12. The Hanged Man

The art of ‘allowing’

Like the Fool, the Hanged man is a figure few people understand. Just as they laughed at the Fool, stepping so cheerfully and so lightly towards the cliff’s edge, here, they see a person hanging upside down from a tree…and seemingly fine with that. What gives?

If you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth – for you, at least. The Hanged Man represents independence from the flock, the willingness to see things differently, see them your way. It can point to critical thinking or awareness (especially when paired with other cards that deal with this theme) and it can represent courage.

The courage not to make snap judgements. The courage to give things time to unfold.

Because the Hanged Man is also about being ‘in limbo’. Patience. Waiting. You do not have all the information yet, and must wait and see what comes next. Doing nothing can be so much harder than doing something. We are so used to leaping right onto a situation and dealing with it quickly – it is an act of bravery and strength to simply hold back.

This is also about those spiritual practices that enable us to step back. Rather like an internal version of the Hermit – but where the Hermit physically claims space and time by going on retreat or carving out a space to be alone, as the Hanged Man, you create that space in your own mind. Again, this is a courageous act, and it requires strength and discipline.

Meditation. Mindfulness. Those adult colouring books filled with flowers and mandalas. Staring out to sea or lying in a floatation tank. The aim of such practices is not only to ‘get some peace and quiet’, but attain a level of spiritual awareness, a genuine inner peace. The ego is quieted, the chattering mind ceases, and we find a sense of peace, the ability to simply be, without judgement. Moments like these are awakenings.

It’s an art form (Ruth West’s Thea’s Tarot names this card ‘Art’.) The art of simply ‘allowing’. Peace with what is. Peace with self.

That’s why the hanging person on this card often has a halo. That’s why they don’t mind hanging upside down. It’s a choice. Doing nothing can be so much harder than doing something, but the Hanged Man has the courage, discipline and self-respect to do it.

Advice from the Hanged Man

Just as the Hanged Man observes the world upside down, this card can encourage you to take a different view. How does the truth appear to you? Never mind what everybody else is thinking, what is your truth? What do you see?

Where your question revolves around a decision, a ‘Should I…?”, the advice here is to hold back. Don’t act, not yet. Don’t make a decision. Remember that you do not have all of the facts. Take a passive approach, quiet your mind, reserve judgement. Simply watch and wait.

There are strong echoes of the Hermit here. How can you create peace and quiet, within yourself? Retreat, withdraw, if that feels right, but remember that this is about making space within your own mind. Try the practices mentioned above – meditation and mindfulness, sitting in nature – or look for other ways to achieve a sense of peace.

Above all, seek peace from your ego and its incessant demands on your spirit. Practice allowing yourself to simply be. Know that you are enough. Know that there is nothing outside of you that can validate or ‘fix’ you. Accept yourself as you are, without judgement.

Key words and concepts

  • Passivity
  • Holding back
  • Patience
  • Acknowledging that you do not know everything
  • Allowing events to unfold
  • Meditation and mindful practice
  • Inner peace
  • Independent thinking, taking a different perspective
  • Self-acceptance
  • Overcoming ego
  • Not being afraid of what’s inside you

Some common symbols

  • Hanging upside down (independent perspectives, your own truth)
  • Halo or other magical symbols (transcendence, enlightenment, inner peace)