The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man in the Tarot of Marseilles

Card description:

A man hangs upside down from one ankle, the other leg bent at the knee. His hands are bound behind him. He hangs from a cross beam between two trees with truncated branches. A single leaf grows from the crossbeam. 

The Hanged Man’s body position is a symbol of life in suspension. He is the visual representation of a slow or fallow period in which growth and progress have halted. He has not been hung by the neck; he is not dead. He’s also not going anywhere.

If he were upright, the arrangement of his legs would mimic the symbol for Jupiter, which means expansion. Since he and the symbol are upside down, it lets us know this card is about restriction. His bound hands echo this idea, an illustration of his inability to move. 

The cut branches of the trees from which he hangs represent a cessation of growth. The green color of the cross beam and the tiny leaf growing from it is a promise that growth will come again, after this period of stillness is over.

Card meaning:

The Hanged Man isn’t going anywhere. His mobility has been limited. Though he isn’t in mortal peril, he also isn’t growing. 

This card indicates that everything is on hold for an indeterminate amount of time. This fallow period might be caused by his own hang ups or self-doubts or it could be imposed due to an external situation or someone else’s judgment. 

The Hanged Man also represents the capacity or tendency to put your own plans on hold to help another make progress, so it can be seen as a card of self-sacrifice or selflessness. 

As with all the times in which we are forced to wait, we can make use of the time or waste it. The Hanged Man’s mind is not bound the way his body is. He can still reflect on his situation, plan, and set goals for when things get moving again.


There will be delays or things won’t go quite right. Try to be patient with the situation. Don’t expect the world to wait while you are in limbo. Consider helping someone else even if it slows you down. If you can’t make progress, use the time to decide what your next steps will be. Resist the urge to hurry things along. New growth will resume once the time is right.

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