The Hanged Man: The art of allowing

We are so used to leaping right onto a situation and dealing with it quickly – it is an act of bravery and strength to simply hold back.

The art of ‘allowing’

Like the Fool, the Hanged man is a figure few people understand. Just as they laughed at the Fool, stepping so cheerfully and so lightly towards the cliff’s edge, here, they see a person hanging upside down from a tree…and seemingly fine with that. What gives?

If you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth – for you, at least. The Hanged Man represents independence from the flock, the willingness to see things differently, see them your way. It can point to critical thinking or awareness (especially when paired with other cards that deal with this theme) and it can represent courage.

The courage not to make snap judgements. The courage to give things time to unfold.

Because the Hanged Man is also about being ‘in limbo’. Patience. Waiting. You do not have all the information yet, and must wait and see what comes next. Doing nothing can be so much harder than doing something. We are so used to leaping right onto a situation and dealing with it quickly – it is an act of bravery and strength to simply hold back.

This is also about those spiritual practices that enable us to step back. Rather like an internal version of the Hermit – but where the Hermit physically claims space and time by going on retreat or carving out a space to be alone, as the Hanged Man, you create that space in your own mind. Again, this is a courageous act, and it requires strength and discipline.

Meditation. Mindfulness. Those adult colouring books filled with flowers and mandalas. Staring out to sea or lying in a floatation tank. The aim of such practices is not only to ‘get some peace and quiet’, but attain a level of spiritual awareness, a genuine inner peace. The ego is quieted, the chattering mind ceases, and we find a sense of peace, the ability to simply be, without judgement. Moments like these can bring awakenings.

It’s an art form. (Ruth West’s Thea’s Tarot actually names this card ‘Art’.) The art of simply ‘allowing’. Peace with what is. Peace with self.

That’s why the hanging person on this card often has a halo. That’s why they don’t mind hanging upside down. It’s a choice. Doing nothing can be so much harder than doing something, but the Hanged Man has the courage, discipline and self-respect to do it.

Interpreting the Hanged Man in a tarot reading

Just as the Hanged Man observes the world upside down, this card can encourage you to take a different view. How does the truth appear to you? Never mind what everybody else is thinking, what is your truth? What do you see?

Where your question revolves around a decision, a ‘Should I…?”, the advice here is to hold back. Don’t act, not yet. Don’t make a decision. Remember that you do not have all of the facts. Take a passive approach, quiet your mind, reserve judgement. Simply watch and wait.

There are strong echoes of the Hermit here. How can you create peace and quiet, within yourself? Retreat, withdraw, if that feels right, but remember that this is about making space within your own mind. Try the practices mentioned above – meditation and mindfulness, sitting in nature – or look for other ways to achieve a sense of peace.

Above all, seek peace from your ego and its incessant demands on your spirit. Practice allowing yourself to simply be. Know that you are enough. Know that there is nothing outside of you that can validate or ‘fix’ you. Accept yourself as you are, without judgement.

Cards shown in this post are from (in order from top): the Laughing Eye, Weeping Eye Tarot, the Small Spells Tarot, the Botanica Tarot and the Hidden Light Tarot (all available in the Little Red Tarot Shop).

This is an excerpt from A Card a Day
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  1. if we look at the hanged one in the deck, we will see that they are upside down. they are NOT flowing with the “traditional” customs in the world.. they are instead flowing in an opposite direction. The card is about REVERSING our life so that we follow our Self and spirit and NOT the world.. it is not a card of patience or allowing… it is simply being true to our Self and NOT the world… when we do this, we do NOT conform to anything in this world, as this world is based on the human ego and NOT the spiritual self. This is the TRUE meaning of this card.. all other “imposed” ideas are not correct. One must truly understand the tarot in order for it to be of benefit in one’s life. thankyou

  2. Maggie says:

    Thank you Beth for such a perfect message. I have an opportunity to pause and listen to myself and for once not to charge ahead. A beautiful and powerful opportunity.

  3. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m about to embark into my personal year of The Hanged Man and it’s a card that I’ve always struggled with. This has provided a lot of interesting insights for me to take forward as I start to turn upside down.

  4. Madelene Antrim says:

    The Hanged Man is a challenging card for me. After my daughters death, six years ago, I frequently drew this as my daily card. Over and over. For YEARS. It reminds me of the story of Inanna and how she hung on the hook in the underworld, not knowing when, if ever, she would be released. My life paused in many ways, and I felt so stuck. It made me angry, and sad. I feel like I’m finally coming out of that (now) seven year cycle. It’s been almost seven years since I got the diagnosis that ultimately lead to her death, less than an hour after she was born.

    It’s a very wintery feeling card to me. Where everything seems to be in stasis. But the wheel turns and slowly I’m being reborn and growing out of the earth. Sometimes we just have to hang, and let it be, and try to find peace in the place we’re at.

  5. Mila says:

    Oh, I’m so grateful to you for this article, Beth!
    Thank you very much. That means something to me I just needed to know, to remeber that simple watching of things are going on is sometimes very helpful to look deep inside of yourself.
    Sending you much love!! ???

  6. Hi Beth,
    This is a significant post for me. I’m currently left hanging so to speak, waiting for a decision to be made that will affect the future I have planned so carefully. I have no control over the issue and my first instinct was to leap into the drama. I’m reminded of Odin and his ordeal and I think that if he (even mythically) was able to endure that, I should take his lead. You are so right, it does show courage to sit back and hold back. It’s so difficult! Funny you mention the Hermit, that’s me and that’s my card. I think I’ve figured out how to create peace within myself…but I still feel like the Hanged Man, seeing the world from a different viewpoint. This should be a good thing, but it makes me feel so alone.
    Thanks for your post,

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