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The Hanged Man Reversed Meaning – Smith Waite Centennial

We turn back to the tarot suit of spirit, the Major Arcana, with The Hanged Man reversed coming up as our daily card. While the suit cards represent the four traditional elements—air, earth, fire, and spirit—the trump suit represents the soul. So these cards tend to be more existential in meaning, and they're often more intense.

The Hanged Man is no exception! And in the reversed position, it serves as a warning to go easier and judge less harshly. (Remember that there are many ways to interpret reversed or upside-down tarot cards, but in this Card of the Day free reading series, we're viewing reversed cards as a message about our impact on other people instead of our own place in the world.)

We have plenty more on today's fortune below. But before we delve into the card's meaning, let's explore the imagery in detail and consider the historical significance at play in this card. 

The Hanged Man tarot card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, detailed image description in body text, pictured with nazar evil eye charm on dark blue background

The Hanged Man card in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

In the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition of divination tarot cards, The Hanged Man imagery is very close to the traditional playing-card version. (See the third card from the right in the second row from the bottom for the 1650 Viéville tarot version of The Hanged Man or Le pendu.)

In the divinatory or occult decks that we use to tell fortunes today, as well as the original Latin-suited playing cards, The Hanged Man is most often hanged upside-down by the foot. But sometimes it's by the neck instead. Now, tarot fans might think the upside-down position of The Hanged Man is odd or mystical in significance. But fellow history buffs will probably know that upside-down hanging wasn't uncommon in the grizzly history of corporal punishment and execution. It was actually an official punishment for traitors in Italy and elsewhere in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The historical and religious significance behind The Hanged Man's meaning

Fellow Christianity nerds might also recognize the Biblical significance of The Hanged Man—which the figure's halo in the Rider-Waite-Smith version draws attention to as well. Saint Peter, one of Christ's 12 original disciples and the father of the Catholic Church, asked to be hanged upside-down when he was executed because he felt too humble to be killed in the same way as Jesus himself. (Incidentally, the upside-down cross is therefore a symbol of Saint Peter traditionally And it always strikes me as a little misguided when folks associate the inverted crucifix with Satanism or antichristian sentiment for this reason. But I digress!)

In any case, the historical context surrounding The Hanged Man tarot card, as well the figure's graceful expression and halo, evoke a meaning of wrongful persecution. An inversion of justice.

In the upright position, this card suggests righteous resolution to withstand the slings and arrows of the vengefully ignorant. But in the reversed position, it's much less congratulatory. Instead, our daily tarot card asks you whom you've been wrongly hanging out to dry.

Stop giving someone a hard time!

Basically, today's tarot card is pretty serious. It asks you to stop giving someone such a hard time. And unlike the reversed Page of Wands card, which suggested some gatekeeping tendencies in a creative field, remember that The Hanged Man is a Major Arcana card—so it deals with matters of the soul. This is a bigger deal than judging someone else's art. It means persecuting someone because of their identity itself.

In a world rife with discrimination, we all have to work to dismantle our internal biases. And the Hanged Man is your invitation today to assess your treatment of others. Have you been giving somebody a hard time because you just can't accept who they are? Or maybe you're not acting out, but you are judging them too harshly because to you, they represent something you just can't get on board with.

Reflect on this possibility today. Sometimes we can restore a little balance in the universe by restoring balance in ourselves. Don't always give yourself the benefit of the doubt when you want to lash out at other people. Intuition is a powerful thing, but it simply can't be trusted when patterns of discrimination have twisted it in on itself.

S.M. signature — Savanna Margaret's initials