The Hanged Man

The Space Between

"Surrendering to a higher being, causes a reversal in one's way of life.  In spiritual matters, The Hanged Man indicates wisdom, prophetic power, self-sacrifice.  May also mean suspended decisions, a pause in one's life.  A silent, unostentatious reversal of one's way of life, combined with perfect tolerance for the ways of other people, is the aim of the practical occultist."
-Eden Gray, The Tarot Revealed, 1960

Cathy McClelland, The Star Tarot, United States, 2017
Gaining inspiration from sci-fi, fantasy, and spiritual art from a variety of global cultuires, the American artist Cathy McClelland spent several years working on the series of vibrantly colored acrylic paintings that form her complex arcana.

The Hanged Man is the twelfth key to the Major Arcana in Tarot.  The Element of the Hanged Man is Water and the Planet associated with the Hanged Man is Neptune.

Qualities of the Hanged Man are Suspension, Sacrifice, and Meditation.  Alternate names for the Hanged Man are The Traitor, The Thief, Tau Cross, and Judas.  Symbols are The Tree, The Halo, The Triangle and The Cross

In German the Hanged Man is called Der Erhangte, Der Aufgehangte, and Die Prufung.  In French, Le Pendu.  And in Italian, L'Appeso, Il Traditore, and L'Impiccato.


A man hangs upside down, his right foot tied to a tree branch serving as the crossbeam of a gallows, constructed of a living tree.  In many decks, his hands are hidden behind his back, or they are clutching two bags of coins.  His left knee is free and bent, his body forming the shapes of both a triangle and a cross.  Around his head is a glowing nimbus or halo.  His blue shirt, in some decks, is emblazoned with crescents, representing calmness.  His red pants signify the passions of the body.  His yellow hair, yellow shoes, and halo, all depict the intellect.  The Hanged One's expression, surprisingly, is most often shown as serene and meditative.  He is not suffering or in pain.  His peaceful composure is a clear sign that his predicament is of his own volition.


The Hanged One has chosen his current state of his own free will.  He has not been forced; he has deliberately suspended himself in order to discover a new perspective and new way of seeing both the world and himself.  The Hanged One can also indicate total surrender or self-sacrifice for the greater good.  He asks us for readjustment and re-centering.  He advocates for stillness, for a shift in one's vision, in order to gain new understanding.  He simultaneously signifies change, tradition, and also a deep uncertainty.  He asks for meditative consideration, thought before action.  He is suspense, the pause, the brief respite before and after seismic shift.  He is the moment between the transitory void and a decision, the gap between choice and manifestation. 

Alejandra Luisa Leon, The Lioness Oracle Tarot, United States, 2017
The California-based artist integrates hand-cut collage art with a meditative creative technique to form one-of-a-kind tarot symbology.