The last few weeks I realized that my life has taken a rather dramatic turn. Through the end of last year, I was actively seeking a partner. I was dating, really hoping to meet someone special, trying, putting a lot of thought, effort and energy into the idea and reality of partnership. It was a lot of work but it didn’t feel like work. I had the energy, the curiosity, the desire, the need, so it was fine. I was being as social as I could, meeting as many new people as I could, open to getting to know different types of men that I’d never considered. In short, I was a social butterfly.
As an aside, I’ve now been separated for nearly 2 years from my ex-husband, divorced for just over a year. I have three small children and so am basically a single mom, although my ex and I are on great terms and really consciously just realized our incompatibilities in couplehood after 10 years together. This by way of explanation of the context of my situation. Dating for me takes a lot of effort and is quite complicated, but again, when I felt energized and enthusiastic about meeting people, it didn’t feel like work at all.
Fast forward to now, really to about a month ago, when I finally started realizing that I was consciously choosing to step back from the world outside. Honestly. I only have two free weekends a month in which my kids are with my ex-husband, and generally I jealously guarded those weekends to go out. I started to notice a pattern whereby I was purposely choosing to stay at home all weekend. I was literally overjoyed to stay physically in my bed engrossed in a book or multiple books, for hours, sometimes all day until the evening. Being that I’m a super active person, it struck me as a bit odd, but I didn’t make much of it until I realized that it was becoming a really significant force in my current lifestyle. I had no desire to go out, be social, meet new people. I couldn’t wait to have an entire day in silence, and to read any book I could get my hands on that would immerse me in spiritual and esoteric truths that I was seeking to understand. I wanted to know everything I could on a new level about intuition and divination. I launched my business to the world after 12 years of reading tarot privately. I wanted to devour knowledge, had to know more about mythology, manifestation, philosophical musings on alternative religious schools of thought, laws of the Universe, destiny. The books came one after another, totally serendipitously. A quote in one would lead to another, a footnote in another would lead to discovering an entirely new field of thought, a new author’s body of work.
I started to feel distinctly like an honest-to-God hermit. And then, it hit me. That subtle feeling I get when a not-too-distant past reading starts to bubble back up to the surface. This, my dear friends, is why a tarot journal is so useful. It serves as a physical archive to jog your memory about something you may have seen in the cards previously, but then forgot about.
I started flipping back in my journal. I hadn’t had much time to read for myself, but I usually do a reading around the New Year. Flipping back through my journal pages, I kept looking to see if The Hermit and The High Priestess popped up in my recent past readings. Sure enough, Jan. 13, 2013, there it was, in a 7 card spread I designed to take a look at some areas in my life, good ol’ Mr. Hermit smack down in the position of “Love Life” and, lo and behold, The High Priestess in the position of “Love Life Next 3 Months.”
I thought back to that reading and suddenly remembered it well. I remembered my reaction as I flipped over The Hermit in response to love life, and getting that double whammy I usually get when I do readings for myself.
First thought: “Oh shit. I’m going to be lonely.”
Second thought: “Oh thank God. I’m going to be alone.”
That’s the thing about tarot. I tend to believe, based on my own experience, that we already know internally everything the cards show us in a reading. What the cards do is they put it all right out there in front of us, undeniably and unavoidably, which is where those gut reactions come from. It’s the proverbial “a-ha” moment, even when you don’t really want the a-ha. You know when people say “I knew it all along…” or other expressions people use when they feel that something is there, but not tangibly? Tarot is the bridge that spans the conscious and the unconscious mind.
So, back to The Hermit. Now that I’m in the thick of this energy, let’s delineate a bit how it can play out in practical terms.
Alone – Not Lonely
An important distinction to make. The Hermit is a truly necessary energy, as are all the energies and experiences represented in the 78-card deck. Everything in life belongs to the law of polarity. Everything, every situation, every emotion, every thought, has an opposite pole. The social butterfly wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the quiet hermit. When one side is expressed to the extreme, the law of polarity brings it back to the other side.
The Hermit is alone, make no mistake. He walks bravely forward, carrying his lamp to lead his way. He walks with purpose, with determination. He is a seeker. He is seeking knowledge, truth, insight, and to do so, he has to back off from the world, he has to go off on his own to “find himself” once again. He’s alone, but he’s not lonely. The reason is that his constant companion is his conscious goal and mission in his being alone: the search for truth. The Hermit steps back so he can fill himself up again, so he can silence the mental chatter, regroup, uncover interior truths, discard what isn’t working, solidify beliefs, let go of values that undermine self. The Hermit is truly soul-searching, and that isn’t lonely. Lonely is an energy that includes resistance to being alone. Lonely wants to shift to its polar opposite: togetherness. The Hermit is alone, and revels in it, needs it just as much as a person needs air and water to survive. It’s a spiritual solitary, a partnership with self, and it’s an active isolation that permits profound insights and allows unconscious material to come to light.
Going Towards the Light
It’s important to realize that the energy of The Hermit is totally productive. It shouldn’t be seen as solitary confinement. The Hermit is actively following the light of his lantern, the light of truth, of divine wisdom. It’s that light that illuminates his path. In existential terms, the knowledge he seeks in this period of aloneness is the foundation he is laying for his future steps. The knowledge, the insight, the silence, the companionship with self, all of that is what is going to sustain him when he re-emerges from his self-imposed exile.
Only the Essential
We often speak about the “essence” of something, without thinking much about how it relates to the word essential. In this card, we see only what’s essential, only that which is absolutely necessary in this period of interior renewal. There is absolutely nothing frivolous, extraneous (extra) or insignificant in the image represented on this card. The landscape is cold, barren, devoid of distractions, only the peak of a snow-capped rocky mountain. “Cold, hard truth.” There’s a walking stick for physical balance and stability (inner seeking often takes us into a dimension far from our physical reality), and a lantern to light the path. The body is completely covered in a simple, drab garment only as protection from the elements. The colors are somber. It’s solemn. It’s ritualistic. It’s holy.
Taken in this perspective, The Hermit is a constructive card of growth towards individuation and higher expression of self. Periods of activity, periods of rest. Both needed, both valuable.
So, when The Hermit comes up in a reading, welcome him with open arms for the important lessons he can teach. Be compassionate with yourself if you have the same initial gut reaction as I did. We’re human beings, we’re social animals, we’re not designed to naturally stay in solitary retreat as a lifestyle. However, periods of contemplation and quiet time with self that break up the hectic social pace of modern life are more than healthy, they are entirely necessary for balance and integration of life’s lessons.