From Merlin to Gandalf, every great story features a benevolent older wizard, a wise mentor who can help point you in the right direction, even as you clim the tallest mountain on your own. Within the context of the Tarot, this archetype is called the Hermit.
What does the Hermit represent in Tarot?
The Hermit is one of the teachers you will encounter on your spiritual journey. He is a vastly experienced mentor, and a bit of a lone wolf.
The Hermit represents inner seeking and attainment, mentorship, hidden wisdom and exploration, and the sometimes lonely journey beyond normal experience.
Is the Hermit the most powerful Tarot card?
As a Major Arcana card, the Hermit is one of the most powerful in any Tarot deck. His strength lies in his ability to walk off the beaten path in pursuit of self discovery and higher wisdom. Not many possess the strength to defy the values and mindsets of the herd in favour of picking out their own path.
The gift the Hermit brings is his encouragement for us to discover our own way and strive for higher levels of truth and knowledge, even when the road is lonely and we are only able to make out the next few steps ahead of us. To keep going when the going gets tough takes true spiritual fortitude and internal strength.
Related Major Arcana Tarot cards
In order to truly shine the full light of understanding on the Hermit, it makes sense to look at some of the other Major Arcana cards that reflect him.
The Hermit is sometimes considered the older version of the young Magician, the second trump card of the Major Arcana.
The Magician and the Hermit are both magicians, and both archetypes are linked to the Virgo astrology sign.
The main difference between the two, besides their age, is that the young Magician is only just discovering and exploring his powers. He works with he four elements through the use of tools that represent them; the wand for fire, the pentacle for earth, the chalice for water and the sword for air. In the Hermit card, the wand has grown into a staff, and the other three elements have morphed into the elusive fifth element, spirit.
The Hierophant and the Hermit are both patriarchs and spiritual mentors. But the two differ wildly in what they represent.
The Hierophant is a vassal of traditional values, teachings and spiritual beliefs. The Hermit, on the other hand, is a custodian of secret and occult knowledge.
The Star Major Arcana Tarot card is a symbol of self reflection and being guided by one’s own light and inner voice.
The Star appears in the Hermit card as the light shining in his lantern and illuminating the road ahead of him.
Symbolism in the Hermit Tarot card
Depictions of the Hermit vary, but they all tend to include the essential symbols found in the Rider-Waite Tarot.
The Hermit is the central figure of the Tarot’s ninth trump card. Usually depicted as an old man holding a staff and a lamp while traversing a mountainous landscape, he is the very embodiment of the spiritual seeker.
The Hermit is the wise one, a powerful symbol of self discovery, inner wisdom and of ascending to a higher spiritual level.
The Hermit doesn’t look to the outside world to fulfil him, but turns to the world within and tends to his own needs. He balances between self-sufficient and anti social.
In one hand, the Hermit is holding a lamp containing a six-pointed star, the seal of Solomon, representing wisdom and inner illumination.
The light only illuminates the next few steps of the Hermit’s path – where it will take him beyond the next few steps is still unclear.
The Hermit’s staff is a symbol of authority and experience. He uses it to pick out his path in the near-darkness and also to steady himself as he traverses the steep and uncertain terrain.
The staff can also be considered to be the Hermit’s wand, and it’s sheer size hints at his magical potency.
In some Tarot decks the Hermit is dressed more like a classical wizard in a royal blue robe beset with stars, but int he classical Rider-Waite Tarot we see him wearing a modest grey cloak, a symbol of immaterialism, discretion, secrecy and mystery.
The mountainous landscape
The domain of the Hermit is an inaccessible mountainous landscape.
The steep mountains serve as symbols, not only of the dizzying level of spiritual attainment the Hermit has achieved, but of the strenuous and lonely climb that got him there. The landscape in which we encounter the Hermit makes it clear that he exists in a space beyond normal experience.
Deciphering the Tarot: Upright Hermit meanings
The details of the Hermit Tarot card differ between different Tarot decks, but the meanings remain constant. Here are some of the primary meanings of the Hermit Tarot card for you to contemplate and draw on.
A mentor or teacher
The Hermit is always a mentor or a teacher, whether his guidance comes from without or from within. When we are ready – when we show desire to listen and to learn – the teacher will appear.
The Hermit may be a formal mentor, someone you form a student-teacher relationship with and whose advice and experience you trust. The Hermit can be more than one person, or might be an inner guiding force rather than an external one. You may, for example, hear the calling of the Hermit in meditation or when you are spending time in solitude with your own thoughts.
Introspection and inner wisdom
The Hermit represents self reflection and inner guidance. He may symbolise the inclination to withdraw from the humdrum of everyday life for a few minutes or even for an extended period of time in order to connect more with your own journey through meditation and contemplation.
Spiritual aspiration and occult exploration
The Hermit Tarot card signifies that the perfect time to seek higher awareness and to focus on strengthening your relationship with your own soul is now. Whenever the Hermit appears, he extends an invitation to explore magic and deeper meaning.
A loner, a rogue
The Hermit Tarot card can suggest a period of isolation, or a person seeking to connect more with the secrets of the universe than with other people. The Hermit card often appears as a sign of a fiercely independent soul.
Deciphering the Tarot: Reversed Hermit meanings
When the Hermit Tarot card is reversed, his negative aspects come to the forefront while his positive aspects withdraw. These are the most prominent meanings of the Hermit reversed.
An influence leading you astray
The Hermit reversed could prove a dangerous teacher. Not everyone beckoning with the promise of occult secret sand magical power is going to be a suitable mentor – just think of cult leaders like Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Although they may have had their finger on the pules of some deeper truth, they perverted their knowledge and used it to control and destroy the lives of others.
The reversed Hermit warns you to do a bit of soul searching and exercise caution when picking your mentors.
Corruption, veiling and restricting access to information and knowledge
Where the upright Hermit Tarot card brings higher insight and discovery, and a true desire on the part of the mentor to share his illumination, the reversed Hermit shows the flow of information being restricted and used to manipulate and control.
When the Hermit appears reversed in Tarot readings, it is often a sign that someone close to you is hiding something from you.
Loneliness and isolation
Your focus on your spiritual journey shouldn’t be so intense that you expel other people from your life and fall into a state of solitude and loneliness. There are parts of the journey that can only be undertaken on your own – but there are other parts that are more enriching to explore and discover in company. Solitude is only healthy in the correct doses.
The Hermit reversed can be a sign that it is time to come down from your lonely mountain peak and spend some time reconnecting with the people in your life.