Read Part VII about the hourglass here.
This Hermit is the exception to everything I’ve discussed up to this point. Extra emphasis should be put on the Deviant of the Deviant Moon Tarot (DMT). There is no lantern (or hourglass). There is no wand. There is no robe, nor any definitive indication of advanced age. This Hermit does not stand outside. And the one especially noticeable detail, the dead fish, is nowhere to be found in any other Hermit card.
This card seriously irked me when I first came across it. In fact, it was because of this card that I almost never bought this deck.
Because this card does deviate so much from the others, I’ve dedicated a special post to it. It just can’t be categorized with anything previous. This is also why I’ve saved it for last among my non-RWS Hermits for examination. You gotta teach the rules before you can teach the exceptions, after all.
This Hermit huddles in the fetal position, trying to hide from the world outside his alcove. It looks like a polluted world of impersonal industry, and the Hermit screams for want of a life more meaningful. He is naked, and covers his head with his arms in a show of despair. A piercing eye stares out from between blackened, claw-like fingers.
If the traditional Hermit has left society behind, this one is yet in its midst – a factory can be seen outside his hole. If this picture represents how the Hermit feels among the company of his fellow man, it is no wonder he prefers to hide away in the mountains or the forests. He seems to be in the throes of intense torment. His nakedness suggests exposure and his position is one of anxiety. This Hermit is not peaceful and meditative like most of the other ones, at least, not on the surface. Half of his face is in shadow – his subconscious – and this shadow face is serene. Deep down, the Hermit is the wise old sage we’ve come to know so well, but his external circumstances stifle him.
An interesting detail of this card is the direction of the Hermit’s shadow. The light source seems to be coming from inside his alcove. What’s going on in there?
There is no visible lantern. No wand. Just a dead fish. The instruction booklet says: “Even though he shuts himself off from the city, he is never truly alone. The rotted fish beside him is a reminder that we can never hide from ourselves.” I don’t really follow that connection. It does hint at introspection and self-discovery as befits a Hermit, but why the fish, I can’t say. This Hermit does look potentially insane; perhaps he’s a Gollum-type character who eats raw fish and talks to himself. It’s a creepy way to interpret the Hermit, but I guess it’s not wrong. That’s only a shot in the dark, though. Perhaps there is some symbolic quality to dead fish that I’m unaware of. Fish do appear multiple times throughout the DMT, including the Fool, but without a more in-depth explanation from the artist at my disposal, I can only speculate.
I’m at a loss with this one. And not just because of the fish. I’ve perused the Tarot forums, and found some credible interpretations for this card. The Hermit before he’s left society. The Hermit in anguish with the emotions of an empath. Or perhaps he has lost his sanity in the face of the enlightenment he’s been seeking. Enlightenment as I’ve been describing it necessitates a dissolution of the ‘self’. How terrifying would it be the moment you actually cross that threshold of oblivion? He does try to cover his face, yet he can’t seem to look away…
Any one of these interpretations is valid (I particularly like that last one). Regardless of how one chooses to see this card, though, it is undeniably an unflattering portrayal. This Hermit is decidedly darker and more disturbing than all of the others. But so is much of the pack from which it came, and after all, everything has a dark side. The Hermit is not an exception to that rule. And the Hermit would probably not be very wise if he never confronted his own darkness. Perhaps that’s what the fish represents: his own demons, causing him to rot from the inside out, until he is forced to face the terrible stench of the truth. Maybe then, he’ll finally find his peace.