“Arcana in Balance” is a series that looks at each of the major arcana cards, and looks at where each of them teaches us some lesson about balance, and bringing balance to our lives.
The Hermit fits some of my favorite popular images – ones that have a sense of humor. Spirituality isn’t all dullness and drudgery. Spirituality, tarot, psychic work has the same balance of humor and fun as any other part of life.
When I’m doing a reading and the Hermit card shows up, sometimes I’ll explain it using TV advertising. One of my favorites is the ” lifesavors” ad from what was it..the 70s? A guy climbs a rocky, steep, isolated mountain to find the stereotypical hermit / guru / yogi sitting in meditation. He asks the guru ‘what is the meaning of life?” The answer was, if memory serves, pep-o-mint lifesavers. He might be right. They are pretty tasty after all. Being able to appreciate the fun and sweetness of life is a big part of what it is all about. The Hermit shows us that the spiritual doesn’t have to be far removed from the practical and the funny. It isn’t about being far away from life, it’s about how you think about life. Hermits aren’t about living in a cave. It is about living in your life with all the wisdom and humor of a cave-dwelling enlightened sage.
Or another fun ad is for tea. A man asked a white-haired Asian elder the difference between white tea and green tea, as if it were some great secret. The older man says something like “we find the smallest leaves and pick them”, then he turns and walks away. Grand life mystery solved.
Brevity is the nature of wit and pragmatism is nature of the Hermit card. The Hermit’s wisdom is indeed hidden. It is just hidden in middle of the bald-faced and practical instead of some other exotic location. You can be wise AND spiritual AND part of society AND have a sense of humor. Which is, ironically enough, is not at all like what the word “hermit” actually means. True enough, the Hermit card can be about literal isolation, retreat, spirit-seeking, stepping away from the mundane to find the esoteric. The word “hermit” means someone who deliberately lives a secluded, isolated, solitary life, usually for religious or spiritual reasons. What does that have to do with candy, tea, or anything else in modern life? Who can do that outside of vacation time? Some very few people live that way, but humans are largely social creatures and the vast majority of us live in some sort of community be it a small rural town or a global metropolis? The clue to the Hermit card’s balance comes from Taoism. Classic Taoist principles can help us understand the Hermit card.
This is the Taijitu or yin-yang symbol. Yin is a Chinese word that has to do with qualities like cool, dark, quiet, inward, contracting, hollow, valley, female. Yang is hot, light, loud, outward, expanding, full, mountain, male. To this way of thinking, almost everything can be understood as some proportion or other of yin and yang qualities. The Hermit card is a balance of isolation (yin) and social engagement (yang). The Hermit card asks us to find our inner yin/yang balance. Of course, we can find physical, literal yin/yang balance. That is important too. Awake and exercise (yang) must be balanced with sleep and rest (yin). On the inside, the balance is observation and influence, passive and aggressive. It’s important to know when to act and when to watch…when to be a party animal and when to stay home. Being a “hermit” or bringing more hermit-like qualities into life doesn’t require that you move to a mountain peak in the Himalayas. Just be more yin. Stop talking and listen…to others but also to your own inner wisdom. Listen to the hermit/guru/sage that lives inside all of us.
The Hermit is akin to the Queen of Cups in that idea of seeking stillness, but 5he Hermit has another side. The yin Hermit learns, the yang Hermit teaches. The Hermit’s classroom can be a rural tea field or an urban coffee house. It isn’t about the literal environment…it is about how we interact with that environment. We can be engaged or detached, communicating or quiet.
The Hermit card very much asks you to think about your yin and yang balance, and it can be about any part of mind, body or spirit. Do you need to hit the gym or take a nap? Do you need volunteer at your favorite charity, or do you need to meditate? Do you need to climb a spiritual mountain, or lighten up and have a peppermint candy? Do you need to learn something important or do you have an important truth to teach?
When the Hermit comes to your reading stop and think…that’s exactly what the sage would do.