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Another view of the Hanged Man

August 11, 2012

17th C. Hanged Man -- Jacques Vieville In our modern Tarot understanding (especially since the Order of the Golden Dawn over a century ago), the Hanged Man is seen as signifying things like surrender, a willing self-sacrifice, suspension of activity, and viewing things from a reversed point of view. Centuries ago, however, this card was viewed as being a traitor due to the fact that traitors were sometimes hanged upside down. In fact, among early interpretations, this card actually “is referred to in Italian as Il Traditore (The Traitor) [since] hanging a man from his feet was … a way of punishing traitors in Italy, one particularly painful and humiliating.” (Ref: Tarotpedia)

A similar association we may draw is that of shaming or humiliating someone. This is due to the tradition in Renaissance Italy of posting a Pittura infamante (“defaming portrait”) of traitors, thieves, etc., often when there was no legal recourse to their actions.  Note that this tradition lasted from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, which overlaps the earliest period of the development of the Tarot.

So, based on these historical perspectives of this card, here are a few new (but old) interpretations of the Hanged Man: traitor, shame, humiliation, defamation.

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