The Hanged Man

Alternative Names: The Traitor

Number: 12

Astrological Sign or Planet: Neptune

Element: Water

Hebrew Letter: Mem

Key Meanings: Waiting, sacrifice, and enlightenment

The Hanged Man card in Tarot symbolizes trial or meditation, selflessness, and sacrifice. The basic symbols of this card are a man hanging by one foot from a tau cross. His free leg is always crossed to form a “4” and his face is always peaceful. His hands may be either tied or dangling. At times, some coins may be falling from his hands or pockets.

Upright Meaning: Many writers see The Hanged Man as a card of self-sacrifice and martyrdom, but others view this tantalizing card as voluntary surrender to the process of achieving enlightenment. It may require giving up superficial pleasures and trivial activities in pursuit of a more spiritual way of life. The word sacrifice derives from the Latin sacrāre, which means to make sacred. Therefore, The Hanged Man may represent a sacred pursuit.

This card can indicate that a new commitment to the development of the inner self is demanded. You might need to spend time alone in order to re-evaluate just what is and what is not important to you. It may be very difficult to let go of old patterns—a relationship, a job, a worldview, a lifestyle, or a group of other people—but letting go is essential to your continued growth.

Reversed Meaning: The Hanged Man reversed can be a sign of rigid thinking and martyrdom. You may need to revise your expectations; what you think you want may not be possible. In the position, the card asks you if you are hanging on to a fantasy that may make you a victim rather than a victor. Take another view and liberate yourself from a contract or other obligation that cannot offer you what you want.

About the Deck: “Ciro Marchetti’s Tarot of Dreams” from