What can the old man of the tarot teach us?
While many cards in the tarot, especially the trump cards, have undergone serious redesign over the centuries, The Hermit card remains almost exactly the same as it did 500 years ago.
Almost all Hermit cards show a very old man in a long, monk-like robe, holding a wooden staff and a lantern. The lantern is just about the only part of the card that has gotten a redesign over the years, as the inside of the lantern now usually shows a glowing star or some kind of shape inside the lantern that is giving off light.
With the original Hermit cards, the lantern was usually empty.
So, who is this strange hermit; a man who has made a choice to live apart from the rest of the world either by choice to seek solace or for possible religious study and enlightenment or has he been exiled due to unspeakable behavior?
That question in never really answered, but in most modern interpretations of The Hermit, the card has a positive connotation, with the meaning usually skewing towards a search for knowledge, truth or a quest for enlightenment.
The common illustrations of The Hermit may make most people think of an ancient wizard like Merlin or a character out of the Lord of the Rings series like Gandalf. But while The Hermit card is looked upon with reverence and respect, there is no real supernatural or wish-granting aspect associated with the card.
When the history of The Hermit card is traced back to its origins, it is believed that the figure represents Father Time and the endless march that will eventually claim us all. But even with this bleak assessment, the card was never a negative when it came up during a reading, it was simply treated as a truth and an inevitability.
The Hermit card is, in most decks, the ninth trump card. But, as is the case with many of the trumps, the position has changed over the years. Most experts have been a little bewildered by the fact that the card representing the most powerful force in the universe, time, would be situated at the ninth spot.
Most people would place this card either at the very top or the very bottom of the trumps to designate its power, and in ancient decks, The Hermit was much closer to the top of the deck. The common perception of why the card was moved down was that other trumps, like love, are more of a fixture of the younger days of life, but as your life progresses and you begin to get close to death, the Hermit card becomes much more of a reality to your daily life.
But while many people may find this interpretation downright depressing, they should realize that with advancing age, you also become wiser and more respected by those around you, and it is this fact that has kept The Hermit card as a positively interpreted card over the years. While there is a definite old age and impending death aspect to it, the fact that the subject has lived as long as they have and has acquired the knowledge and the strength to pass on to younger generations far exceeds any negatives that old age might bring.
There is also a duel interpretation with The Hermit card, depending on the context in which the card appears.
The Hermit card can be interpreted as a need for the subject to separate themselves from their current social circles so they can preserve themselves and gain additional knowledge on their own, or it can be a call to action of sorts for those that have previously isolated themselves to come back into the fold of society and share the wisdom they have collected.
The Hermit card is often one of the most misunderstood cards since the depiction shows a subject so clearly close to death. But the cards history and association with wisdom and the urgent desire to share, teach and spread that wisdom is truly the overriding meaning behind the Hermit card.
Depending on the question asked before the reading, a Hermit card can be a sign that teaching would be a positive career choice or, if the card is reversed, that a serious change in life choices needs to be made to ensure a continuation of the subjects life and health into the immediate future.
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