The Hanged Man – Suffering and Rebirth

hangedman

A young man hangs suspended by one foot from a tee shaped cross of living wood.  His hands appear to be tied behind his back and a glowing nimbus surrounds his head.

The key word in the description above is, “suspended.”  This card indicates a time out, a period during which the questioner may, “suspend,” life for a while and take a break to rethink and re-create his or her life.  The suspension of activities precedes a change in the person’s life and attitudes.

This actually happens fairly frequently in our society and in some cases we describe it as a mid-life crisis.  A person wakes up one morning and thinks, “What in the hell am I doing with my life? This sucks.” And, in more radical instances, they may quit their jobs, walk away from everything, and join a monastery or meditation center for a while to sort things out.

Even without taking it to those extremes this card represents a self-imposed period of sacrifice and relative isolation in order to grow spiritually or mentally.  On a romantic level it may indicate walking away from relationships for a while in order to become a more balanced person and have better relationships in the future.  On an employment level it may signal a need to quit a job that you don’t like and retrain for something that you will like. In any event, it always signals temporary sacrifice that allows the questioner to grow and improve in the future.

REVERSED:  Take a careful look at the sacrifices that you are making in life and be sure that they’re worth it and that something better will emerge as a result of them.  It may also indicate a strong desire for change without any ability to make it happen. A time when you’d really like something different to emerge but you just can’t take a break from your responsibilities and make it happen.

A Few More Thoughts About The Hanged Man:

There are actually two components to The Hanged Man.  One is suffering and the other involves a period of retreat leading to a spiritual rebirth.

In my experience many of the Tarot definitions which you find today – particularly those with a heavy New Age emphasis – tend to overplay the spiritual rebirth part and underplay the suffering.  It is, after all, the suffering which causes the spiritual rebirth in the first place.

A person who draws The Hanged Man in a reading has gone through the emotional equivalent of being hit in the face with a two by four.  They have gone through something that was so shocking, so devastating that it’s knocked them out of the orbit of their normal lives. They have to pull back, retreat, and rethink what their lives are all about.

I began pulling The Hanged Man on a consistent basis after the death of my life partner.  We’d been together for 19 years and suddenly the center of my universe, my reason for being, was gone.  The grief was excruciating, something I hope I never have to go through again and, at its’ core, was the knowledge that life would never be the same.  It took months of meditating, journaling, and pondering before I began to crawl out of that horrible black hole to put my existence back in order.

That’s the kind of incident that precedes The Hanged Man appearing in a person’s reading.  For some it may be a divorce or finding their spouses were cheating on them. For others it may be the sudden realization that they’ve been living a life without meaning or purpose and that our time on this earth plane is limited.

First there is the pain.  Then there’s a retreat from normal life which probably starts on the very basic level of licking your wounds and trying to not go crazy.  And then there’s an extended period of questioning what life is about, what your values are, and how you want to live.

The Hanged Man doesn’t move through your life quickly.  It’s not something that’s over within a few days or a few weeks.  This card can show months or even years of rebirth and regrowth. The good news is that you come out of the other side of it a much stronger and much better person.

Author: Dan Adair

Artist, writer, semi-retired wizard, and the author of, "Just the Tarot," by Dan Adair

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