Tarot 9 – The Hermit
By James Donahue
By his very nature, The Hermit card symbolizes the need, or possibly the desire, to seek time of peace, quiet and solitude. He represents a time of thought and contemplation before making important decisions in life. The appearance of this card may also signal a need for taking time for convalescence and rest in times of ill health.
Returning to our story of The Fool’s journey, our student has experienced an intense period of learning about dealing with all aspects of life, from planning a career, to dealing with obstacles both from within and without, handling conflicts of love and war and dealing with failure. By now he feels a profound need to retreat.
Thus we see our Fool hiding in some secluded place, spending time in thought, reading, taking long walks and planning. Each night at dusk he walks the bare landscape carrying his staff and lantern. On the card his head is bowed, his eyes closed, his youthful face now bearded. Notice that his hair and beard are white, suggesting that by this time our Fool has gained wisdom with age.
That his robe is gray is significant. When this color appears on a Tarot card it represents balance or neutrality between the extremes of either black or white. Thus our student has resolved life’s polar opposites. That he holds the staff in his left hand shows that he holds a storehouse of wisdom, intellect and higher knowledge within his subconscious mind. The lantern in his right hand manifests within the conscious awareness of the individual.
Remember that when he began, The Fool strode boldly forward, his staff resting on his shoulder, carrying his knapsack containing all that he could ever be within. Now the Hermit’s staff leans out before him, touching the ground. Instead of a knapsack containing the secrets kept within, he now holds the lantern, which illuminates from within by all he is.
The Hermit is represented by Virgo, which appears at first to be in conflict with his quest for solitude and introspection. The Virgo by definition is a restless skeptic, forever gathering information, analyzing and making connections. But notice that when you see this card, the Hermit is always on the move. He is never pictured hiding in a cave or mountain retreat. He is forever wandering and searching.
Some interpretations perceive the Hermit as standing on a mountain top, and holding his lantern out for others to see their way as they attempt to climb their way to reach his level of knowledge and seek his advice. As one writer expressed it: “The Hermit is the living representation of human mastery over earthly third dimensional polarities, emotions and temptations. He has reached the mountaintop, the last spiritual level of mastery and is now devoting his full attention to the support and enrichment of others.”
The very bodily stance of the Hermit on this card resembles the number 9, which is the number of the card. This number represents completion, personal mastery and the conclusion or end of an important phase in this person’s life.
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