Like the Strength card, there’s not oodles of detail pouring out of this card, but what symbols there are are important. The first is the figure of the hermit himself. As Rachel Pollack notes, he is a contrasting archetype to the fool–a Jungian paring. Both the Fool and the Hermit “stand on mountaintops, but where the the Fool appears ready to leap off, the Hermit–who has climbed a higher peak–seems content to remain where he is.” Indeed, the hermit is at the very summits, which–in the language of tarot–means he has achieved an enlightenment that was only a distant possibility for the Fool.
In his right hand, the Hermit holds up a lantern–a symbol of wisdom. As Pollack notes, this makes him a teacher, like the Hierophant, “but where the Hierophant imparts laws, the outer teachings of a cultural tradition, the Hermit hods out the light of inner truth.” The light within that lantern is a powerful symbol of unity: the hexagram, the upward triangle of potent, masculine fire and the life-giving womb of water joined together. The Hermit, then, lights the way to a self-mastery that holds the loving balance of the Lovers and the directed balance of the Chariot within oneself. As Waite said, his beacon is a sight of “Where I am, you also may be.”
Overall, the card is one of meditation, the search for truth, teaching, good counsel, inner wisdom, and centering withdrawal.
Robin Wood’s Hermit looks much the same as Rider-Waite’s, but with a few more details. For example, he stands upright–not stooped–to show he is tall for his age. His grey clothing–“a sign that the positive, masculine day forces and the negative, feminine, night forces have finally become completely balanced and joined”–is clearly tattered to show that function is more important to him than form, and that he has little interest in the material anymore. He does, however, have bright new red shoes, to show he walks in courage and delights that old knowledge constantly expresses itself in new ways.
His lantern holds a star too bright to see, and it emits eight beams of light to show he stands there throughout the year in a cycle that never ends. His staff–a symbol of will and life in the tarot–shows that he has found his place through his own will. The staff is capped with the fool’s red feather, to show how much the fool has learned in his journey, and two medicine pouches to show how he has distilled his needs to only the most important.
KEYWORDS: Meditation, Contemplation, Solitude, Wisdom, Guidance, Maturity.
Close your eyes and imagine that you walk upward along a mountain path. Continue walking and notice that the further you climb the mountain, the more silent you become internally. When you reach the peak, you find a robed old man. Ask him what question you would like. Do not waste his time by ignoring his counsel. Do as the Hermit instructs you. Once you receive your message, open your eyes and take action.
Keep the Hermit card with you or place it on your altar today. Go someplace in nature where you can be alone. Sit in silence, taking in the sights and sounds of your environment. If you have a situation that needs attention in your life, watch the natural world around you to see if it can offer you any wisdom. For example, a bird in flight may suggest that you get an overview of the situation. The sound of crickets may tell you to count your blessings. Who know what it all may mean to you? You do. What is important is that you open up and let the wisdom of your own nature come forward.
The card descriptions are a combination of my own insights and paraphrasing from a handful of sources. I’m currently working with Rachel Pollack’s book The New Tarot Handbook, Robin Wood’s Robin Wood Tarot: The Book, along with a smattering from Waite’s Pictorial Key. I also strongly recommend Joan Bunning’s book Learning the Tarot as well as the resources found on her website, learntarot.com.