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A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations. However, not all interpretations follow his theology.
Some frequent keywords include:
- Introspection — Silence — Guidance — Reflection
- Solitude — Looking inward — Reclusion — Being quiet
- Inner search — Deep understanding — Isolation
- Distance — Retreat — Philosophical attitude
The Waite version of the card shows an old man carrying a staff in one hand and a lit lantern containing a six-pointed star in the other. In the background is a wasteland. Just beyond the wasteland is a mountain range.
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The Hermit has internalized the lessons of life to the point that he is the lesson. The Hermit, as a kind of shamanistic hero, has made the complete journey – both the withdrawal and the return. As Joseph Campbell said, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces)
There are two possible ways this card can be interpreted:
- First, the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself.
- Second, the return from isolation to share his knowledge with others.
There are several different cycles embedded in the Major Arcana. One of them is 1-9, 10-19. The Magician to the Hermit; the Wheel of Fortune through the Sun. The Fool gains knowledge of the external world, meets the mysteries, finds the initial object of desire, finds mastery, finds knowledge, finds a new object of desire, leaves home, gains some strength, and withdraws for a time to integrate the lessons learned before starting on the next turn of the spiral, where the Wheel of Fortune spins us into a new adventure.
Alternatively, the Hermit may be the old man or woman, metaphorically,[clarification needed] whom we meet and who gives us the insights, tools, or training to confront the beasts of the forest, the sealed cave, the gated castle, or the wormhole.
The Hermit is related through a cross sum (the sum of the digits) to the Moon. While the Hermit mostly integrates the lessons of the sunlit world, the Moon stands at the threshold of light and dark and churns the waters of life. In both cases, treasures can be uncovered through contemplation of what is brought forth. In both cases, monsters may be found.
A potentially dangerous aspect of the Hermit is his retreat, his isolation. We all need to retreat sometimes; retreat and renewal are necessary for growth. But the Hermit may be tempted to completely withdraw from the world, not because the journey is done, but because the dragons of the real are too daunting, or the trivial pleasures of the cave are too intoxicating. Withdraw at the wrong time, remain withdrawn too long, and growth stops.
In some decks it is also called Le Moine ("The Monk") or Time or The Sage.
In the Mythic Tarot deck, the Hermit is depicted by Cronus.
In the Sacred Circle Tarot, the Hermit is the Shaman.
In the Psycards alternative Tarot deck, the Hermit is the Sage.
In popular culture
- A stylised version of the Hermit can be seen in the illustration on the inside sleeve of the album Led Zeppelin IV (aka "Four Symbols") by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The illustration is credited to a "Barrington Colby", of whom little is known. It has been speculated that the artist was Jimmy Page himself.
- In the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same, Jimmy Page portrays the Hermit in a fantasy sequence during the song "Dazed and Confused". In the sequence, Page climbs a rock face towards the figure of the Hermit, whose face is that of an aged version of himself. The sequence was supposed to have been filmed behind Boleskine House, a property two miles east of the Village of Foyers near Loch Ness in Scotland. The house, which was owned by Page at the time, had been owned by the author and occultist Aleister Crowley.
- In Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Joseph Joestar's stand (Hermit Purple) is named after The Hermit
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