Tarot for Real Life: The Hanged Man

Work has been incredibly overwhelming lately. I’m supposed to be on the academic job market this fall, but dealing with the consequences of a negligent adviser means that my job materials are nowhere near where they need to be, and I was recently told I need to redo more than eight months’ worth of work from scratch, and I have at most two weeks to do it. I am drowning.

In light of this, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Hanged Man. I currently have neither the time nor the mental wherewithal to write a thorough, thoughtful post about this card and how it relates to my situation, but it’s been too long since I’ve updated the blog and I want to share something. So here is an excerpt from my most recent book, Tarot for Real Life, where I offer my interpretation of the Hanged Man and what it means when it shows up in a reading. I hope you enjoy this post, and I hope things quiet down soon so that I’m able to get back to giving this blog the attention it deserves.

XII. The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is one of the harder cards in the deck. Here, we see a man hanging from a tree with a noose wrapped around one leg. In this card, our worlds are—literally and figuratively—turned upside-down. The Hanged Man represents moments of suffering, confusion, and difficult trials that have to be undergone. Because of the connotation of capital punishment, the Hanged Man may also symbolize having to face the unpleasant consequences of our actions. Whatever this card brings to a reading, it’s not pleasant, and it involves pain and harship.

However, the suffering of the Hanged Man is never without purpose. Unlike with some cards in the deck, the Hanged Man always has a lesson to teach us: we suffer in order to learn. The saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” isn’t always true, but when the Hanged Man appears, there is something to be learned. The hardship we experience makes us stronger and wiser.

In this vein, it’s important to note that the noose is around the Hanged Man’s foot, not his neck—his pain is not lethal. His world has been turned upside-down, but this affords him an opportunity to view things from a new perspective, and when he eventually cuts himself loose, he’ll be wiser for the experience.


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