“To gain everything by letting go.”
To sacrifice is to release. Be it money, goods, actions, or connections, to sacrifice is to remove something that was in your life so that the only remnant you have of it is its absence. To tithe is to sacrifice money. To offer knitted hats to a shelter is to sacrifice goods. To work at a homeless shelter is to sacrifice action. To remove yourself from social activities and dedicate that time to one’s beliefs is a sacrifice of connection.
The Hanged Man tarot card is that moment of dedication. Even though it is often portrayed as a paused moment, as the space between breaths, it is the transitory moment when the sacrifice is final and what was of the Querent is now out of their control no matter how much time it takes for that unmaking to complete.
But it is also that last final expression of doubt before action takes over. “Are you sure you want to do this?” The Querent has one last chance to take back what they had offered, or to recover what was taken from them. This is not a decision to make lightly, for just as there are consequences to completing the sacrifice, so there are consequences to walking away. All possibilities must be considered before making that choice and following through. But not making a choice is a choice in itself and the Querent must also consider this before they wait too long, and the choice is made for them.
In a Yes/No reading, the Hanged Man answers “No”. It will decline every possibility placed before it and require the Querent to think through what they are asking for and why. If the Querent is in a rush, the card advises to slow down. But if the Querent is wanting to start an endeavor with care, the card will warn that the environment isn’t going to wait for them to get settled before the next stage begins.
When the Hanged Man card is ill-dignified, the voluntary sacrifice of the martyr becomes the required sacrifice of the traitor. Note that the difference between a traitor and a martyr is perspective. The same actions that are seen as an affront against all that is right and proper in the world can also be seen as a necessary and justified response to assaults and indignities. Whether or not those actions benefited those judging the situation determines if the person held accountable was acting wrongly or rightly.
An ill-dignified Hanged Man can express itself as the Querent needing to pay unjustifiable “fees and service charges” to get access or goods that cannot be gained via alternative means. It is usurious interest on a loan from a friend. It is forced overtime work that is not always paid as such. It is the demand from elderly relatives that the Querent publicly perform to certain expectations or be disowned and discarded.
But the ill-dignified Hanged Man can also speak to wrongdoings by the Querent. The landlord that adds a morally unjustified fee on their tenants, thus extracting an undue sacrifice, is one example. The card could also be describing the Querent as a literal traitor to a cause or commitment they had made. A scab or union-buster is a traitor to their peers. Any immediate gain they may make by betraying their peers is at risk of being undone when they lose connections in their industry. Any person that has power over another and uses it to take more than is their moral right to take is present in this card. Whether the card speaks to the Querent as taking the sacrifice or making the sacrifice can be found in the context of the question.
The Hanged Man is not a card of indecision as a choice will be made, often sooner than the Querent is prepared to accept. It is a card of action by stillness, of applying force by releasing control, of facing the truth that was always known and the beginning of the consequences of that action. The Querent’s perspective and judgement of this will not always agree with those watching the Querent’s life work itself out. But the card does not ask if the Querent is willing to live with other people’s opinions.
The Hanged Man is asking if the Querent is willing to live with their own.
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