The Hermit is a card of introspection and solitude. The imagery is often one of an old man, cloaked, with a lantern lighting his path ahead. The lantern is symbolic of enlightenment in the darkness. This is a card of searching. Alone and searching in the dark for his way in life, carrying nothing but a walking stick and lantern, he serves to remind us that in life we are often alone in our quest for direction. Solitude is often required to remove other distractions around us so we may think clearly, contemplate, rest and plan ahead. The ground below his feet is often depicted as white with snow. Timing is a difficult art to master with Tarot and the appearance of the Hermit can sometimes point to the season of winter.
Pay close attention to the details of the imagery for the Hermit in your deck. The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot has the Hermit looking down and facing left. His gaze is in the same direction as the Queen of Pentacles. This direction symbolises a mind focused on the past and material matters. There is another card in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck which is the exact opposite in almost every respect to the Hermit. That card is The Page of Wands. There are at least 8 opposite attributes between these cards. See if you can identify them as a useful exercise in recognising symbolic details.
Numerology: The Hermit is card number 9 of the major arcana. This is the final number of the numerological sequence. All Tarot card's that have the number 9 have a theme of isolation or loneliness. This theme of an end of a cycle is seen in the winter landscape through which the Hermit walks. The number 9 is the number of a humanitarian. As a person it could symbolise someone who cares for the world and has cast aside personal ambitions, desires and material possessions. A priest, a monk, a spiritual teacher. An activist who cares about a cause.
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THE PICTORIAL KEY TO THE TAROT;
By Arthur Edward Waite (1911)
The variation from the conventional models in this card is only that the lamp is not enveloped partially in the mantle of its bearer, who blends the idea of the Ancient of Days with the Light of the World It is a star which shines in the lantern. I have said that this is a card of attainment, and to extend this conception the figure is seen holding up his beacon on an eminence. Therefore the Hermit is not, as Court de Gebelin explained, a wise man in search of truth and justice; nor is he, as a later explanation proposes, an especial example of experience. His beacon intimates that "where I am, you also may be."
It is further a card which is understood quite incorrectly when it is connected with the idea of occult isolation, as the protection of personal magnetism against admixture. This is one of the frivolous renderings which we owe to Éliphas Lévi. It has been adopted by the French Order of Martinism and some of us have heard a great deal of the Silent and Unknown Philosophy enveloped by his mantle from the knowledge of the profane. In true Martinism, the significance of the term Philosophe inconnu was of another order. It did not refer to the intended concealment of the Instituted Mysteries, much less of their substitutes, but--like the card itself--to the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared.