3 Ways to Read The Hanged Man

In its shapes, forms, and construction, the Tarot's Hanged Man is rather simple compared to many of the other cards saturated with symbology. Yet The Hanged Man remains one of the most mysterious images in the deck.

Often regarded as a representation of martyrdom or sacrifice, The Hanged Man embodies so much more. Though it depicts the figure of a man hanging head-down on a cross-like tree, he appears to be far from death. The shape of his body (with one knee bent and arms behind his back) looks almost like that of a dancer, especially if you view him reversed (right-side-up). His crown is illuminated with a halo of warm light. Even the tree from which he hangs is verdant, covered in clusters of green leaves.

To me, The Hanged Man represents an attempt to convene with the spiritual forces that can dramatically alter our lives. Like a yogi in an inversion, The Hanged Man has willfully placed himself in an uncomfortable position in order to gain a new, fresh perspective that comes with a quick rush of blood to the head.

In a reading, The Hanged Man can pose some difficulty, depending on the context. Through my encounters with him, I have been able to map out three prominent meanings or characteristics to keep in mind when he pops up in your next spread.  

1.     Individuality

"His head glows with the radiance of his autonomy."

The Hanged Man hangs alone. He lacks the company of peers, rulers, angels, or even animals, which we find elsewhere in many cards throughout the deck. His experience of the world is his own, and is one that may not be understood by others. The Hanged Man’s plight is to perceive the world from an opposite angle, to deviate from the norm.

The Hanged Man from  The Golden Tarot ,  The Efflorescent Tarot  by Penny Coin Archer, and  Personal Space Tarot

The Hanged Man from The Golden Tarot, The Efflorescent Tarot by Penny Coin Archer, and Personal Space Tarot

We are so often herded by society into paradigms that are mostly arbitrary and not of our own creation. The Hanged Man takes a different approach, willfully altering his perspective and allowing his inner thoughts to guide him. His head glows with the radiance of his autonomy. His body reclines in an impossible position, discarding society’s instructions to blend in. He is enlightened, having found total freedom through his own self-awareness and acceptance, regardless of his physical entanglements.

As a representation of individuality, I see The Hanged Man not as the selfless martyr, but as the self-aware nonconformist who has dedicated himself to the task of free-thinking. When you see him in a reading, he may be an indication that you need to let go of an unattainable lover, and learn to love yourself, or that you need to let go of the prescribed notions you may have about life, spirituality, or your own place in it all.  

2.     Active Experience of Receptivity


Many cards in the Major Arcana are archetypal representations of a concept. The High Priestess is an archetype of receptivity for the subconscious, a passive representation of received inner wisdom. The Hanged Man is receptivity in action. Imagine him climbing up the tree and positioning himself upside down, hanging himself—not as an act of self-harm, but active surrender to experience. The Hanged Man represents someone opening himself to what I call Creative Forces, an external magic/energy that flows through us, what we might call inspiration, spirit, communing with the subconscious. The concept of active surrender is one of the card’s paradoxical charms—we often say The Hanged Man gains control by letting go.

‘Sensory gating’ is a natural brain function that filters out much of the sensory stimuli we encounter to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed by our very existence! We are biologically hardwired to wear a mental armor against the onslaught of experience. The Hanged Man is removing that armor, even if only momentarily, becoming vulnerable to the full experience of life and its sensuality, emotions, and spiritual forces. He is opening himself to creative forces, much like The Magician, inviting that energy to move through him like a current. This creative juice is then emitted in the golden nimbus around his crown, suggesting a creative enlightenment only be attained through receptivity.

In a reading, this characteristic of The Hanged Man might be seen when someone is concerned with the direction of a creative project, struggling with writer’s block. The Hanged Man suggests the seeker submit to radical vulnerability with the creative forces that exist outside of us, and allow that energy to flow freely through the seeker.

3.     Meditation

The Hanged Man is interested in matters of the spirit.

The Hanged Man has always appeared to me to be suspended in a kind of meditation. When he appears in certain readings, I take this as a message to stop everything and meditate. Whether that means you actually sit down, cross your legs, and dust off your meditation practice, or just allow all the pressures and concerns of life to be contained elsewhere for a while, dedicating the space and time for reflection is one of the most important methods of self-care we have available to us.

The Hanged Man doesn't concern himself with the anxieties of daily life. He's interested in matters of the spirit. This is revealed to us through that glowing nimbus he is so famous for, and the impractical position of his body, which allows him to do nothing but hang! Sometimes, his message to us is simple: just hang (suspend, stop, quit trying and just be). It's easy to make mistakes and get overwhelmed when life’s pace becomes to hurried. Sometimes the most important thing is to take a break from the rat race and reconnect with whatever nourishes us most.  

Signing Off,
Claire Bowman

The Hanged Man Reversed (Tales from Real Life Readings)

The Hanged Man

FROM CECILY: I once conducted a reading for a rather drunk gentleman in a banana costume at a Halloween party. For parties, I always shuffle and present the cards upright to keep the deck fresh and avoid the complexity of reversed cards in shorter readings where time is limited. Nevertheless, Banana Man managed to reverse some of the cards and his Past / Present / Future spread appeared as Eight of Cups (the need to leave a situation behind) / The Hanged Man Reversed (an inability to shift perspective or let go) / Eight of Swords (the self-imposed confinement that accompanies the inability to see reality and oneself honestly). 

I had a hard time talking to Banana Man—he wanted to do most of the talking—but he did tell me a heartbreaking story about his fiancé leaving him abruptly after a tragedy in her life. In his tale, I could hear hints of feelings and needs that his fiancé was trying to communicate, but that he couldn't quite see. He could not view himself as anything but a victim, and the reversed Hanged Man in his reading was a sharp and dead-on indicator of where he was—stuck in a singular and limited view.

The reading was quite difficult and unproductive, and I ended up hurting his feelings after he told me he was a really great listener and I responded by pointing out that he'd been talking through most of the reading. I lost him after that, but he wasn't fully present or receptive to begin with. His was the worst reading I've had ever (by far), and I was a bit devastated that I couldn't reach him. But The Hanged Man Reversed was a sign for me that Banana Man just wasn't ready for the harder truths he needed to accept in order to grow and move forward. 

Why We Love Tarot So Dang Much

 Cecily and Taisia, writers' league of texas storycorps event

 Cecily and Taisia, writers' league of texas storycorps event

Typewriter Tarot is a collective of practiced Tarot readers based in Austin and Houston, Texas. We offer private readings in person or remotely (via FaceTime or Skype), as well as readings for couples, readings for events, parties, pop-ups, openings, or any festive gathering.

With this installment, we officially launch our blog, Tarotgasms, where we'll post all sorts of information, guidance, and juicy tales, including:

  • Advice, tips, and strategies for beginning and practicing Tarot readers
  • Anonymous and illuminating stories from our work with the cards
  • Our own writing and reflections related to Tarot
  • Any number of things related to magic, the mysterious, and the uncanny
  • Insights into healing practices, psychology, and personal and spiritual growth
  • Interviews with other practitioners, healers, and wise souls
  • Reviews of books, podcasts, products, and Tarot decks

To kick off our digital Tarot scroll, it seemed proper to first acknowledge and honor the tool and practice that brought us here. Below, you’ll hear from each member of our Tarot collective (you can learn more about us here) about why we feel so devoted and passionate about this ancient and mysterious practice.

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Cecily on Why She Loves Tarot

About a year ago, I made a huge change in my life, went through butt-loads of therapy, and finally started to feel more integrated, peaceful, and powerful. As cliché as it sounds, the experience was so meaningful that I wanted some way to repay the karmic debt I felt for the help I received. Around this time, Tarot surfaced in my life again, and I embraced it completely, became a student, and then a practitioner. I'm continually awed by the cards’ ability to forge connection, openness, and receptivity. They allow us to confront ourselves—our behaviors, patterns, and gifts—with an elegant objectivity, without the terror of judgement, criticism, or crippling self-realization. They are, after all, just pieces of paper printed with images, yet the right cards seem to always emerge at the right time. It’s as if they have a voice of their own—a voice that speaks honestly, but in our best interests. Tarot has allowed me to “regift” the lessons I’ve learned to others who seek guidance, clarity, and meaningful paths forward. After a reading for clients, I often hold the cards in my lap and offer gratitude, amazed they’ve “done it” yet again. I won’t ever fully understand exactly how they work. I just know they do.


Claire on Why She Loves Tarot

Tarot wasn’t something I became interested in until recent years. A friend invited me to a Tarot class when I was in graduate school, and I agreed to go on a whim. I was instantly hooked. The images on the cards captivated me as works of art, and as symbols that represent a broad spectrum of human experience. The simple act of reading a tarot spread reminded me of reading a poem—making associations between a few bright images to connect them into something resembling a story, or part of a story that helps us see ourselves more clearly. Now, Tarot is part of my daily life; it is something that provides ritual to my mornings with a daily draw, and a way for me to connect with people. There is nothing more exciting than doing a reading for a friend, and finding that the cards, in typical fashion, perfectly reflect their life at that moment. Tarot has been an abundant, creative tool for my writing, and has brought me closer to my friends as we work through the simplest and the deepest problems in our lives by consulting the uncanny wisdom of the cards.


Lucy on Why She Loves Tarot

As a teenager, I became enthralled with Tarot, palmistry, and life’s mysteries. After taking a long hiatus of traveling, exploring life in more than ten different states, working a variety of jobs ranging from photographer’s assistant to training doctors for the VA, I came full circle to embrace the mystic and the power of Tarot once again. Tarot readings give me a feeling of deep connection with my intuition. When reading for others, I see clients light up with a renewed energy to tackle upcoming obstacles in their lives. I can detect a powerful therapeutic release of pent up and ignored impulses. I love Tarot for the connections it forms and the moments where those connections become obvious—seeing a person’s eyes light up and shine with hope and possibilities, knowing they are fully equipped to tackle any hardship, that they have the strength to weather any storm and trust their intuition to take the next step.

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Taya on Why She Loves Tarot

Tarot’s presence in my life may seem inevitable now, but before I started exploring it, Tarot seemed weird—in a bad way. So, when a friend invited me to a class on learning the Tarot, I was skeptical. But the storytelling aspects of reading a spread, the rich symbolism of the deck, and the stunning insights offered by the cards won me over that very day. Quickly, Tarot became one of my very favorite things to do, and one of my top ways to spend time with people. In a social setting, I love how Tarot can take you from casually sipping wine one moment to acknowledging deep truths the next. That sudden intimacy, that sharp drop from the ordinary to the extraordinary, is nothing less than magic. Tarot’s balance between playfulness and seriousness is exactly where I like to dwell, and I think everyone who’s had a good Tarot reading feels the same way—thrilled and satisfied by the contact they’ve made with a more profound understanding of their lives.”

We could go on and on about all the ways we love Tarot. And we will! But this is more than enough for now. Thanks for reading! Let us know if we can read for you!