What is it about this card that draws me so?
It’s not my soul card (the card of the sum of the digits of my birth date – which is the Chariot), nor is it the card of my zodiac sign (Death, according to the common Tarot-astrology tradition to which I subscribe). But for some reason or other, I identify very deeply with this card.
I suppose I know why this card has such a hold on my imagination. The Hermit was the image which first introduced me to Tarot, as I’ve recounted before. And it tickles me pink that it was the Hermit who introduced me. I mean, what are the odds that I’d first notice the character in the Tarot who holds aloft a lantern, a beacon for those who wish to follow him on a path towards enlightenment? What else am I using the Tarot for, after all? I don’t really think it’s a coincidence at all. I feel as though I am one of those few for whom the Hermit holds his lantern.
The Hermit is a solitary figure, as is made clear by his title. Like the Hierophant, the Hermit is a wise and spiritual man. Unlike the Hierophant, however, the Hermit doesn’t pontificate, or serve a particular spiritual or religious tradition, nor does he garner disciples or preach for congregations. The Hierophant can be easily found at the church or temple, and his teachings are widespread. His students are the multitudes.* Not so with the Hermit. He is not easy to find at all by comparison, and his students are relatively few. Only those who actively seek answers will find the Hermit. And they must be willing to put up with the solitude and his eccentric and ascetic ways. I doubt the Hermit is very forthcoming with his teachings. He avoids the company of his fellow man, and for him to be willing teach you, you must prove yourself to him. To learn from the Hermit is to learn by his difficult example, and it is not a lesson the Hierophant can teach. And the first step is to see the Lantern, and to make the hike to reach it.
I find this to be completely in line with how I found the Tarot in the first place.
Not only that, but the Hermit is very reminiscent of many of my favorite characters from fantasy and myth. Gandalf and Obi-Wan are Hermits, as is the Allfather Odin in many of his aspects.** He is the archetype of the Wizard, the Wise One, and it is a figure I’ve always emulated and admired.
And to be quite frank, I am often a bit of an anti-social myself, and so the Hermit speaks to me on that level, as well.
Considering these points about his character and what it represents in the Tarot, it is no wonder why I latched onto the Hermit when beginning my Tarot studies (and continue to look to him to this day for insight). But what does the Hermit really mean, past the superficial stuff? This card is shrouded in mystery, and I suspect it will take me a lifetime to unravel it. But I’ve made it my work to try. I’ve written some brief musings of him before, but I think it’s time for more. I know I’m not alone in this endeavor, that the Hermit appeals to many who read the cards, and so I’ve decided to dedicate a series of posts to exploring in-depth my thoughts about the various incarnations of this figure in the Tarot.
Stay tuned if you wish to join me on this journey to the summits of wisdom occupied by the Hermit.
*That’s the idea, anyway, although these days I don’t think the Hierophant as an archetype has all that much sway over the masses anymore. He’s an emblem of a bygone age. A respectable emblem, and one which I hold in high esteem, but of a bygone age nonetheless.
**Actually, Odin is a very complex character, and there are several cards in the Tarot which suit him. The Hermit, of course, but also the Magician, the Emperor, and the Hanged Man, to name a few.