The above card is from the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which we focus on predominantly in these posts. The image is of an old man with a white beard against a gray background and standing on snow. He is facing away from us and towards the left edge of the card. In his left hand he holds a staff and in his right a lit lantern. He wears a grey cloak and his head is bowed down.
My personal story of this card is that The Fool meets The Hermit on his travels and becomes The Fool’s teacher. Kind of like Pai Mei in “Kill Bill,” but a lot less violent. Instead of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, the fool learns the secret of the lantern – the spiritual beacon which will light his way. I believe that being with The Hermit is like being on a Silent Retreat. By turning inward, The Fool goes on a journey of spiritual and existential discovery. I like the play on words with “Vision Quest,” in this instance. The lantern literally helps to aid in vision, and a vision quest is an inner spiritual journey.
Numerology, Colors, and Theories
The Major Arcana is usually listed in Roman numerals; The Hermit is Key IX. The number 9 is the last cardinal number and marks the end of a cycle. The Hermit represents The Fool reaching spiritual understanding. The period of completion is also represented by the winter landscape…a death cycle.
There are 3 planes of the Major Arcana: the physical/material, mental/intuitive, and spiritual/ascension realms. Some people believe that the Hermit is the last card of the Material plane but I believe that is actually marked by the Chariot. So, then, what ending does The Hermit represent if not that of the first material plane? I believe it is the ending of immaturity, niavity, and unknowing. The High Priestess is another card for Spiritual conceptualization, but her secrets are highly guarded. The Hermit teaches the seeker to find answers within themselves to ignite the flame of their spiritual lantern. The lantern holds starlight, the Seal of Solomon, which symbolizes wisdom. This is the first true glimpse into The Fool’s ascension. It is the light bearer’s duty to spread this learned knowledge of spirituality and enlightenment.
I explained that I believe The Hermit is a character in the story, but it is also widely considered that he is The Fool as an old man. There is no reason that he could not be both at different times in his journey. By the time The Fool leaves The Hermit, he has had a spiritual awakening and has assimilated the teachings he has received and leaves with modest clothing, his own lantern, his own piece of starlight, and his own staff.
There is a Buddhist proverb that sums up this sentiment quite nicely, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is really ready, the teacher will disappear.” An ending of a cycle.
If you remember in the first Key 0, The Fool, he has a staff with a satchel tied to it. By the time he reaches the Hermit, he no longer needs worldly possessions and has a deeper understanding of the elements. He begins to carry and transmute these elements within himself and no longer needs the satchel. The belongings are left behind and the stick becomes his sturdy staff. The flamboyant and distracting clothing of The Fool are also discarded. He takes on the conservative and balanced gray cloak of a Hermit.
Nine is a the number of completion and is highly potent because it contains all of the previous numbers. It represents a true understanding of the human experience, value of life, and connection to the divine. Infused with the power of all other numbers before it, spiritual understanding, emotional depth, and mature discipline, the 9 represents a service to mankind and helping others. Nine embodies perfection and is the most important number in Feng Shui, Hinduism, Norse mythology, and more. There are 9 steps in the pyramids, 9 muses, 9 months to bring a human baby to term, 9 Elected Knights in Freemasonry, and 9 archangels.
The number 9 is also important because it is divisible by three. Nikola Tesla believed that the numbers 3-6-9 were the key to the universe. In Vortex Math (science of the torus), the numbers 3, 6, and 9 are always missing…one explanation that has been offered up for this is that they are numbers of a higher dimension.
It is astounding how many space/time constructs nine is encoded into. Here are just a few examples:
1 square foot: 144 inches = 9
1 cubic foot: 1728 cubic inches = 9
1 square yard: 1296 inches = 9
86400 seconds/day = 9
3600 seconds/hour = 9
1440 minutes per day = 9
525600 minutes per year = 9
Plato’s “perfect number” (1x2x3x4x5x6x7 = 5040) = 9
The Four Hindu Yugas (ages) all reduce to 9
Circle and all shapes which fit inside it (triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, etc): 360 degrees = 9
Significance of Virgo
The zodiac sign Virgo is from August 23rd to September 22nd. I find it to be so ironic that Virgo is ruled by Mercury, the planet of communication, and yet the Hermit is an isolated character without outside communication! That honestly just makes me laugh. As a Virgo, I love my alone time but I also like to talk!
There are similarities between Virgo and The Hermit but also some striking differences. The word “Hermit” comes from Latin “of the desert,” “uninhabited,” hence, “desert-dweller” or “ermetic” which now is written”hermetic.”
“Virgo” actually means quite the opposite. It comes from the Latin word, “viridis,” meaning “green,” which comes from “vierre,” which means “to be green, to flourish.”
Virgo also translates to “Virgin,” but this is not to be confused with a sexually celibate Virgin. Virgo actually does not represent that at all. Even though it’s constellation is a maiden, it’s believed that the zodiac glyph depicts sexual organs (I know, it’s all contradictory!) The virginity stereotype of Virgo is not literal. This is important to grasp in understanding both the zodiac sign and The Hermit tarot card.
The Hermit goes to live away from society, to purify himself, to be surrounded by a “virgin” environment in order to cleanse himself to reach enlightenment. There is a sense of purity with both Virgo and The Hermit. He has left the world and risen above distractions to reach his goal of spiritual understanding and Samadhi (awakening). Likewise, there is very little that will deter a Virgo from reaching their goals and they are even described at times as being obsessive. Purity is important in reaching goals. In yoga there is a word, “Saucha,” which means cleanliness of mind, speech, environment, and body. Saucha is one of the five Niyamas of yoga, or personal observances. A Niyama is one of the eight limbs of yoga – each limb lends itself to spiritual enlightenment and a liberated existence. The Hermit clearly observes Saucha. Generally speaking, this is something a Virgo would also value.
Virgos are perfectionists and this can sometimes be a weakness for them. Likewise, if The Hermit becomes too self critical or spends too long a time alone, he will suffer and over-isolate. Virgo is an earth sign and its clear to see that The Hermit is a very grounded character.
The last age of Virgo was circa 13000 to 10750 BCE which was near the end of the Ice Age. Virgos are sometimes considered cold and aloof and The Hermit is also seen on a snowy mountaintop. But just like the Hermit, Virgos are filled with much compassion, care, intellect, and self-discipline. He/she can be considered a teacher, a sage, a monk, or a guru – committed to spreading spiritual awareness. The Hermit takes The Fool under his wing and Virgos are considered the caretakers of humanity. The hermit is shrouded in dark hooded robes, and Virgos are known to be secretive and mysterious.
- Zodiac Sign: Virgo
- Old man: wisdom. A reminder that no one can escape time.
- The white beard: represents Godliness, or closeness to the Divine.
- The staff: the fools previous satchel is left behind since he no longer needs worldly belongings – he receives the staff in its place. It symbolizes connection to the earth and self-support. In some versions, the staff is entwined with a snake which represents knowledge and healing.
- The Lantern: the capacity to carry Divine light within us to guide ourselves and others.
- The Star: star of Solomon possesses knowledge which is the bearer’s duty to pass on and guide others to. It has six points comprised of two triangles with one pointing to the heavens and one to the ground, echoing the sentiment from the Magician, “as above, so below.” The intersecting triangles also represent unity of heaven and earth, of God and human. This star also represents Saturn, or Cronos, the God of agriculture and time, and also the Hermit’s ancestor.
- The cloak: Divine truth available to those who are ready.
- Gray: the cloak and the sky are both gray, showing an indifference between light and dark forces. There is balance and transcendence.
- The Hermit looking away: seeing the world through one’s own light and following Divine guidance. No outside distractions.
- Snowy mountain terrain: end of cycle, death, isolation, purity. Silence. A difficult path accomplished.
- Element: Earth
- Astrological association: moon and mercury
Most often in a reading, the Hermit will represent the seeker or advice for the seeker but can sometimes represent a spiritual teacher.
This card comes up when we need to take time alone, away from distractions, and dive deep into ourselves and the Divine. It may be hard for others to accept this personal journey, but that’s not up to them. This is a personal journey and a necessary one to reach deeper understandings and become the people we want to be. The card suggests that we take time alone for a great spiritual undertaking or perhaps even just to reflect on a situation or behavior.
This card can come up when the seeker feels they are losing touch with their soul or deeper purpose. The answers are not outside, but are within.
It could also come up when someone is being called to come into the role of a spiritual guide for someone else.
The Hermit in it’s natural state likes to spend time alone for spiritual advancement but when reversed, this alone time may actually represent feelings of deep loneliness. There is a sense of running away, fear, paranoia, and avoidance of dealing with situations in the seeker’s life or with facing their inner demons. In the reversed aspect of Zach Wong’s Hermit from the Revelations Tarot, we can see The Hermit heading in the wrong direction, struggling against the wind, and traveling blindly without a guiding light.
There may be some serious depression or other emotional problems when the card is in this position. The depression could be so deep that the person does not see a way out. In a family reading, this card could represent the black sheep or outcast. In a career reading, this could show a lack of employment and no direction. In a love reading, this could represent feelings of rejection or could show someone turning away from another.
The advice here is to seek help if you are feeling depressed, interact with others, or seek guidance in your spiritual path.
In the last Tarot Tuesday on the Three of Cups, I spoke on the importance of having a Spiritual Community. The Hermit card represents the time we spend alone on our spiritual journeys and also the help we provide to others on theirs. While this time alone is undoubtedly important, a Spiritual community also is.
Our Spiritual Support Group meetings are held every Sunday at 8:30pm EST on Zoom and our Facebook group provides support and friendship throughout the week. Please feel welcome to join our Spirituality community. We would love to have you.