Working in darkness
Exploring the wild unknown
Uncharted trails blazed
For some reason today I’ve found myself pondering the energy of The Hermit. I can certainly see the challenge of forging ahead and searching through the unknown to find a path. However recently I’ve begun to see a shadow aspect of The Hermit – the madness of solitude. I’ve come to realize that solitude can provide one with an opportunity for deep insight and self-discovery, or it can push you past the breaking point. It can produce a situation where madness licks at the edges of your mind because the solitude has become unbearable. There have been times recently where that kind of madness has brushed against my mind.
It has made me appreciate the sense of isolation and aloneness felt by caregivers of various stripes from stay-at-home parents to those caring for ailing family members. When the circumstances are such that socializing or time alone are just not in the cards, that’s when the wings of madness flutter close. Social networking can help relieve some of this sense of isolation and aloneness but it really is not substitute for human interaction.
Of course I speak from personal experience. My life over the past few years has been a long example of the madness of isolation. In caring for my in-laws, a situation has been created in which I am usually alone with no adult interaction (as much as I may love my in-laws they are not capable of adult conversation at this point). I rely on phone calls and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends but sometimes it’s just not enough. Even when I’m talking or texting with friends I’m still in the same crazy-making environment.
Perhaps madness caused by isolation is also initiates creativity. I have certainly had moments when I become very creative trying to find ways to alleviate the solitude. History is littered with tales of creative geniuses who isolated themselves in pursuit of their goals. There can clearly be times when isolation and solitude produce a positive result but when it is the result of external forces I have a feeling that is when madness comes to call. The relentless, oppressiveness of forced isolation can push us over the edge. We might indeed be exploring uncharted territory and forging a new path but eventually all our efforts at distracting ourselves and alleviating the aloneness fail and we’re left lost in the woods with no recourse. Howling at the moon may be fun with a pack but when you’re alone in those woods you can feel a prickle of fear as worries of impending madness assail you.
Hermit reversed as dementia
Today, while working with my Dark Goddess and Deviant Moon Tarot decks, I had an insight into how dementia might feel from the inside. I pulled my card of the day from the Dark Goddess Tarot. It was Persephone/Judgement. Using this card as a guide, I asked the Deviant Moon Tarot “How can I integrate what is dying in my life with what is living and growing?” I drew The Hermit reversed and The Star in response.
At first I rather shrugged it off thinking that the Hermit reflected my current social isolation. However the longer I looked at this card the more convinced I became that it was about my mother-in-law. The expression on this Hermit’s face and her body posture suggest fear if not outright terror. The more I looked at this pathetic figure hunched in on herself the more I became convinced this card is a visual depiction of how my mother-in-law feels every day.
My mother-in-law is suffering from some type of dementia. She is not always able to connect with us when we speak to her. She often speaks to inanimate objects or people who are not there. She has forgotten how to care of the basics such as bathing or feeding herself. And yet every so often we get a glimpse of the woman she used to be. She will often cry softly to herself because she realizes this is not how it’s supposed to be. We are convinced that a part of the woman she once was is trapped inside her mind and horrified by what is happening to her. That is what I see conveyed on the Deviant Moon’s Hermit card, especially reversed.
The Hermit reversed reminds me that my mother-in-law is traveling a road that I cannot fathom and she’s doing it alone. No one, regardless of how well intentioned, can help her with this. It is an internal journey that can only end with death. All I can do for her right now is be there and help her where I can. It breaks my heart to see her deterioration. She still recognizes me even if she has no cognitive idea who I am. She will hug me or tell me she loves me but cannot tell you my name. It’s awful to witness but it must be so much worse to experience. Whenever I become frustrated or angry with her I’ll remember the expression of fear and confusion on this Hermit’s face and hopefully it will help me be more compassionate.
Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance
The Book says: The Hermit archetype makes its appearance at the time it is needed the most by our Fool. The diversion from the distractions of the outside world is utterly necessary, for the teachings of the Hermit are loudly silent. In order to perceive these lessons, we must use our inner senses, for the teachings of the Hermit encompass visions that cannot be seen and sounds that cannot be heard. And the ultimate task for any Fool is to first develop the ability to perceive the lessons, then understand their messages and finally, assimilate that knowledge deep within his psyche so that they travel as an intricate and essential part of him as he walks back to his Chariot – ready once again to enter life’s highway and continue on with his journey.
And this time, that intense, fiery blue core, representing the fusion of his material, spiritual and emotional beings, burns brightly and steadfastly within him.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card symbolizes the enlightenment and gateways to new landscapes that we can find if we focus our energies within. But it might not be an easy process. Sometimes we might feel that we are going on the road to nowhere. Other times we might feel overwhelmed and as though we are being swept away by it all. But the bottom line is that if we look within ourselves, and are willing to do the work, we can climb the path to wisdom and self-knowledge. We can explore these inner landscapes and learn to see the beauty in solitude.
It shows us not to fear being alone. There is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. The Hermit represents having the inner serenity and strength to seek this kind of inner knowledge. One of the things that has occurred to me in considering the various Hermit cards is that shining light into the darkness that can be our unconscious, our id, our deepest, darkest depths, takes a strength of will and determination that many of us may not realize we have. The Hermit is not only willing to shine his light on this side of human nature, he also has gained the understanding and wisdom to accept it and not judge it harshly after the fact.
The Hermit is about seeking this inner knowledge so that we can better understand ourselves. In some respects The Hermit is similiar to a psychologist or other counselor. He or she is able to delve into the depths of the human psyche to bring forth the healing light of inner knowledge and serenity, while still being able to resist the tendency to write off humanity. The Hermit helps us face both the best and the worst in human nature and gives us the wisdom and knowledge to face these extremes and keep moving forward.
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396
The Book says: The need to withdraw from the busy, outer world in order to find peace, to evaluate one’s beliefs and to replenish. Inner vision quest. Time for soul searching. It is a good time to get in touch with the creative self, to keep a dream journal, work wight the Tarot or tools for meditation and self-awareness. One who cares little for the approval for others, who is independent, introspective and on the path of individuation. The reversed meaning of this card warn could warn of excessive isolation, inactivity, “antisocial” tendencies or even deep depression. It could stand for loneliness or an inability to ask for outside assistance.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: I see this card as representing our quest deep within ourselves to find wisdom and understanding. It is the need to shine light on those dark sides of our nature which seem so frightening and horrible until we look at them clearly. The Hermit holds his lantern high in the air. He is surrounded by darkness and “scary” things. A skull rests on his chest; a snake across his shoulders and a bat flies above his head. Typically these are things that would scare people. Many of us shudder at the mere thought of a snake or a bat. And skulls elicit a similar reaction. And the polar bear, while beautiful, can be quite deadly and terrifying if met under normal conditions. But The Hermit has no fear of these creatures. He has learned how to communicate with them and incorporate them into his live. He is at home with man’s darker side as with his light.
The Hermit understands that life is more than just black and white. A rainbow of colors and shades of gray exists as well. If life were that simple then we would always know right from wrong. But nothing in life is that simple. We may all understand that murder is wrong. But we can also acknowledge that in certain circumstances we might find ourselves capable of killing someone. The Hermit has tread these paths of the human psyche and is comfortable roaming there. But at the same time he must be careful not to become lost among these pathways and to lose sight of the light side.
There is a glamour and attraction to the dark side of human nature and if we stay there too long we risk losing contact with the light all together. Andrew Vachss, a fairly well-known advocate for the right of abused children, writes a series of books about a character named Burke. Burke is the Hermit, with a twist. He roams the roads among the dark and evil things that men do and tries to save potential victims. But at various points in his career Burke has lost himself in these dark pathways and has to struggle to come back. But sometimes it’s easier to lose yourself – just as pessimism can seem safer than optimism. But the Hermit offers us a light to find our way back and he is waiting there for us to help us process what we’ve learned and not get lost in the dark.
Mansions of the Moon
The author says: The prophet Elijah being fed by the ravens. YHWH was not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake. YHWH came in a still small voice.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: This image reminds me of the very traditional versions of The Hermit – a wise old man out in the wilderness. The candles symbolize bringing the light of his wisdom and experiences to others. The raven is the messenger bringing him the voice of divine enlightenment. The simplicity and starkness of his surroundings forces him to focus inward. There are no distractions. And as a result he hopes to learn something about himself and gain illumination and spiritual growth.
This is the sacred Fool grown older and wiser. He is the Fool on the Hill of which the Beatles sing “The Fool on the Hill sees the sun going down and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round”. He has seen it all and yet still retains something of his foolish optimism and love for life. He still honors the sacred. His experiences and knowledge have not embittered him or made him cynical. They have made him understand that stuff happens, stuff that is occasionally beyond our ability to understand and accept. He is wise. yet naive; experienced yet innocent. He is a walking marvel in some respects; a man who continues to love mankind and life despite the imperfections and flaws. In fact on some level he may embrace these very things because they celebrate humanity in all it’s glory.
The Hermit has withdrawn himself from regular interaction with society but not because he dislikes it or finds it repugnant. He withdraws because it allows him to focus on it, to see the patterns woven through life, and to learn more about our connection with the divine.
Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999
The Book says: The Counselor is the Celtic god whom the Romans called Silvanus. The figure is one who returns to nature for his healing, with only trees and animals for companions. This deity was sometimes seen as a hunter or guardian of animals, a wise countryman who respected the rhythms of the seasons.
Keywords: Counsel, inner guidance, seeking professional help, tactical or purposeful withdrawal to recoup energies or ideas, pondering or planning, discretion, prudence, proceeding carefully.
Reversed: Bad advice, refusal to heed wisdom or seek help, isolation, reliance on limited resources, lack of accountability, rash or foolish actions.
Soul-Wisdom: The Counselor of Truth is a touchpoint of assurance and validation, reminding us that the three candles that illumine every darkness are truth, nature, and knowledge. What seeks to be born in the silence?
TarotBroad’s Buzz: The Counselor shows a more mythological aspect of the Hermit. This is the wise madman that populates so much Celtic myth. He is the guide who points out the right direction. The person who may ask us seemingly ridiculous riddles in order to help us gain understanding and enlightenment. He is the wildman who fled into the woods seeking healing and solace from the madness surrounding him. He has wondered these woods, howling at the moon and mourning his loss. He has experienced the depths of anguish, pain and insanity. And yet somehow he survived. He plunged to the depths of human misery and came out whole. But it was not an easy process. This is no comfortable walk along a wooded country lane. The Hermit’s experiences have taken him through the dark, wild woods, full of danger and the unknown – whether from real creatures or from his own mind. The Counselor offers a friendly face to help us along the way. But much like a dedicated teacher, he will push you and prod you to achieve all that you can and to test yourself beyond your normal limits. He will not ease up if he feels you have the potential. He will help you expand your horizons and explore unfamiliar terrain.
The Counselor reminds me of one psychological school of thought which sees schizophrenics as the “normal” people and the rest of us as the mad folks. This school of thoughts proposes that if modern life doesn’t drive you mad, then perhaps you are the truly “crazy” one. Or he can be seen in movies and books which present us with a “natural philosopher”, the hobo, hooker or mental patient who truly makes more sense than any other character in the movie. James Stewart in Harvey is the Counselor, helping us navigate the journey through life with wit, humor and love and not giving up hope no matter how overwhelming the odds.
Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
The Book says: When the Hermit is part of your Tarot spread, you will want to consult your inner truth for answers. The card is a reminder that what is really true and right for you is within you waiting to be noticed. A good way to get in touch with inner thoughts and your inner teacher is to spend some quiet time alone and in nature. This card may be present to remind you that you simply need more retreat time. Like the Hermit, you must shine a light into the darkness and illuminate what needs to be seen. The Hermit is a card of keen introspection and observation and reminds us that to be truly alive to the world, we must have time to open to all that surrounds us. Like the Hermit’s beacon of light, the truth comes from inside and calls to us; we only need to pay attention.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: Here we have yet another side to the Hermit – the solitary philosopher and alchemist. This is the scientists seeking to find the answer to the mysteries of the Universe. The mad professor who is determined to solve the riddles surrounding him. He is a Hermit because involvement with other people merely distracts him from his task. He believes he can find the answers he seeks by looking at the stars, the natural world around him and within himself. He is introspective and observant; his senses have been honed to a keen edge. But there is a danger to this side of the Hermit too.
He has little patience for human frailties and fears. He is a seeker and nothing will stand in the way of his quest. He is Victor Frankenstein seeking to understand the meaning and creation of life. He is J. Robert Oppenheimer, “father” of the atomic bomb. This Hermit represents the pure quest for knowledge with no concern about its possible applications. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge leads him down paths which conventional minds might prefer to avoid. In recent times the Hermit is seen among those working on cloning. In fact as a quote from the original Planet of the Apes says “how can scientific truth be heresy”. To me this encapsulates the Hermit’s philosophy. How can knowledge be evil or wrong? If humans don’t continue to grow and learn and explore then we are not taking advantage of the very thing that supposedly raises us above the other animals – our intellect.
At the same time the Hermit is a beacon, a light of hope in the darkness. For with each step he makes on an intellectual level, he forces us to grow on a spiritual and ethical level as well. We might not keep us as easily as we would like or hope, but that seems to be the nature of humanity. We have to face the worst in ourselves before we can step back from the darkness. The Hermit’s lamp guides the way in both directions, forcing us to face facts we might prefer to ignore but also giving us the tools to deal with them.
Today I drew the Ogam Edad/Aspen(?)
According to Erynn Rowan Laurie in her book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, Edad is important where healing is done by dream incubation and interpretation, or when wounds go deeper than the physical body. It can also be useful in work where the healer makes journeys into the Otherworlds as part of the healing process.
Divination, dreams, contracts and relationships with spirits, vision-seeking, intoxication, discernment, enlightenment and the tools used to reach it, communication with the Sidhe and Otherworldly beings, connections with the Otherworld.
What deep healing do I need to do for myself? 4 of Swords R, The Hermit R + 4 of Cups R
I need to really give myself a time to rest and recuperate. I need time alone to explore new territories, interests and ideas. I need to look at what is causing the dissatisfaction and ennui in my life so that I can break free of it.
The deep healing I need to do is a direct result of the relentless responsibilities we’ve been dealing with and its accompanying exhaustion. I have no alone time. Even when I go somewhere, I’m always concerned and worried about what is going on at home. When I’m home there is no break, no downtime. If one in-law isn’t acting up then the other is. It’s rather like having two old, colicky children.
I suppose what I need to do is start thinking about myself. Not being selfish but giving myself some care; tending to my needs. Being selfless may get one into heaven but it will also break your spirit in the process. I have no desire to get any more broken than I already am.
This reading reinforces the reality that I am weary, worn-out and exhausted beyond belief. It has passed physical exhaustion and moved into a spiritual exhaustion. I am reaching a point where I don’t care about anything. It’s time to start taking steps to change things. I’m not sure how things will turn out but something has to give. This situation isn’t healthy for any of us anymore.