The Hermit Reversed: “Better get to livin'” — Dolly Parton

The Hermit - Card 9 of the Major Arcana

The Hermit – Card 9 of the Major Arcana

By Carrie Sanders

The card is colorless.  A white bearded man climbs a mountain in the darkness, with only a lantern lighting his way.  He is hooded and bent, considering each step carefully.  He is alone save for a small snake at his feet, a symbol of transformation and the shedding of skin.  He holds a staff and proceeds carefully, only guided by the small light emanating from his lantern.  This is a card of solitude, maturity, and finding one’s way in the darkest hours. As with most reversals, the reversal of this card does not denote the opposite of the upright meaning, but rather that the symbolism of the card may not be working for you anymore.  The Hermit Reversed suggests to me that time for contemplation and reflection may no longer be what’s best. It’s an invitation to rejoin the world and live among the living once again.

It’s been 9 months since I was pulled out of my old life by the roots and the recurring card I pull in my readings is the Hermit Reversed. I had been plodding along the Hermit’s path for too long, and was lonely, sad, and stuck.  I was projecting despair-once even my name autocorrected to “carry sadness.”

This reversal is a welcome invitation.  I feel as though I have been operating from the smallest, safest place imaginable for the last months.  I have retreated far more than what is naturally comfortable for me. I need my people. I am a natural external processor, which could be considered refreshing or extremely irritating depending on the sensibilities of my audience.  I recall a chef I worked alongside yelling at me in frustration; “Can you quit the fuckin commentary already?”

I have embodied the Hermit for a very long time now.  I was surprised how much I retreated into myself, but truthfully I was depressed to the point of tedium and starting to resent anyone else’s good fortune.  I was negative energy, bad juju, a cautionary tale.  Going within by choice was better that alienating myself away from the waning compassion of friends and family.  I was starting to get the message that it had been long enough- why was I still sad/angry/anxious/undecided about my future plans?

Even though well-meaning people have tried to advise me on the best way to get out from under a heartbreak, nothing seems to soothe me like the hibernative quality of the Hermit.  I rejected all attempts to cheer me, from the formulaic “for every year you were together you grieve for 3 months”  to “Just be grateful you didn’t have children” (heartbreaking- we tried throughout what were probably the last good years of my fertility) to the advice a friend gave me when I was tearfully packing my boxes in Shanghai “Get high!  Get so high!  See new dick!”, a prospect that made me shudder with revulsion.  (Full disclosure; I did try the stoner treatment in the Netherlands.  I got high, so high, ate a shameful amount of junk food and couldn’t follow the storyline of the Dr. Phil show.  Can’t say it helped my mental health in any measurable, long term way.)

The Hermit Reversed suggests it may be time to be vulnerable.  Early experiments with Tinder play out like “To Catch a Predator.” Discovering that a man who does not speak a common language with me is willing to drive 3 hours in the middle of the night to meet me does not impress, it terrifies. I am depressed by the bold demands from the hot-blooded men of the Malopolskie region to show my tits or meet RIGHT NOW.   But looking within is done, my Hermit torch has faded and it’s time to regenerate that light through interaction.

The Hermit, from the Wild Unknown tarot deck

The Hermit, from the Wild Unknown tarot deck

My reflective time has changed me, though.  In the past months I have cut more people out than invited in.   Am I isolating more or is this a new maturity and discernment based on experience?  As the Bible says: “Be wise like a serpent and gentle like a dove.”  Perhaps that is another purpose of the serpent at the Hermit’s feet.  With introspection comes wisdom, and if I have learned anything this year, it’s that when your reptile brain starts sending up red flags and fight or flight instincts, you need to believe it.  I am reminded by a passage by Jacqueline Hart from her book, Damage.  “Damaged people are dangerous.  They know they can survive.”

I am well and truly coming into my full power as the Queen of Swords now- as quoted by Juliet Sharman-Burke “Traditionally the Queen of Swords represents a woman who has experienced sorrow, or who may be alone through widowhood, divorce or separation.  She may have loved and lost but believes she will live to love again, and all in the meantime bears her pain with courage and resignation.”  Not only that- but optimism, grace, and wisdom.

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