Introduction to the Major Arcana, Part 12: The Hermit

The Hermit represents archetypal magic and mysticism moreso than any of the other Major Arcana, including even the Magician. While the Magician is world-embracing, as shown by his gestures, the Hermit is more withdrawn. He represents inwardness, contemplation, introspection, mystical experience, meditation, and deep thought. The Hermit is the card that means you’re turning inward and really finding yourself, coming to grips with your life. If the Hermit comes up in a spread, you may be at a turning point, where a decision must be made. But this decision must be made on the basis of your truth, not someone else’s.

Visually, the Hermit plays on the dichotomy of right and left in Tarot. This is very visible in his hands. The so-called “right hand path” in most esoteric systems means daylight, rationality, the conscious mind. The “left hand path” means night time, emotions and intuition, and the unconscious mind. The Hermit holds a staff, a symbol of authority and power, in his left hand, indicating that he is “leaning on” the unconscious and on intuition. He holds a lantern in his right hand which only illuminates the ground at his very feet, suggesting that the light of consciousness only sees one tiny piece of the puzzle at a time.The Upright Hermit indicates a healthy, productive withdrawal from the world, for a brief period during which you will contemplate and make a decision. It’s not just rational deliberation, though. The Hermit in this capacity is all about self-discovery. It involves YOUR values and YOUR ideas, not necessarily what is the most practical. That’s because your present decision isn’t just about finding out what makes the most logistical or financial sense. It’s also about figuring out your priorities and what you really value. You have to be in touch with your own innermost, core beliefs in order to know what is important for you moving forward.The Reversed Hermit indicates isolation, or perhaps taking the whole hermit thing a bit too far. You may be cutting people out of your life whose input would be valuable. You may also be too absorbed in navel-gazing and reflection and neglecting real, practical concerns in your everyday life. The Reversed Hermit is there to warn you to open your eyes, stop isolating yourself from the entire world, and engage with the life you have before you. This doesn’t mean to stop thinking, of course, only to stop thinking quite so deeply.
In a past-present-future spread, the Hermit represents the following:
  1. As past, the Hermit represents the egg of your current situation, the seed from which it grew. At some point in the past, you withdrew into your solitude and mulled over your situation, thought about it for a while, and then made a decision that brought you to where you are now.
  2. As present, the Hermit represents a decision to be made now. You must withdraw into yourself and discover your own deeply-held beliefs about the world and your place in it. Only after you do this will you be fully equipped to make your big decision.
  3. As future, the Hermit means that you will soon have an opportunity to disengage and contemplate. This may be a big payoff that gives you some time to yourself, or it may be a crisis which resolves in you finding yourself alone.
Next time, we’ll tackle one of the most warlike of the Major Arcana: The Chariot!

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