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Intro to Tarot the Fool's Circle

Communication Central

Tarot - the Fool's Circle of Life

The Hanged Man

by Danielle Astrid Ricard

For ease in writing, I will use the gender pronoun that best matches the illustration below - no sexism intended. To listen to Musical accompaniment, look for a small link in the text!

This Archetype is number 12 of 22 Trump or Major Arcana cards in the Tarot. While the remaining pip and court cards portray more mundane realities, these cards represent higher energies, karmic forces, powers beyond our control, and superhuman strengths. In the Thoth Tarot deck, the Hanged Man is ruled by Water

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man - Cat People Tarot

~ Sacrifice ~

I love the way this card shows a cat, softly resting on the Hanged Man's foot - as if to comfort him through his ordeal. Is he being punished for something?

The symbolism in this archetype is rich and deep, and found in nearly every mythological and religious tradition, yet this is one of the simplest cards to interpret in a reading. Sacrifice... the Hanged Man is giving up something dear to him, in this case maybe even his life. His reasons can be many or few - but ultimately, he is letting go of certain needs or desires in order to fulfill the needs of another, or group of others.

This is Martin Luther King going to jail for staging a sit-in, and finally losing his life to further the cause of racial equality. This is Jesus on the Cross - dying for our sins. This is Prometheus who is punished by the gods for giving us fire. This is Ghandi - leading countless others into deadly situations to make a stand for justice. These heroes KNEW they would be severely judged and punished. They knew they would suffer, yet their sacrifices had immeasurable value for those higher values they served - and they found the strength to go through with great pain in order to change the world.

We can see the shadow of the Hanged man in the alcoholic who gives up drinking to save her marriage, the entertainer who puts his career on the line to stand up for a cause, the mother who gives birth, and gives up work to be with her child, or conversely - who is forced to give up time with her child in order to feed her family.

The artist who gives up a nurturing relationship in order to fulfill his creative drive is sacrificing basic needs in order to make his mark in the world. Then - when he turns around and gives up his creativity to be with loved ones, he is sacrificing once again!

The Hanged Man shows up whenever we stop what we're doing to attend to the needs of someone else, and especially when it is painful to give up that necessity, basic drive or comfort. In many ways, he is the exact opposite of the Devil - who serves only his own selfish needs. This archetype represents the power within us to completely surrender some part of self in order to fulfill what we perceive as something greater, or at least temporarily more important. The Devil gives up his soul for some material gain, and the Hanged Man gives up some material gain for his soul. Ultimately, who do you think wins? Certainly the Hanged Man - because he spurns the fleeting comforts of human existence - knowing that our souls go on forever.

The Hanged Man has a cause very dear to his heart, and essential to his soul purpose and evolution. He may be a martyr, but he'll never tell you that. He doesn't look for pity - only understanding and love.

If I can accomplish just one thing in life, may it be that I continue to find the courage to keep sacrificing for what I know is right, and also know when to do so... to let go of those things that do not serve my higher purpose in life, and embrace those things that send me soaring closer to sainthood... surely a long way off, but at least I can try!

Back to Intro - and Links to Other Pages in this Series

MEDITATION: Contemplate a great sacrifice you have made in your life - and the purpose or cause that benefitted from that action.

PERSONAL DISCUSSIONS: When have you felt the energy of the Hanged Man? Have you seen it in other people? Have you had happy/sad experiences with this energy?

TAROT EXPERIENCE: Recalling a time when you may have you drawn this card, what were the circumstances surrounding it, and what did it mean to you? How do you feel this archetype affects the cards that come before or after?


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