Spread of the Month: The Hanged Man Spread
By Hanna Bourne, known on the Forum as JulieS
Before the whole world went into lockdown, I was planning on creating a spread that would reflect this special time of the year and address the theme of spiritual renewal at the heart of Easter. Since I started thinking about the spread a month ago, the whole world has been turned upside-down and the lives of a great portion of the world’s population dramatically altered. I happened to stumble upon a spread called ‘The Hanged-Man Spread’ in Mary K. Greer’s The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals that felt very apt to address our current situation. The spread, as designed by Mary K. Greer, is quite complex and contains 6 cards which are all read twice, first upright and then reversed, for a total of 12 meanings. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t elaborate much on the spread, nor give examples of readings. Online literature about it is scarce too. After trying the spread on a couple of close friends (within safe social distance of course!), I came up with a simplified version of Mary K. Greer’s spread (cards are read once instead of twice) and slightly altered the meaning of some of the positions. Overall I remained faithful to the spirit of the spread, which, to my mind, is so relevant to our current experience.
As Mary K. Greer says in her book, the Hanged-Man spread is based on the idea that ‘every adversity is an opportunity for gathering wisdom and understanding.’ One of the key messages of the Major Arcana card ‘XII – The Hanged-Man’ is the idea that, through surrender / sacrifice, one can gain a new perspective and the opportunity for spiritual renewal. This is in itself a very ‘Easter’ theme, however, I felt that the image of the Hanged Man really spoke to what has been happening lately. Across the world, populations are kept ‘hanging on’, with their movement severely restricted. At the same time there is a great potential for change and creativity both on a global and personal level. The idea, then, is to use this spread whenever probing the area(s) of one’s life that are seemingly ‘stuck’ and not flowing so as to uncover opportunities for growth and greater awareness. The reader will draw 6 cards, with each position as follows:
1. The Rope: this card will give an indication of the area(s) that are problematic in the querent's life, 'where' the querent is hanging from. This could be quite specific, for instance their work or their love life, or a general feeling. 2. The Right Leg: this is how the situation manifests itself in the outer world, and how the querent consciously handles it. 3. The Left Leg: this is how the situation manifests itself in the querent's inner world and how the querent unconsciously handles it. 4. The Tied Hands: this is what the querent needs to let go of, to release, to gain greater awareness. 5. The Tree Trunk: this is what supports the querent, who or what 'has their back', as well as what the querent should encourage in their life. 6. The Head: this is the opportunity for gathering wisdom and understanding that Mary K. Greer talks about. This card will show what the hidden opportunity behind the current situation is.
Cards 2 and 3 give a good indication of the querent’s situation, similar to the small crossing in the Celtic Cross. Their meanings will sometimes reinforce each other. Otherwise they may contradict each other, in which case, the reconciliation of opposites could be key to the process at work.
This spread is useful in the case of querents who feel in a rut about one area or more of their life, or who are experiencing frustrations and delays in their plans or ambitions. More generally, it is a good entry for a querent asking for a ‘general’ reading, as I have found it gives a good idea of what the preoccupation of the querents are and how they are dealing with them. It is also a good roadmap to figure out how things can improve.
Stay safe everyone and I hope you had a good Easter!