All Hail The Hermit! Lessons From a Misunderstood Tarot Card

The Hermit is one of my favorite tarot cards, but this wasn’t always the case. I used to interpret its meaning too literally, thinking it was telling me I, or the person I was reading for, needed to spend more time alone. 

Or maybe it was trying to convey the opposite? You’re spending too much  time alone. You’d better leave your cave for a few hours or people will think you’re a weirdo.

A few weeks ago, my relationship with The Hermit changed dramatically.

I was doing a tarot reading for a client in my Excavate and Activate transformation program when you-know-who popped up. But this time, I got a wildly different message — one that felt like the raw power of The Hermit. I don’t know if it was the context of the reading, or the fact that I was about to delete the Instagram app from my phone indefinitely, — thus creating my own private hermitude— but it was like I was seeing this unconventional character for their authentic self for the very first time.

The Hermit stands for more than just solitude

When you think of a hermit, images of an eccentric, possibly scary-looking person living in a cave might come to mind. In fact, this is the image many tarot decks portray. In one of my favorite decks — Santa Muerte Tarot*— The Hermit is shown curled in the fetal position in a coffin with only worms and other creepy crawlies as company.

The Hermit tarot card
The Hermit from the Santa Muerte Tarot Deck

Not exactly uplifting.

Many other decks show The Hermit as a mysterious figure in a hooded cloak. One thing all Hermit tarot cards have in common, as far as I’ve experienced, is a light. Often, the figure holds a lantern before them, illuminating a long path ahead. Only they know where they’re going, and no one else can distract them from getting there.

The Hermit follows their own inner light.  Nothing else.

When I looked at this card I knew my client was asking me for advice about something they already knew the answer to. They were just too concerned with what other people thought to see that.

The Hermit is about clearing away the excess chatter and stepping back into stillness so nothing stands between you and your inner guide.

According to Carl Jung, whom I adore, The Hermit is the archetypal wise old soul. The person who trusts the knowledge within them and is only concerned with living an authentic, satisfying life, no matter what others say about it.

In short, The Hermit says, “You do You, Babe.”

But spending time alone certainly helps you gain clarity

There’s a reason The Hermit is always alone.

The world is full of people, entities, and energies trying to get you to do what suits them best. If you’re an empath or a people-pleaser — or even just human — this can create a lot of confusion when it comes to making decisions. Deep down you know what’s best for you, but your friends, family, boss, and society in general pressure you to do what they want instead.

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After listening to enough outside opinions, you might feel lost, unsure, and out of touch with what you desired in the first place.

And that’s when The Hermit might come up in a tarot reading.

That’s when it’s time to disconnect, put down your phone, turn off the podcasts, and simply sit with yourself.

When I worked in neuroscience research, we talked a lot about the “signal to noise ratio.” When you collect data from fMRI or EEG, you get a messy combination of the actual signal from a person’s brain and noise from the machine, the study participant, and the environment. We had to separate the signal from the noise.

The Hermit asks you to do the same, but by following your intuition rather than running yourself through a sophisticated computing program — like we did with brainwave data.

The Hermit is the ultimate rebel

Society doesn’t encourage people to think for themselves and follow their own guidance. That’s one of the reasons The Hermit is a scary image to many.

We’re taught that loners, recluses, and unconventional types are bad. There’s something wrong with them. Maybe they’re alone because normal, healthy people rejected them. Maybe they’ve been cast aside.

This is a notion I’ve grappled with my entire life.

I’ve always felt happier being alone. One of my earliest childhood memories is from my first day of preschool, trying to squeeze myself into the bookcase to find refuge from all the other children. I was happy to play manhunt and kickball with the other kids in my neighborhood, but when I got old enough to call friends on the phone and arrange social plans, I realized I’d rather not.

A classic introvert.

I felt like there was something wrong with me. I thought I was alone in my desire to be left alone.

But as I grow older, I’m learning there’s nothing wrong or bad about wanting to spend time in your own company.

Being a hermit is actually pretty cool

Yesterday, I read this delightful article about Hermettes, a secret society of women who want to be left alone. Let me tell you, I identify with, admire, and can’t wait to be every single woman featured in this article. The tarot and energy reader with an apartment full of musical instruments? The Hermette Magazine founder with unruly silver hair and a confident grin?

I love them all. 

I am them.

They’re wild women. 

Rebels. 

She-wolves.

They reject the traditional roles women have been unwillingly boxed into in favor of living their most authentic lives. Not only do they say there’s nothing wrong with spending time alone, but they make it cool.

Doing what makes you happy regardless of what others think is radical. That’s one of the reasons it was so hard for me to openly admit I didn’t want kids for a long time. And even though I’m married to an ambivert, there are times I wish we lived in separate houses, like Gala and Savador Dalí.

In case you don’t know, Salvador bought Gala her own castle, and agreed not to visit without a written invitation from her.

I dream of such a life.

But for now, I spend my mornings in meditation, tuning into my inner guide to lead me there.

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