it up,” he said. “My mates and I simply hang together. We don’t do anything, just hang…like mates do.”