is the guiding light ahead
show the way to the outside
pushes through the webs of mystery
tread a distant path, alone
keeps the wolves and shadows from you
is bowed toward the light
carries light into lonely places
is inside us, every one.
Nine is my number. Every so often, I'll get the Hermit and all four nines in a seven-card reading. I think it's the only number I've got three of down here already. For all that, I'm not that good at explaining the Hermit out loud; I feel like I don't have to, because the feeling of it is so unambiguous to me. It's the lantern over the lonely road; it is knowing, and it is walking on with that knowledge rather than heading home to share that light with others. (If they want it, they can come and get it; everyone can see where you are, right? Right?) And it's the lack of form; the Hermit's body is made to look shapeless, his face rendered unremarkable or turned away. He doesn't want you to see him as a man, but as an unmarked container for light and ideas. For those of us who've felt it, the Hermit is an easy way to become invisible. (Stay there too long, and it becomes a hard habit to break;
If you can see the Hermit, he (I've never seen a female Hermit) is always old. Partly this signifies his relationship with Time and with the depths of human experience (imo the other part is that it's just because old people are less likely to be looked upon, and he likes that). Everything the Hermit has learned in his life is in that lantern that lights his way; a young, sheltered Hermit is lost indeed.
[A note from Agla: "...I have a female Hermit in my deck. Old lady in deep pink dress and iron-grey cloak. Iron-grey hair too. She's old, but there's nothing weak-looking about her. She looks tough. Like some ancient monolith that's been battered at by wind and rain for centuries but is still standing proud."]
And the Hermit is obnoxiously solitary. He'll walk with you, for sure, but the path is his own, and he won't be strayed from it, and there's always the chance that he'll get ahead of you on his way - though his lantern will still be in sight. He's a flybynight with everyone, so don't take it personally.
Images of the Hermit:
The Robin Wood deck has a nice variant on the RWS Hermit.
The Scapini Hermit has wet feet.
Aloneness is the Osho Zen Hermit: "Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself." He carries no lantern; he is his own guiding light.
I'm fond of the Roots of Asia Hermit, who is path and light both.
I could wish I knew more about Amano's Hermit: I'm sure there's a story here that I don't know about. My feeling is that it's Izanagi, trying to find a way into the underworld, but I'm probably wrong.
What I said about the Hermit in 2005:
The Hermit's message, as I hear it now, can be summed up pretty easily; growing up isn't only a matter of gaining things. You have to lose too. It is a bleak thing, but it is no less essential, no less welcome, for that.
It happens to be my birth-card. I honestly don't think I got that in any way much at all til I read something monumentally resonant in Mithrigil's Lj [try as I might, I can't figure what this refers to] a little while ago. You will lose. Every time you walk down one path you miss a thousand others, and leave a thousand people behind. It's like picturing the universe expand and watching every star drift further apart from the next.
What reading that bit brought to mind most strongly, though, was a moment from Carpe Jugulum. Esmerelda Weatherwax off up past the gnarly ground because nobody needed her any more and nobody had wanted her to begin with. It doesn't end like that, though. Nobody really crosses the gnarly place for you. For one thing, they're all already trapped up there themselves; what changes is how much they are aware of it.
And how does the Hermit feel? There's a line in, of all things, Story Of O (awful book, never finished it) about it; "Those who love God and who God abandons in the darkness of the night, are guity, they are sinners because they are abandoned." It's always God, to the Hermit, whatever that word might describe... Amano draws it perfectly; the dark lines that let the Hermit see into the world of the loved and the belonging, but not to pass through to it.
There's another part of the Hermit in that not-belonging line; the pilgrim. The urge to be apart from things by placing yourself in a position where it's all you are. Is a prophet accepted in his own town? I don't know, but they certainly don't stick around them. I know my own wanderlust comes from the Hermit, though not for poncy religious reasons; just because I like to see the places that I am not. I remember sitting on a riverbank in France a couple of months ago, dipping a hand into the clear, fast, freezing-cold water, and wondering about people who hadn't been here, people who didn't know that rivers ran any shade but brown. If someone didn't at least want to know how different the world was from what they were used to seeing it as, what were they to me? How could I look them in the eye, past the black lines and into their world of home and belonging?
It's my birth card.
I'm thinking of those harsh and barren valley-cups in the top of the line of mountains that runs between France and Italy. They sing with the voice of nowhere at all. I remember first hearing The Future Ain't What It Used To Be. We are as the lonely stars; we feel each others' light. That is all.