Is The Hanged Man A Bad Card?

Is the hanged man a bad card

“Hanged” isn’t generally a word that gives people the warm fuzzies, so many people are apprehensive when The Hanged Man makes an appearance in their tarot readings. Is the Hanged Man really a bad card though?

In short, no. The Hanged Man might have a bad reputation, but it isn’t necessarily a bad card. It may not always be telling you what you want to hear when it appears in a reading, but it can often offer helpful insight in a variety of situations.

This card could arrive in a reading for a variety of reasons. Some things that he can symbolize include decisions, sacrifice, new prospective and insight, waiting, or transition and letting go.

I also wrote another article about the Hanged Man card that is a good supplement to this one: What does the Hanged Man reversed mean?

Table of Contents

The Hanged Man Tarot card itself

The Hanged Man
The Golden Tarot by Liz Dean

In order to understand the many meanings that The Hanged Man may be sharing, we must first consider the art on the card and what it implies. In many decks including the classic RWS deck (Rider-Waite-Smith deck), this card shows a young man hanging from a tree by one foot.

Many sources including Trusted Tarot agree that it is likely that the hanged man is there of his own accord, and it is even possible that he was strung up there by his own hands.

The reason it is believed that The Hanged Man has chosen to put himself in the uncomfortable position is that the look on his face is not distressed or unhappy, but instead quite comfortable or even serene.

The colors on the card may hint at his decision as well. On the traditional Rider Waite Smith card, he is shown wearing red pants and a blue shirt, representing passion and knowledge.

The halo around his head combined with the fact that he is hanging upside down is often taken to symbolize new insight and perspective.

The Hanged Man is one of the cards in the Major Arcana. I’ve written a guide for reading the Major Arcana here, this article could help supplement the information here.

Interpretations of the Hanged Man

Let’s review the various interpretations of the hanged man tarot card and why this is not necessarily a bad card to receive during a reading.


The indication that you should wait is just one of many possible interpretations of this card.

If you are considering a purchase, a move, a life change, a new job, or you’re sitting on any other large decision, the appearance of this card in your reading might be the universe’s/your deity’s/your deck’s way of telling you that you should wait for a while before you make the final call.

That’s because a common message received from The Hanged Man when he appears in a tarot reading is “now is not the time to act”. The Hanged Man knows that some decisions should not be rushed so he may appear to remind you of this.

The Hanged Man may want you to wait on making a change for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the opportunity in front of you is not as good as it appears to be.

It’s also possible that he is trying to guide you toward a decision that will keep you from missing out on an even more exciting opportunity in the future.

A third reason that The Hanged Man may want you to wait on a decision is that he wants you to be sure you have all the information you can get before you make your choice.

Sacrifice and compromise

Sometimes the path we need to follow is clear, but it isn’t the one that we want to choose. The Hanged Man may appear in this sort of situation to help guide you on your way.

We don’t know the story behind his decisions to bind himself to the tree, but it is possible that he has done it because it will benefit him or someone around him.

You may find yourself turning to your cards for insight on a situation where you are having trouble accepting that the thing you want to do, and the right thing to do, aren’t the same thing. The Hanged Man may turn up in this reading to steer you away from the wrong path, even if it is the path that you would prefer to take.

He reminds us that we must sometimes sacrifice what we want in the moment in order to achieve a great outcome.

This interpretation of the card may be part of why it is sometimes seen as a “bad” card. Nobody wants to be told things that they don’t want to hear, but we shouldn’t get upset with the messenger.

It’s important to remember that each decision we make will impact what happens to us in the future. The Hanged Man knows this and wants to help guide us toward a good future even if it means we will resent him for it.

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New prospective

We usually see the world from the same angle, through the same eyes. If The Hanged Man appears in your reading, he may be indicating that it is time to look at a situation in a new light. After all, he is certainly seeing things differently now that he is hanging upside down.

This need for a new perspective could mean that you should look at a situation from someone else’s point of view. It could also mean that you are forgetting to consider certain aspects of a situation when making a decision about something.

Sometimes though, this need for new insight could apply to your life as a whole.With a busy everyday life, it is easy to fall into routines and stop seeing the magic and beauty in the world.

It is equally easy to begin to take friends, loved ones, or other great things in your life for granted.

The appearance of The Hanged Man in your reading may be an indication that it is time to look at the world and your life from a different angle and take the time to appreciate and honor what is in front of you.

Letting Go

Yet another possible interpretation of The Hanged Man is that it may be time to let go. Interpretations like this have probably also contributed to The Hanged Man’s reputation as a “bad” card.

It isn’t always easy to be told that it’s time to let go.  This interpretation could apply to a number of circumstances:


Perhaps you’re finding yourself wondering about a relationship. Romantic or platonic, sometimes people grow apart. When this happens, it may be difficult to accept that the best course of action may be to let go of a person.

The Hanged Man may turn up in your reading to help you realize that it is okay to let go.

Here’s an article about best tarot spreads for relationships. Another, discussion regarding the best tarot spreads for love.


Many of us are pack rats, there’s no denying it. If you pull this card during a spread, it may be an indication that it is time to remove some of the clutter from your life.

Bad Memories

We all have memories that never leave us. Some of them are good, but others can be painful and difficult to live with. Although it is not always possible to truly forget a painful memory, we can choose to take the necessary steps to move on.

That might involve forgiving someone who hurt you, accepting your own mistake, or even seeking therapy, but The Hanged Man wants you to know that it is time to stop letting these memories hurt you.

I wrote an article about unlocking your hidden powers and manifesting your desires. This article has some effective methods to release the bad and focus on the good memories and aspects of your life.


Plenty of people live and deal with various types of addictions. Although it is never easy, The Hanged Man may be appearing in your reading to remind you that you are not alone and to encourage you to seek help.

No matter what it may be time to let go of, it is important to consider that this may be what the card is here to tell you.

An unfair reputation

Looking at all of the possible interpretations mentioned here, it isn’t hard to see why The Hanged Man is a card that sometimes gets a bad reputation.

Nobody likes to be told that they should break up with someone, that they have to keep waiting before they can achieve the thing that they’re waiting for, or that the right thing to do is the exact opposite of what they want to do.

This undesired news is especially undesirable when it is coming from a deck of cards. Whether we like what we’re being told or not though, there is no point in reading tarot if you aren’t going to consider what our decks are trying to tell us.

We may not always hear what we want to, but we shouldn’t blame The Hanged Man telling us about it. He’s just here to help.

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