The Hermit, Key IX, in the tarot deck is a card of which speaks to the issues of our own deep personal truth. The Hermit is typically depicted with the imagery of an old man standing on a high cliff holding a staff in one hand and a bright lamp held high by the other. His head is slightly bowed and he contemplates what he can see below him in the light of his lamp. We do not know what he seeks or what he searches for. We do not know how he has come to be standing in this place that seems so isolated and alone. How did his his old bones make it to top of this peak? We do not know if he is here by choice or by fate and circumstance. Did the pebble in his shoe that made him weary, become the rock he stands alone on now? His aspect is one of patience, someone who has learned to be still, but also of deep contemplation and sadness. He waits and watches.
The Hermit addresses our moments of deepest reflection, instrospection, retrospection, alienation, disappointment, shortcoming, acts of condonation and longings of our soul. It is a card of dreams, illusion, disillusion, exclusion, intentional solitude, ascetisim, healing, love, memory, old secrets, old pain, old anger and the difficulty of letting go of events of the past that won't let go of us. We are standing on the rock of our life trying to dig up the bones of the past and it is challenging and deeply private work.
Until we have come to terms with ourselves and the circumstances which have carved us into the unique human being that we are, we can't move forward to our next new beginning. It is a search for true self and the meaningful purpose of our own life, however painful and harrowing or cozy and comforting our reality has been. Anything we have touched, or been touched by, has an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual impact. We are fatigued but sleep offers no comfort. We may have powerful dreams full of memory and poignancy. We may become cynical and critical or addicted and obsessive. We may lose hope, feel powerless and be overwhelmed by silence or lack of ability to articulate our grief or grievance. We may avoid confrontations and not be able to establish clear boundaries. We are tired of listening. We are tired talking about problems with no apparent solutions. We may be surprised by joy. Some of us may be able to forgive but none of us has a heart that can forget. Some of us may heal and some of us may fester. It takes much seeking and deep reflection to deal with the pain of our past experiences in order to turn it into wisdom, compassion and strength.
Are we waiting to be rescued? Are we thinking that a good man or a good woman will come along and help us? Are we like Diogenes holding up our lamps looking for an honest man? Have we chosen to retreat or withdraw to this high place of introspection and just can't find our way back to share what we have learned here? Have we learned that every attempt we make to move forward or to escape is ambushed or cut off? Do we think no one would care anyway? Have we come to terms with our anger enough to know when to unleash it and when to hold it back? Do we know too much about betrayal and not enough about loyalty?
The ties that bind us to the past can be apron strings, gossamer threads, spider webs or heavy ropes. If we don't deal with our issues you can be assured that they will become the shackles and chains of our future. The emotional impact of past events will resurface at the most inopportune and unexpected times. A song on the radio, a brief snip of conversation, a children's fairytale, photographs and mementos stored in an old box, a chance encounter with someone from that long ago time and we are back in that place as if no time had passed at all as angry, hurt, bitter, sad, sentimental or confused as we were when the original event(s) occurred. It can feel destabilizing – that rock that we had so carefully placed everything under is not as sturdy as we thought and the bare bones are finding their way back to the surface of our psyche. Perhaps it is just easier to leave it all planted under the rock of time instead of going through the deep transformation which is going to be required. We need to consider if we are not so much standing on the rock as stranded on it or blocked by it.
The possibility also exists that we have truly laid the past to rest. The rock can mark that spot and represents our new foundation for the future. The height of the rock can indicate the depth of the soul. It may be a measure of how much we have come to terms with about who we are, where we have been and where we want to go. The rock can be the compression of all the old fragmented issues and obstacles, the old bones, into a solid and cemented foundation capable of providing stability. The rock can also represent the integration of the past into a real, present consciousness and perceptive psyche. If this rock and old bones are providing stability, then you can move forward to a new beginning. If this rock and old bones are unresolved issues and unhonoured grief and losses, then you are going to continue to repeat old patterns and keep on getting what you have always got.
The sun shines, the wind blows, the sky is blue, the grass grows, snow and rain will fall, the moon will glow, stars only come out at night, dark night ends in bright day and only love prevails. Grief and loss will always be for the living. Hope dies but can be born again. The most powerful message of The Hermit is “to thine own self be true.”