The scene appears to take place on the sands of a beach. A treasure chest and what appears to be a sliver of ocean can be seen in the lower right of the card, and a skull and some vegetation can be seen in the lower left. The sky behind the Santa Muerte is both a night sky and a day sky, with sun and moon both visible at the same time.
Symbolism: El Colgado represents a period of surrender or suspension to accept help from others, perhaps someone you may not expect. The black cloaked Santa Muerte, in her context here, represents hidden knowledge and protection from negative forces. She serves not only to protect the man she dangles, but also to reveal to him a different perspective of the world.
Dripping wet, unconscious, and hanging upside down by a rope, it appears as if this man was drowning beneath the waves, trapped by some kind of obstacle tying him down, before being cut free and pulled from the ocean by the Santa Muerte. The thought of Santa Muerte's scythe swinging in your direction might terrify you, but it swings to release you from your bondage. The nakedness of the man in the picture represents the vulnerability which is required for one to accept another's help, though the thought of being vulnerable to the help of another might be frightening.
The fact that he hangs upside down is a symbol for the need to see things from a different perspective, which also requires a level of vulnerability and nakedness.
The number six is often considered the most harmonious of the single digit numbers. Now that the naked man in the picture has accepted the help of Santa Muerte and can see the world from a different perspective, his legs fall into position to form the number six - he is at harmony.
The closed treasure chest in the lower right of this image is a symbol for the treasure you stand to gain by changing your perspective and letting others help. Exactly what you stand to gain remains hidden (for now). The skull in the lower left corner of this card, in this case, represents the next step - now that the man has been saved from drowning, he can reflect on the lessons learned and move on to the next phase or challenge to conquer. The vegetation in the same corner is a symbol of the growth that will come from the experiences.
The double sky in the background, represented by the moon and sun, further represents the importance of seeing things from a different perspective, as things often look much different by day than they do by night.
In a reading upright, El Colgado represents surrendering to the help of another, and seeing things from a different perspective. You may be afraid at the idea of being so vulnerable to another person, but harmony, hidden treasure, and growth await you if you can allow it.
In reverse, El Colgado represents a distinct desire not to change. Where upright this card represented the man surrendering to the help of Santa Muerte, in reverse it appears as if the man is flying away from the Santa Muerte, refusing her help, and going off to shoulder all burdens alone. The man's legs which formed a six when the card was upright now form a number four, a symbol for constant and unchanging nature, a further sign that help is being stubbornly refused. If this continues, El Colgado may very well lose out on his chance for treasure and personal growth.
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