The Hermit

The Hermit is one of those ubiquitous tarot cards that many people have heard of, and is on the surface, quite easy to understand.

The card represents a person who is taking themselves away from the noise and distractions of everyday life, retreating to a place of peace and solitude.

the hermit tarot card david mcquillan

The Hermit by David McQuillan, part of a series of artwork done by selected artists for the Amanda Palmer Tarot

It’s not about rest, so much as about making space to learn and grow, to study and develop understanding. The Hermit is a student – she already understands that many of life’s answers are tucked away inside her, and she seeks to unlock them through contemplation. Sometimes she is also a teacher – willing to share her learning so that others may also benefit.

The Hermit represents the desire to turn away from the getting and spending of society to focus on the inner world. He seeks answers within and knows that they will come only with quiet and solitude. There comes a point in life when we begin to question the obvious. We sense that there is a deeper reality and begin to search for it. This is mainly a solitary quest because answers do not lie in the external world, but in ourselves.

Biddy Tarot

The Hermit represents a time for organising thoughts, for looking at our lives and seeing what lessons can be learned from our experiences. And it’s a time for ‘getting back to nature’, discovering our true selves, stepping away from modern life and letting instincts and the practical knowledge we keep unused inside ourselves to come out. The lamp carried by almost every depiction of The Hermit I’ve seen represents the light of inner truth, the knowledge that we all carry within us, but which can be lost when we get to caught up in the demands of everyday life. Anyone who has read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden will understand the transformative effects that taking that space and solitude for onesself can have upon a person:

There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still. There was never yet such a storm but it was Æolian music to a healthy and innocent ear. Nothing can rightly compel a simple and brave man to a vulgar sadness. While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me. The gentle rain which waters my beans and keeps me in the house today is not drear and melancholy, but good for me too.

Men frequently say to me, “I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearer to folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially.” I am tempted to reply to such — This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.

HD Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods

It’s hard to comprehend the many, many expectations which life places on a person. In my own experience, there are capitalit societal value-systems which promote the house-car-marriage-job way of life as the route to success and fulfillment, and that a person is defined by what s/he consumes or owns. There are gender value-systems, which say I should be this weight, that shape, have nice smooth legs and keep out of politics. There’s work, where I’m supposed to be fresh-thinking, but not too radical or challenging. There are social circles, where I should be always having the best fun possible, and cultural circles where I should like this and that, and scorn the other. Sometimes one of these influences will be stronger, and sometimes I struggle with the weight of it all pushing down on my shoulders. A lot of the time I’m thinking ‘fuck it’. But even so, there are always pressures on every one of us to fit in to some expectation or role.

the hermit tarot cardThe Hermit reminds me that these influences boil down to a pretty meaninless little puddle at the end of the day. As an archetype, she has taken this need to redress priorities to an extreme and has made a pilgrimage or even lifestyle out of solitude and deep thought. Back in the real world, sometimes all it takes is a few moments in the garden to realign my priorities and think ‘who am I living for?’ When I see this card in a reading, I know it’s time to step out of my usual day-to-day self and remember that there is more to me, and to everyone else, than what they often must present in order to get by.

The Hermit from the Tarot of the Fantastic Menagerie by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov

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9 comments

  1. chloetarot says:

    Lovely, thoughtful post, Beth! And when you said about doing some of the cross-hatching on those trees, it made me appreciate just how much time and effort must have gone into creating the card, and also made me think about how we can also step out of the everyday by stepping into something where we dig down into details… 🙂

    • Karla P Green says:

      I want a tatoo of this. It totally is me , my life now. I live in new York, any artists for this? I Live in upstate N.Y. about 1.5 hours from N.Y.C

  2. Nicole Lock says:

    This. This is exactly where I am at in my life, right at this moment. I thought somehow that I was lazy or the only person or just plain boring because this is where I feel I need to be right now. But learning about the hermit, understanding that this, this is a true facet of being a human has absolutely inspired me. I feel like I am coming alive as I learn tarot. I am taking your online class now. I am on day 3 and feeling an extreme sense of contentment, intrigue, empowerment. I am on the right track. It feels like there are signs after signs, the universe is truly talking to me. It has been too, too long since I have listened.

    Thank you for doing what you do. Your guidance has been invaluable and I look forward to the rest of your class.

    Blessed be.

  3. Jean Hutter says:

    WOW what an amazing take on The Hermit. I have just singed up for your Tarot course and am finding my way around. Reading this I can so relate. I was feeling like I had lost my spirituality, my life was not my own – not the Sunday go to church spirituality – but the getting back to nature, feeling good about myself, knowing my feelings spirituality. I needed to read this today. I will be doing my Readers Reading soon – so interested to see how that works out. Thanks!!!!!!

    • Beth says:

      Glad it resonated for you Jean! It’s such a powerful, helpful card. So glad to hear you’re reclaiming your spirituality, too. Good luck with the course!

  4. Karla P Green says:

    I want a tatoo of this. It totally is me , my life now. I live in new York, any artists for this? I Live in upstate N.Y. about 1.5 hours from N.Y.C

  5. Andrea says:

    Even before I understood what the Tarot was all about, how it was used and “who” used it, I was drawn to this card. A friend of mine’s mother did readings for people (and back in those days it was very taboo and my friend had a hard time making friends because of it – except me, of course, I’m a weirdo so I love weirdos!) very hush-hush and one day she let me see her cards – wasn’t allowed to touch them, and I totally understand why not, now – and spread them out on the tablecloth.
    I was immediately fixated on The Hermit. I could not take my eyes off of him.
    She didn’t explain what the cards meant or read for me or anything (I was only about 11) but years later when I “came back” to this Path and picked up my own Tarot deck, I read about The Hermit and this card was and is me and I will always have a soft place in my heart for him.

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