Tarocchino Arlecchino: The Hanged Man

Among the forces natural and supernatural which inhabit the second half of the trumps, we have one more human adversary – the Hanged Man, or the Traitor. This devious Harlequin, in his eye-tricking costume and horned mask, hangs by an ankle between two massive, ornate columns. Upside down, he could be a fairy prince dancing on the ceiling.

The Hanged Man from Tarocchino Arlecchino

Now, for the keywords. As I mentioned in my previous post, this section of the trumps is where things will get tricky. But for this particular character, things always seem to be tricky – it seems to me he has the least defined and most debated meanings out of all 22. People cannot even agree on what is happening in the picture itself, let alone its significance.

A.E. Waite’s keywords for the Hanged Man were essentially translations of the Etteilla (Julia Orsini) keywords for No. 12 Prudence – see my post on The Virtues for those. Reading the Hanged Man as Prudence became a trend among occult-tarotists, who thought of the rope as a serpent. If this were true it would be quite an odd depiction, since Prudence is usually shown, well, exercising prudence, either avoiding the snake or taming it, rather than being assaulted by it.

The upright keywords I am using are taken from the Etteilla trump No. 18 The Capucin, image of the Hermit from Tarot de Marseille. As usual, they are translated from Julia Orsini. The reversed keywords for the same card are actually quite similar to what I used for The Female Pope. So instead, I’m using (at least for now) a more common modern interpretation of the card, that is not found in the Etteilla meanings – sacrifice.


Upright: traitor, deceiver, hypocrite, fanatic, impostor, one who suborns, corrupter, seducer, treason, hypocrisy, fanaticism, disguise, dissimulation, craftiness, trickery, imposture

Reversed: sacrifice, penance, offering, devotion, renunciation, loss, surrender

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