The Hanged Man: Pause for Perspective

Tarot Stories
3 min readNov 9, 2020


Another one of the more complex cards, the Hanged Man initially felt a bit dark to me. It’s hard to describe exactly why, but perhaps it has to do with the association with the upside-down cross. Yet, clearly the cross is the right way up (the man however, is not) and the card appears to depict a scene that my be familiar to Catholics — the crucifixion of St. Peter.

The message in the card is a good one (and not at all dark!) I know in the future when I do pull the card, it will be an important reminder to stand still, to shift perspective and even let go — something I forget to do all the time as I keep pushing forward and get caught up in routine and busyness.


The Hanged Man from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

What you see: A man hangs upside down on a T-shaped cross made of living wood. His arms are behind his back, and his left leg is bent behind his right. The man wears red pants, a blue tunic and has a halo behind his head.

What it means: The Hanged Man upside-down symbolizes a different perspective, and his calm face indicates he is there by choice. His arms and head form an inverted triangle and the intersection of his legs form a cross, creating an upside-down symbol for sulphur (the masculine principle). The colour of his clothes and halo are associated with sainthood.

The story: As a character, the Hanged Man is the martyr or sacrifice on the route to success. As an event, is indicates a pause, or a reassessment or revaluation. As a relationship, it may indicate a need to let go or take a break. As a sign, it calls to suspend action and look with a different perspective.

As part of the Fool’s Journey: The Hanged Man is a period of pause; waiting patiently for something to happen.

Reversed meaning: If drawn upside-down (or in this case, the right way up?) it indicates speeding up, busyness or even unproductive stalling.

In mythology: The Hanged Man reminds of St. Peter who was crucified, but asked for it to be done upside-down as he didn’t feel like he deserved to die in the same way that Jesus did. It also connects with the Norse God, Odin, who hung himself upside-down from a branch of Yggdrasil, in order to be initiated into the mystery of the runes. He sacrificed himself, to himself.

Potential insights: The card indicates a rite of passage — we need to take pause and sometimes shift perspective to reconnect or reach a higher level of spirituality. Sometimes, this will be uncomfortable and will involve sacrifice.

As a battle the Sunday blues (let’s face it — Monday’s alright, Sunday is the real villain here) this card is a great reminder to enjoy the present: the weekend isn’t over yet and here’s at least enough time to re-watch Notting Hill for the 73,434 time!

My research sources:
A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Eden Gray, 1970
Tarot Card Meanings, Biddy Tarot
Card Meanings, Labyrinthos

Deck: The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®



Tarot Stories

A Canadian marketing strategist learning storytelling through the Tarot, and maybe finding the meaning of life along the way.