While the number 10 represents a periodic cycle in nature, like the days, the months, or the years, the number 12 represents a cycle completed but unable to renew itself except through a change in the principle which formed the basis for the cycle. The number 12 implies, therefore, a renunciation so that the cycle starting over again, if there is one, is not hindered by the operation of the preceding cycle and can re-orient itself according to a new and different principle. This is why this card is not directly related to the Strength card [La Force], but rather to the entire preceding series of cards, because it completes the first cycle, that of 12. The 22 Majors of the Tarot are, in effect, formed by the two cycles 12 + 10.
One could regard the 22 cards as consisting of 3 x 7 + 1, but this interpretation, which stands up to theoretical rigor, represents only an inferior aspect of the Tarot, secondary to the groupings of three (3 x 7), followed by the principle of Beginning (1) without connection to what came before.
It is the passive will of Man (2), facing a self-acting organization (10).
General and Abstract Meaning
This card signifies a halt or suspension in the evolutionary work of Man.
The representation of this suspension by an upside-down man indicates that a person who is elevated is a person who is low, and that all acts of Man on the material plane are reflected on the spiritual plane; this is to say, that Man leads the spiritual towards the material, and vice-versa, in order to make possible the union of these two aspects of the cosmos.
The Hanged Man’s blue slippers indicate that Man puts is clothed in spirituality while at the same time plunged into matter, and his red legs show that he directs to the Heights all his material acts of a lower order. His blue jacket with its yellow skirt signifies that Man submerges the spiritual into the material, since his head, that is to say what is normally his superior part, is at the bottom of this card, but also that he does so with intelligence and with the spirit of sacrifice; as his hands drawn behind his back prove, showing that this return into the material world is voluntary and that he accepts his destiny; by being buttoned up, his jacket indicates that he is willingly held in a state of sacrifice. The 9 buttons which keep his jacket closed and which, along with the buttonholes, create a polarity, represent with their groupings the three divine states and on the blue jacket, the ten phases of an evolution which lead to self-denial: they are white to indicate that this is determined by a spiritual synthesis.
This sacrifice must be undertaken without a calculated recompense; it is why his hands are hidden and his pockets are useless. By the way, through their relationship with the physical plane, upside down, they show that all material good acquired on the physical plane does not last. The white belt delineates the separation of the physic and the mental (the yellow part) and the determining role played by the later which, through the inversion of the hanging man, is above the spiritual (the blue jacket).
His arms, flesh-colored with red sleeves, recalls the links which connect Man to his passionate and vital powers, but his blue hair signifies that his spirituality remains firmly within him. The green of the ground from which the trees rise up indicate on the one hand that the sacrifice is a rich sowing which bears fruit, and, on the other hand, that they are also intellectual knowledge which directs Man towards his evolution.
The two trees which support the Hanged Man represent the Tree of Life, with their green branches extending sideways to form a portal, enclosing the man and subjecting him to a constant repetition of his struggles. The duality of the trees recalls the polarization of male and female. They are yellow because Man’s intellectual knowledge always elevate him towards profound and divine intelligence, and the six branches with red sections mark the six stages which the two poles of humanity must cover in order to evolve on the material plane.
The man is suspended from a green branch because he is often held up by the creations of science; the rope is white, which is to say, neutral, because Man is able to bind himself through an act of will. He does this in two ways: on the spiritual plane by his foot–that is to say, through himself–but also on the physical plane by his hands, in other words, through the spirit of sacrifice, and so he is not able to set himself free. However, he shows with his leg bent and loose that he is always able to get free. This would be the case, for example, with a deeply religious man hindered by his religious belief and, as a result, slowed in his evolution, unable to advance.
Orientation of the Figure
The position of the Hanged Man symbolizes latent activity.
Specific and Concrete Meaning
The name “LE PENDU” symbolizes a halt in preparation for a transition, a transformation, a passage from the concrete to the abstract and, consequently, a state of non-affectivity, an arresting of the power to act.
Meanings As They Relate to the Three Planes
MENTAL. Diverse possibilities, a reminder of the past, of the present, and of the future in the face of decisions to make or from which result hesitation. This card indicates things which have not reached sufficient maturation; the lack of a conclusion.
SPIRITUAL. A mask of determination, of indecision, particularly as relates to an emotional choice.
PHYSICAL. Forsaking of something or renouncing it, doubtful projects. Momemtary loss of the power of action. If some business were undertaken, it would remain dormant and not brought to realization without outside help.
With respect to health, circulatory troubles owing to the disharmony resulting from the position of the snagged foot.
INVERTED. Possible, but limping, success in a project, rather sentimental, disagreeable and without pleasure, because of the circumstances of the Hanged Man who is standing, but standing in a perverse state of balance and with his hands bound behind his back. Reticence and a hidden project.
In sum, in its basic sense, “LE PENDU” represents Man subverting his action in order to orient himself towards the spiritual, in a feeling, waiting, and in self-denial.