Alchemical Study Group - IX The Hermit


(from the book)

"By great diligence and labor, and continuance of earnest meditation thou may be raised up into it."
--Rosarium Philosophorum (pg. 90)

With the Hermit, the male progeny, now older and wiser, reaches the top of Fortune's wheel, and announces, "I do reign."
This figure in early Tarot decks was Saturn, the heavy and dour god of time. In Classic myth, Saturn devoured his children, as time devours all his children, and as his symbol, the ouroboros, devours its own tail.

Over time in the Tarot, Saturn's hourglass was transformed to a lantern, and the god became a wandering philosopher, the holy hermit. This hermit was likely to have been modeled after the Christian ascetics, who were popular figures during the Middle Ages, and on the story of the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who, with his lantern in hand, wandered searching for an honest man.

Several alchemical texts depict the early Christian hermit, Morienus (d. 704), who was also an alchemist, and taught this art to the Arabs. The card is inspired by these images and by the title page from The Musaeum Hermeticum (1625), which depicts a Diogenes like philosopher following nature's foot prints.

In alchemy, Saturn represents lead, and rules the nigredo, the dark phase that he journeys through in the trumps. This is signified on our card by his black companion the raven. His alchemical process is exultation, in which the prima materia, now recombined and balanced, is dissolved into a purer or higher degree of itself. This process is another aspect of the ouroboros symbol. It also is an analogy for meditation, the Hermit's practice, which can be described as a turning inward to raise consciousness.

Nine, the Hermit's number, signifies completion and wisdom. Nine is three
cubed, and hence relates to the thrice great, Hermes Trismegistus, founder of Hermetic philosophy. Nine is the end of the natural integers, and thus marks the completion of a cycle.

Tarot wisdom: The search for truth can be a long and solitary journey. When the path is not clear, we may wander a bit, but we have divine light to guide us. We've come a long way on our path, and are at the end of a segment of the journey. Now it is time for solitude, meditation, and introspection. We must turn inward to examine where we have been and gain perspective. We must integrate the wisdom we have acquired during our journey.


I was looking a this card as it is my number card for the current year. I really like how Place has depicted this image. When I was first working with this deck I really gained a lot by viewing the majors around the wheel (ie. Wheel of Fortune). It is interesting to me that The Hermit represtents the top spot on the Wheel and declares 'I do reign'. I like how the imagery shows him nearing the top of the hill/mountain with the path ahead going down the other side. Interesting timing for my card of the year as well since it began on my 40th birthday.....only way from here is down :laugh:.

I've always loved The Hermit card and it is certainly one of my favourite images. At first I was slightly underwhelmed by the Alchemical version, but it has grown on me over time. I love the raven on his shoulder, which for me links the card with Saturn/Chronos and the associated mythology. I also really like the inclusion of the ouroboros and how this links to the symbolism/myth as well.

When I look at numbers in tarot I do the less usual thing of connecting the Hermit (9) with The Sun (19), rather than the Hermit (9) and The Moon (19). I find the first way gives me more insight. Anyway, I mention this because I like how the Hermit holds the lantern, with the lit candle, because to me this is the connection with the Sun. Here in the Hermit, we take our inner sun and nurture it, take care of it, contemplate it, before we venture forward ready to project it out into the world in the actual Sun card.

Just some musings from me on a rainy Sunday afternoon to get things started. :)