Isolation. Stillness. Solitude.
The Hermit either holds a lantern (though in other decks it’s an hourglass or candle) with a star trapped inside of it. The Star represents the Hermit’s deep insight into the nature of the self. He knows what’s really important.
With his lantern, he’s more of a Neoplatonic concept of the Hermit as Christian ascetic. Zarathustra in the cave and the unbearable lightness of eternal recurrence. The Hermit tells you to remove yourself and assess the situation from a distance. Like Jesus in the desert, or Buddha under the tree.
The Hermit tells you to consider all the consequences before acting, to do so alone and slowly, carefully, kind of like the Hanged Man but without the sacrifice.
Strength, at VIII just before, represents Eternal Spring. Winter represents her mother’s grief. The isolation after the fecundity.
After all the colorful cards, now all this gray. It’s winter now, a time of cold Swords, and his emotions have frozen into something he can grab, something that can become clearer as it melts in his hands.
The lovely stillness of snow can bring clarity, peace, and meditation.
Obviously, snow is also a metaphor for Death.
For being dethroned, waiting out the clock.
The Hermit is Cronus, the god who ate all his kids so he could stay supreme titan forever. But the thing about tricking fate is that it never works. So Rhea tricked him, and instead of eating her youngest son Zeus, she gave her husband a rock to swallow and Zeus was sent down the river. He, of course, eventually comes back and slits his father’s belly, rebirthing all of his siblings, the Olympians, effectively ending the Golden Age of Man. Eventually Zeus let his father out of ground jail but banished him to the isle of the Blessed Dead. If he waits patiently enough, maybe the Golden Age will return.
This is the scholar card. The Plato going into the cave card. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. The magicians on Pratchett’s disc verse. The maesters at the Citidel in Oldtown. The scholars at Jordan College in His Dark Materials. The trope of learning as dreadfully serious stuff :: monks transcribing sacred texts in a dark and leaky stone room by candlelight. Yoda (then later, Luke) withdrawing into the forest.
The Hermit is Maester Aemon, the “last” Targaryen, dying at the Wall, the freezing edge of the world.
The Hermit carries the message, “The Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from thoe who are unprepared.” (Waite)
We can only ever receive wisdom we are prepared to receive.
Inside Out :: Like when Joy cannot see the use in Sadness, then for the first time, after a series of arrogant mistakes, she feels sad. She’s then able to rub one of her memories (a physical orb she can watch like a movie) farther back in time, to Sadness’s memory. The color changes, the metaphor’s plain :: she gets it now, Sadness is a form of intelligence, she calls for help, tells the body to retreat, heal, then re-emerge. “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems,” she says. I so feel that. And Joy, in this sad scene, finally understand her comrade’s use value.
Bing Bong’s a Hermit too. He survived all that time in Riley’s imagination, fending for himself. He understood when his role was fulfilled. That Riley (the host, as it were) had to let go of childish fantasies in order to embrace the complexity of her emotions.
“Who are you?” asks The Hermit.
And he asks it at night, in the realm of Dreams, the unknown and the uncertain.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” (Camus) He’s talking about your heart’s fire.
The Hermit insists that you not be afraid to be by yourself.
Often Hermits are set in their ways and modes :: isolation reinforces paranoia.
Shylock. Walden. Molliére’s Misanthrope.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, was said to have gone out with his lantern to find one honest man. He never returned.
He’s like Grumpy. The archetype of the grumpy old man we all love.
He’s Eddie Valiant. Oscar the Grouch. Sandor Clegane, the Hound. The vacuum cleaner in The Brave Little Toaster. Carl Frederickson in Up. Branch, from the new Trolls movie. Kristoff. Luke Skywalker went the Hermit route (if we even count the new ones).
The Hermit has also been used to represent wayfinders as well. So Maui, the narcissistic demi-god from Moana, is a Hermit, the world put him in a time out so he could learn a lesson. It wasn’t until his Star arrived that he could figure out what that was though.
Old women have an entirely different archetypal face. History has not been as kind to the crones. They are the midwives, the witches the Christians all burned. They are the High Priestesses. Once upon a time they were drawn as sexy, young, and mystical, frolicking pagan beauties, but there was a cultural zeitgeist shift. This shift in sensibility turned the pretty witches into bawdy, ugly hags. The pretty slut witch (the Sarah Sanderson of the Hocus Pocus coven) was no more, and all that remained was the hysterical old lady and her decrepit uterus (the Winnie Sanderson sister).
When the Evil Queen turns herself into a hag, when she cackles at the skeleton reaching for water through his cell: “Thirsty? Have a drink!!” She kicks the tin cup into his bones, breaking what’s left of him into pieces. In old age, this very stern and stolid queen becomes a trickster, a riot.
Baubo, my favorite toothsome crone, once showed Demeter her cunt under a dining table. This cracked the goddess up, and she desperately needed this. She had been grieving Persephone’s abduction hard. So she was very grateful to the old lady, who’s most famously depicted as literally having her face on her vagina (like her stone statues are headless, though sometimes they’re wearing a hat).
But like I said, this card is not for her. It’s for channeling your calm, it’s an excuse to cancel plans and watch Ron Fricke’s Samsara. Think about life, about the human experience, your purpose, who you are, what you want, what’s important, all that good stuff.
✨ The Book of Symbols; Reflections on Archetypal Images. ✨ Albert Camus. ✨