“I have to pick my way along a lonely path, no tradition, no ritual to guide me, and nothing to hinder me, either.”
— Georges Bataille
So i have been known to curse when the Hermit turns up in a Tarot spread. He can seem so gloomy, so Saturnine and well, the antithesis of Sex & Shopping. When the Hermit arrives you’re not really getting laid or getting paid in the near future, the emphasis is on wisdom. It’s the style of sagacity that you seek and score solo, zero applause or wowing out at your genius. But why are we so resistant?
The Hermit can mean different things depending on where he turns up. In the Instant Tarot on my site, which is 12 House based, the Hermit significance and suggestions vary hugely. Here, below, is what i just got this morning. You also have to take into account the surrounding cards. The Hermit next to the Devil to me is a “distance yourself the fuq away from someone/something” alert.
The Hermit next to the Three of Cups hints at a retreat but with simpatico folk. The Hermit alongside the Emperor or Empress says Next Level and that you need some solo scheming time. It’s bizarre how brilliantly the Tarot can match the astrology of the moment. Or really, not bizarre at all, just synchronicity.
The Hermit shows up in a strong position when you are on – or need to take – your own trip. And there is no point looking to others for guidance or to a mentor to take responsibility for your mindset. You’re setting it. That’s the significance of the light that the Hermit carries, you light your own way via whatever knowledge you have gained thus far.
Archetype-wise, the Hermit is not so carefree and instinctual as the Fool but it’s a similar vibe – do it your way and surrender the need for societal validation for now. To associate the card with age (gray beard) exile and infirmity (the staff) is natural but seeing only the surface. The staff is a magic wand, the gray cloak and beard disguise a warrior and that light is the Star, source of occult wisdom and divine guidance.
But you don’t get any of these good things by asking around or via conventional metrics. The Hermit also brings to mind those multiple fairy and folk tales where a god or a goddess visits your house disguised as an outcast or a tramp seeking alms. J.R.R. Tolkien seems in part to have based his Gandalf character on the Hermit, with the Hobbit Bilbo cast aptly in the role of the Fool.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
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