9. The Hermit

Seeking in solitude

Sometimes, the only way to find the answers we seek is to go seek them out alone. To carve out sacred space for this search, to forsake the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and to be truly alone with our thoughts.

It’s intimidating, this kind of solitude. This kind of silence. It requires a huge amount of bravery and a resourceful spirit. It takes guts to be willing to face the chaos most of us carry inside us, and attempt to sort through it and make some kind of sense of it all.

As an archetype the Hermit is someone who has done that sorting. There is a serenity and inner peace in this card, that of the philosopher or guru who has understood life through going within, like HD Thoreau, or Siddhartha. The figure of the Hermit is one we recognise easily from mythologies across cultures – the solitary cloaked figure who lives in the woods or on the mountaintop or in the house at the edge of the village, the wise one our hero must go to for advice, for a kernel of wisdom that will guide her on her journey.

Like the Hierophant, the Hermit represents teaching and/or study. Mentorship and/or being mentored. Counselling and/or receiving counsel. As the Hermit, you may be beginning or continuing your studies, or you may be assisting someone else. Or both. Or, you may be encountering another kind of guide – an animal helper, a spirit guide, a therapist, an author – any wise soul who can guide your journey.

Where the Hierophant’s emphasis is on received wisdom (i.e. that passed down through generations) and discovering our position in some sort of lineage, the Hermit represents a more personal kind of quest. It is about going within. The lamp the Hermit carries is your inner light, the instinct and the desire to learn that will guide you to the answers you seek.

Advice from the Hermit

The wise woman in her cabin in the woods, the philosopher alone by the lake, these are romantic images, and they are metaphors. When you see this card, know that it is time to seek out some time alone – whether that be a full-blown retreat, or just a quiet night in. Know that you have much to learn. Make space for this to happen, claim a little time to yourself if you can. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to social engagements, but remember, also, to turn off the TV and read or think.

This card stresses the need to carve out space for your studies, or, if you’re not in the process of ‘studying’, then simply to think and collect your thoughts. It is hard to be ‘on the inner quest’ when surrounded by constant chatter, media, to-do lists, distractions. An artist needs a studio, a sailor needs a ship…and a thinker needs a space in which their mind can wander. Do you have a space in your home that is only for you? If not, is it possible to create a little nook to call your own?

The Hermit may also be encouraging you to guide others on their own journeys. What particular lesson might you teach, and how will you communicate these lessons effectively? Teaching might mean the traditional classroom kind, but could also be a writer, a YouTuber, a groupwork facilitator, a walk leader, or simply a friend who imparts knowledge. When the Hermit is representing you as ‘teacher’ it is specifically asking you to think about facilitating a learning journey for your ‘students’, not just (for example) standing at the front of a room spouting knowledge. Acknowledge yourself as a mentor and a guide. How will you help to ‘draw out’ the gifts of your students and enable them to find their way?

Lastly, the Hermit may be encouraging you to seek a mentor or guide of your own. Again, this may be in the form of a class leader, or a therapist, or a blogger, or an author… mentors come in all kinds of guises. Look for someone who has forged a path you admire, and either approach them for mentorship, or study their methods so as to guide your own journey.

Key words and concepts

  • Solitide, retreat
  • Peace and quiet
  • Giving your mind space
  • Working things through on your own
  • Claiming space and time for you
  • Mentoring / teaching
  • Finding a mentor / teacher
  • Self-guided or guided study

Some common symbols

  • A lamp (inner wisdom guiding you)
  • A staff (leaning on knowledge and wisdom)
  • Mountaintops or isolated places in nature (solitude)
  • Hooded cloak (devotion to study)