The Hermit and the Inner Hermitage
The hermit card on a first reading appears to be quite forward – a person at some distance on the spiritual path, removed from society, who now sheds his wisdom for any below who care to follow in his footsteps. So far, so good – if this card appears in a reading, the querent is perhaps starting to become something of a solitary in their spiritual work, perhaps they are becoming a manifestation of the light for others who are only beginning to feel the call of spirit. Now a hermit is not easily found, and most in this day and age would not know where to look. The Hermit is found inside you…he is the inner wisdom, the inner light, the inner comfort that you seek.
Most people don’t realize that there is not one image of the Hermit in this card, but three…yes, three Hermits in one. Let me explain. First, get out that neglected Rider-Waite tarot deck, you know, the one you neglected for one of the more post-christian enlightened ones. Look at the lamp the Hermit is holding; this is the key to understanding the deeper truths contained in this trump. The star within the lamp, if closely noted, is a six pointed Star of David. The Star of David is composed of two interlocking triangles, one pointing down, one pointing up. This is a very important occult symbol, and can reward meditation on it with increased feelings of inner peace, harmony and balance, plus probably tons of stuff I wouldn’t know about.
In occult – Golden Dawn – symbology, the downward pointing triangle represents the pull of spirit into manifestation. The upward pointing triangle represents the aspiration of matter to merge back into spirit. Significantly, the downward pointing triangle is represented by the element rain, and the upward pointing one represented by the element fire. In the interlocking of these two triangles you have the union of the six pointed star. Six is the number of tipareth, the heart chakra center on the tree of life and is, of course, the number of the Hermit trump reversed. Okay – so what? As you increase your connection with spirit – you move metaphorically upwards into the light and the light descends down into you. Your heart begins to open and radiate the inner light through the vehicle of your body and provides a subtle wayshower for any who are starting to clue in. The structure of the lamp is the bodily vehicle that carries the inner union of the marriage of spirit and flesh.
Remember that The Lovers, which more explicitly deals with the dynamics of the mystic union, is trump number six, nine reversed. What the light of the Star of David is is something you will want to experience for yourself. Notice that the Hermit bows to his staff, perhaps a symbolic gesture of surrender to the inner current. As he bows inwardly to the truths of the deep self, the Hermits’ light becomes more prominent and can begin to be shared with those who choose, or desire to see.
So there you have three Hermits – the lamp, the hidden inner light that comes through the marriage of spirit and flesh – the image of the Hermit, the teacher on higher or more inner oriented planes – and the staff which represents both the Hermit and the light which he channels through the medium of awakened flesh. However – suprise! – there is one more Hermit to be found, and it is so obvious that everyone misses it. The roman numeral IX…check it out! I is the staff, the body which channels the divine energy and love wisdom. X represents the two triangles of water and fire about to merge. Pretty ridiculous, huh? Finally 6 and 9 if placed side by side on their sides forms the symbol of Cancer, the hard shell of the body and personality around the soft inner core of the heart, the Star of David.
I hope this short essay, besides illuminating some of the symbolism of the Rider-Waite deck, will also encourage people to give it a second look. Waite’s books are almost indecipherable, but cards like the Hermit carry much that rewards study reflection and meditation.