The Hanged Man represents the wisdom that comes from trial and sacrifice. Despite this literally being the way that Odin received The Runes, this isn’t the wisdom of ᚨ (Ansuz), which is a communicated wisdom. It is a quiet wisdom that comes from being alone in the presence of nature.
The Fool’s Journey
Even people who barely know Norse Mythology know the story of Odin hanging himself from the branches of Yggdrasil, a sacrifice of himself to himself, for nine days and nine nights. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t already know that is how Odin was given the wisdom of The Runes. The Hanged Man represents those nine days and nights spent with his own spear through him while he dangled from the branches of The World Tree.
The Hanged Man is almost always depicted being hanged by his foot. Hanging by the neck was a courtesy designed to end the condemned’s suffering quickly by breaking their neck. Hanging by the foot would likely take days to kill you, possibly long enough that you would die of thirst before dying of suffocation. This is also why Roman soldiers would sometimes break someone’s legs before a crucifixion: as a kindness to help them die more quickly.
But this card isn’t about death. It is about pushing your body to its limit, testing the extent of your ᚢ (Uruz) in order to learn. There is a sense of ᛁ (Isa) to this card: letting yourself slow down, letting yourself be hanged and smiling. There is also a sense of ᛏ (Tiwaz) of course: the sacrifice in exchange for that which must be done.
Many decks include a halo around The Hanged Man’s head. Halos are a symbol of divinity or goodness: this is an innocent man being hanged. Although the way the unbound foot is bent creates a backwards Thurisaz out of his body, the very lack of ᚦ (Thurisaz) is the point of this card. This is a card of Odin’s wisdom, not Thor’s rage.