Two beams are placed together to resemble the capital letter “T”. The upright beam is thick and sturdy while the thinner crossbeam has branches growing from it still. Where the two beams meet, a short length of rope is attached. From it hands a man caught by his right foot and from such, hangs upside down against the upright beam. His left leg is bent at the knee and is pinned behind the right. His hands are presumably fastened behind him, though one can not tell if merely behind his back or if bound against the beam as well. While he is hanging as if a traitor to his country, there is a nimbus around his head, and his facial expression is neutral to his circumstances.
The Hanged Man is caught between two states. He belongs to neither, yet exemplifies them both. Branded a traitor to his city-state and hung to as warning and punishment, his crime could be as simple as disagreeing with the powers that be. But he wears the nimbus of the holy, showing his heart is clean and his intentions pure. How could he do anything other that what was right, even though that right action was hated by the corrupted ministers! So, he is hung as the body of a executed traitor would have been, but he is still alive and apparently unharmed. He hangs between heaven and earth, between life and death.
This neither/nor state is the key to interpreting this card. The Querent has the opportunity to be removed from the situation temporarily and view the set of circumstances from a different point of view. How different does a field of battle appear from when in the dust of it, and from high above! This forced disassociation allows the Querent to think differently, and by doing so gain wisdom and understanding about the situation.
This is also a card of initiations and ordeals. The Querent will have to go through a series of trials to show themselves capable for a new role in their life. They will feel persecuted by the experiences, but if they endure to the end, what they stand to gain will have made the troubles worthwhile.
Ill-dignified, this card indicates the Querent is “sitting on the fence” about a decision, and willfully stalling for time. Stall for too long, and the decision is made without the Querent but they are stuck with the consequences. It can also indicate the Querent is playing the role of the martyr for the wrong reasons. The dignifying cards will indicate if the Querent hung themselves there, or if work/social politics placed them there unfairly.