'The Hanged Man' is the ultimate symbol of self sacrifice and surrender. With this card comes total suspension of action, patience is a virtue and 'The Hanged Man' indicates the need to wait as long as you can if you hope for the best outcome. 'The Hanged Man' represents willingness to wait to achieve your ultimate goal, to act selflessly and sacrifice the immediate for the greater good.
In Tarot decks 'The Hanged Man' is not represented as the name may suggest. You you'd be forgiven for conjuring up the image of a man with a noose around his neck at the gallows. However, the deep symbolism of the card is linked with being a willing martyr, not receiving punishment. The typical imagery of the card is largely unchanged since the time of the Marseille Tarot. A man is suspended from a tree by his foot. It is implied by both the symbolism and the imagery that this 'hanging' is voluntary. Many Tarot maintain this basic imagery, along with the posture of the man, with his hands behind his back, and one leg behind the other forming a triangle.
When designing my 'Hanged Man', there were long deliberations and ponderings as to its design. I did not want to confuse the symbolism of the card by hanging my man from a gibbet (even though the imagery appealed to me, and the gibbet is a recurring element within the series). So I took an entirely different approach with my final design and represented my 'Hanged Man' in a very different way.
I wanted to emphasize the idea that the man is willing in his actions and the choice is his own. I tried to give him a relaxed posture and a serene, calm expression, almost that of meditation. His sacrifice is to the universe, and the natural order of things. His oneness and connection with nature is represented both by his nudity, and by the ivy which suspends him. It shows a mutual trust between the man and the universe, it supports him and suspends him and he in turn offers himself as martyr for the greater good. The ivy which is at one with the man is beginning to flower, representing that patience has fruition and the universe will reward the man for his sacrifice.
I purposely wanted the man and his action to be the focus of the card. The trees within the piece set the scene and show that the man is surrounded by nature and supported by the world. The canopy or roots of the trees cannot be seen, suggesting that the trees themselves are infinite, and in theory the risk the man takes is higher (because of the height of the tree), yet it also implies the incredible level of his trust and faith.
Visually 'The Hanged Man' is one of the simpler cards in my Major Acarna, yet the symbolism and message behind the artwork is one of the deepest; trust the universe and its plan for you, don't be afraid to stand still, breathe and wait for the time to be right. The here and now may seem important, but never lose sight of the bigger picture.