The Hanged Man

PrudenceAlternative Card

Number: 12 | Element: WATER | Planet: NEPTUNE

Upright: New Perspective, Pause, Sacrifice
Reversed: Impulsiveness, Negative Patterns, Stagnation


The twelfth arcanum shows a young man suspended by his right foot, his left leg bending at knee-level with his hands behind his waist.

The fact that he is upside-down allows him to see the world from a very different perspective, which is an important starting point to interpret this card. Contrary to what could be expected, his facial expression is calm and serene, suggesting that he is hanging by his own decision in an act of self-sacrifice.

Parallelisms with the norse myth of Odin can be found. Odin hanged himself in the sacred tree, the Yggdrasil.

After nine days and nine nights at the Gallows, wounded by his own spear, Odin found the true knowledge of the Runes. This physical and psychological pain concedes Odin the opportunity to look at the Runes from a totally different angle and that is the right path to enlightenment. Our daily life routines and moral principles often become a blindfold that blocks us from seeing what really matters.

Around the card we can see a rectangle made of trees held by ropes. This shape usually represents stability, structure, law and order. The Hanged Man questions these concepts, so he can find ways to improve his perspective, by swimming against the tide. That way he will become more liberated. 

In the background, behind the dry trees, we can observe branches with leaves, a symbol of regeneration.

The Hanged Man, similarly to The Hermit, is a card of introspection and inner contemplation, so it aims at the potentiality of reflection and self-sacrifice towards enlightenment. The Hermit, however, drives us into the solitude of our unconscious mind,  while The Hanged Man works with our principles and beliefs –  it demands us to renounce these conventions, subduing our Egos by allowing us to see from diverse perspectives.

Upright Meaning and Interpretation

New Perspective, Pause, Sacrifice.

When The Hanged Man appears is a sign that you might be stuck in a situation that is not making you happy nor bringing you any good. You need to make a voluntary pause and to contemplate and think about your own life from a different viewpoint. Breaking patterns that no longer serve you and walking away from routine might help you see the big-picture. That way you will retrieve the power to release yourself.

If you are facing a dilemma, it is time to step away, relax and stop trying to control things.

Avoid impulsive decisions: patience is of the essence at this moment in your life.  Put everything on hold, for things will become clearer with time.

The universe may need you to slow down with an abrupt halt on your projects to force a change in your methods and formulas.

This happens for a greater good, just like when a good friend makes you see the truth – it hurts but it saves you from total disaster in future times.

Reversed Meaning and Interpretation

Impulsiveness, Negative Patterns, Stagnation.

The Hanged Man in reverse means that you are being impulsive and taking reckless decisions lately. Those might lead you into frustration and unhappy feelings. Perhaps you are in denial about yourself or reality, take a moment and stop fighting an invisible war. And let yourself be free of social pressure. 

By keeping yourself busy and distracted from your true problems, you just accelerate a dramatic snowball effect. Hold your plans for the necessary time and be patient.

Likewise, the reversed Hanged Man states that you are blocked and burdened due to some external circumstances that have you on hold. Again, avoid making impulsive decisions and wait.

Alternative Card:


Prudence stands at the number twelve just between the Strength and Temperance. This card follows the traditional allegorical depiction of the Virtue Prudentia.

In modern times, Prudence has become synonymous with cautiousness. This way, Prudence represents the state of being careful in the way we make decisions, avoiding unnecessary risks. Just like the Hanged Man, Prudence advises us to avoid impulsiveness in our decisions and to wait for the right time to act.

The most common elements to this allegory are the snake and the two heads. In the Gospel of Matthew, Prudence is a quality attributed to snakes, as a mirror that allows us to see different perspectives. The two heads are related to the past and future as determinant elements before any decision is taken – what happened before and what possibly happens afterwards.

The duality masculine-feminine is also visible (as a symbol of the balance between body and mind): while one looks up, the other one looks down, evaluating possibilities.