The Hermit Card and Ho Ho Ho-ing Your Way Through the Holidays

I had one of those shocking moments recently where I suddenly realized that it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m living alone.  And I had the requisite reaction to that for a few hours.

Oh, my god!

It’s almost Thanksgiving!

And I’m living alone!

Which means . . . I’m going to be alone on Thanksgiving!

Oh, NO . . .

The thought sat there in my gut for a few hours like some super-sized greasy hamburger and fries, making me mildly nauseated and regretful for having it.  And then I started tip toeing around the feelings and thinking, “Hmmm . . . that’s interesting.  Why is being alone on Thanksgiving such a terrible, terrible thing?”

In my original definition of The Hermit, I wrote:

This is a card of solitude and the individual is very much withdrawn from others around him.  This isn’t a bad sort of solitude, however, this is a solitude that involves spiritual growth and contemplation.

The point being that there are times in our lives when it’s totally appropriate and healthy to be alone.  In my case, my partner of 19 years died last year and this is a period of self-imposed solitude, meditation, and thought for me.  The silence really is golden and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’d say that there are a bunch of us in the same boat, but we’re not in the same boat.  We’re in our separate little boats drifting along on our own currents, but hopefully you take my meaning.  Perhaps, like me, they’ve had a partner die or maybe they’ve gone through a divorce or they have a job that requires them to work on the holidays.

For many of them, they are alone the majority of the time and THAT’S ALL RIGHT the majority of the time.  

So what is it about the holidays that makes us feel like it’s somehow NOT alright to be alone?

I think one of the keys lies in the word itself:  alone. We assign a lot of negative connotations to that word.  Alone is sad, pitiful, lost, desolate and, of course, lonely. We have to learn how to draw the venom out of the word and out of the concept.

Scott Cunningham wrote a lovely little light-weight book called, “Wicca For the Solitary Practitioner,” and I really dig that concept.  I am not alone; I am a solitary practitioner.  I make my own magic now.

Solitude does not equal loneliness.  Solitude many times equals healing and immense spiritual and emotional growth.  It’s something to be treasured, not dreaded. People who are, “alone,” are many times very, very happy, evolved beings.

Another key, of course, is societal expectations.  Thanksgiving is a time to sit down with members of your family – no matter how much you may loathe some of them – and eat very large quantities of dead birds.  We all know that and we’re programmed with that from the time we’re kids. You never saw a Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving that featured one guy sitting by himself eating lasagna, right?


Just LOOK at those happy campers!  It’s Thanksgiving and they’re not alone.  And, boy, that dead bird looks just perfect!  No lasagna on THAT table.

And that’s the point:  it’s not being alone on the holidays that makes us feel bad, it’s the expectation that somehow we’re not supposed to be alone on the holidays and that if we are alone something is dreadfully wrong.  In other words, if you’re okay with living alone 363 days of the year but it makes you feel terrible on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it ain’t being alone that’s bumming you out – it’s Christmas and Thanksgiving.

So what do we do about that?  One solution that I see with some of my friends is to get very, very hostile toward Christmas and Thanksgiving.  “They’re artificial holidays. They’re so commercialized and materialistic. They’ve lost the original meanings. Etc., etc. etc.”

You know – sort of the modern day, “Bah, humbug,” solution.  If you don’t have at least one friend who’s a Bah Humbugger you must not spend much time on FaceBook.

But . . . somehow . . . that doesn’t feel quite right, either.  With all of their glitz, tinsel, and artificiality, I’ve had some really wonderful holidays with family and friends in the past.  I’m happy for my friends who are still in that groove and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Macy’s Parade.

It’s just not me anymore. 

It seems to me that there are really only a couple of rational responses to the holidays when you’re a Solitary Practitioner.

  1. You can pretend that they just aren’t happening and that it’s just like any other day of the year.  That requires some Deeply Disciplined Denial, but you can pull it off if you live by yourself and insert ear plugs before you walk into a store.
  2. You can invent new rituals and traditions and OWN those days instead of letting them own you.

I’m not sure, yet, but I think I’m leaning toward the second solution.

Christian fundamentalists get in a royal snit when you say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.”  They forget – or ignore – that the original pronunciation of the term was, “Happy Holy Days.”

The celebrations of the harvest and abundance – what we call Thanksgiving – and lighting bright lights and candles on the darkest day of the year – what we call Christmas – have been Holy Days from time immemorial.  They’re built into our Souls and have nothing to do with Jesus, Pilgrims, America, or eating large,dead birds.

I can celebrate that as The Hermit as easily as I can in a crowd.  I just need some good lasagna recipes.

Introverts/Extroverts – The Three of Cups and The Hermit

Have you noticed that the term, “introvert,” is gradually being redefined on social media?  There are more and more people who are coming out of the closet and saying, “I really don’t LIKE going to parties.”  Or talking about how happy they are to NOT be in a relationship. Or just putting up posts like, “Thank god, it’s Friday, I’m home, alone, silence, blessed silence . . .”

When I was a kid, “introvert,” was kind of a shameful term.  It implied that you were an odd duck, an eccentric, a wallflower.  That you were painfully shy and that you had no social skills. You weren’t alone because you wanted to be alone or you enjoyed being alone;  you were alone because you just found it too painful to be with other people. Poor thing.

What’s emerging now is that it’s more of an energy set.  Extroverts genuinely enjoy being with other people, being at parties and in crowded social situations.  They draw personal energy from that. It recharges their batteries.

And, conversely, they feel energetically depleted if they spend too much time alone.  They feel that something’s wrong in their lives and that they really, really need to get out and be with other humans.  

And that’s okay.  That’s just the way their energy fields are set up.  Being alone is exhausting and being with others lights up their chakras.

And it IS a matter of energy.  If you look at a card like the Three of Cups you can just feel the energy pouring off of it.  These are three people who are having a hell of a good time. They’ve worked hard, they’ve been successful and now it’s time to PARTY!  There is a synergy there, a combined energy that recharges all of them.

When you look at The Hermit the energy isn’t so blatantly obvious.  He’s alone, standing on his mountaintop, quietly looking off into the distance.  But, my, my, how his lamp does shine. He’s not lonely. He’s quite happy living in his silence and contemplation.

That’s what’s changing, I think.  There is a growing recognition that there’s nothing WRONG with introverts.  They’re not horribly shy. Far from being socially inept many of them can be quite entertaining because they’ve had the time to think, to read, to meditate and contemplate and they actually know what they think in much greater depth than many extroverts.

Their chakras operate in almost the opposite fashion of extroverts, though.  Being in crowds sucks the energy right out of them and being home alone replenishes them.  They prefer one long, in depth conversation to the 40 mini-conversations you might have at a party.  Most of them genuinely like other people, they just need to encounter them in small, measured doses or in a one-on-one, deeply intimate relationship.

And, thanks to social media, they’re finally getting a chance to express all of that and realize that there are a lot of people out there who are just like them.  One more place where we’re learning to celebrate our differences instead of condemn them.

It’s all just energy.

The Hermit: “For What Does It Profit a Man to Gain the Whole World But Lose His Soul?”

I am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the United States, the Trinity Alps of far Northern California.  There are gorgeous rivers and streams and lakes, mountains, two national forests, a plethora of eagles, hawks, ravens, bears, trout, and salmon.  And there are only 13,000 people living in the entire county so you can still actually spend hours walking in the woods or sitting by a river by yourself.

We have thousands of tourists come through every summer and a sizable minority of them are just plain miserable.  It’s either too hot or it’s too cold, there aren’t enough cashiers in the grocery store, the ATM wasn’t working, the water in the river is too cold to swim in, it’s too quiet, it’s boring, the internet isn’t fast enough, etc., etc., etc.

It’s kind of sad.  These people have spent thousands of dollars to go to a beautiful, tranquil place to get away from their problems for a few weeks and it turns out that the main problem they have is . . . them.  They’re just not happy people. And they brought themselves with them.

Like the old cliche’ says, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The Hermit is about a period of withdrawal from the world.  About getting out of the stream of time and events for a while so that you can either figure out or remember who you really are.  But, as we can surmise from the unhappy tourists in Trinity County, there’s a little more involved with that than just running away from home.

A researcher named Marsha Sinetar wrote a fascinating book on the subject called, “Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics, Lifestyles For Self-Discovery.”  She put ads in several papers across the country seeking out people who had chosen to withdraw from everyday life and based the book on her interviews with them.

Several things become obvious as you read through the book.  The first is that these people experienced a massive reordering of what they considered to be valuable (also known as, “their values.”)  At some point in their lives they simply decided that the new car, the big house, the fancy computers, the pay raise at the job, and yes, even the marriage to the, “perfect spouse,” and 2.5, “perfect children,” were all bullshit.  All of the things that we might ordinarily consider important and satisfying and fun had become unimportant distractions to them.

What BECAME important to them were, oddly, the things that used to be part of the human birthright but which many of us have lost in modern life.  Time alone. Time to think. Time to meditate. Being in nature. Reading. Silence. Contemplation.

And – again, oddly – claiming  these simple things which used to be free to every human being actually, “cost,”  them a fair amount. Most of them had to walk away from the high paying jobs and start doing part time jobs and learn to live on less money and with fewer possessions.  They walked away from the social status and from the concept that they were, “important people,” as defined by others and walked toward the concept of being, “important people,” as defined by their own hearts.  

Some of them became alienated from their families who refused to accept their new lifestyles.  “Why are you living out in the woods with a dog instead of finding a good husband and having kids?  What’s wrong with you?”

These are mainly seen as sacrifices by people on the outside looking in, though.  To the participants in the study they were very small sacrifices to make for having the luxuries of time and solitude.  

“Time, not money, seemed to be the element most coveted for their new life. . . they didn’t have to be financially secure, they just had to FEEL secure . . .”

And that was one of the biggest takeaways for me from this book.  Modern life, as most of us know it, is a thief. It steals our TIME and in doing so it steals our ability to think about who we are and why we’re here.  In exchange it gives us, “things,” – toys, computers, cars, houses, money – and then it hypnotizes us into thinking that those things are actually us, actually the life that it just stole from us.  

The Hermit is about throwing away the trinkets and finding the gold.  Taking back your time and your Self and your Soul.

The Hermit in Tarot Readings

 

hermit

 

This is one of the more mysterious cards in the deck and hearkens very much to Gandalf the Gray from the Tolkien Trilogy.  This card can indicate a person who has withdrawn from society and is living a life of contemplation and meditation. On the other hand it can indicate that the questioner needs to withdraw from normal life for a while and go through a period of self examination and deeper thought about the meaning of his or her life.

It can also indicate a wise counselor who can give the questioner much needed advice and insights.  The lantern represents psychic and psychological insight and the figure is on a much higher plane than the rest of us, so it may be that the questioner should seek out the counsel of a Wise Woman or Man.

In any case, this is a card of solitude and the individual is very much withdrawn from others around him.  This isn’t a bad sort of solitude, however, this is a solitude that involves spiritual growth and contemplation.

REVERSED – This can be interpreted in several different ways.  It may indicate someone who is spending far, far too much time alone and needs the feedback and companionship of other human beings.

On the other hand, it can indicate a social butterfly who is spending far, far too little time alone and needs to withdraw for a while and develop a little spiritual and emotional depth.

On the relationship level it can indicate a partner who is having a MAJOR sulk and snit fit and is holed up feeling sorry for his or her self.  It can also indicate that a relationship is over for good.

A Few More Thoughts About the Hermit:

I ran across an online definition of The Hermit in which the author said that it was a, “sad,” card and that The Hermit’s wisdom, “has no substance,” until it’s shared with others.

Sigh . . .

Togetherness and, “sharing,” have almost become a disease in our society.  And the point is that you have to have something to share.  Increasingly, people don’t. Look at it this way:

circle

Suppose that this circle represents you as an energy field.  It contains all of your emotions, your thoughts, your physical body.    Then you fall in love with someone and become partners and that looks a lot like this:

Circles 2

Part of your energy field has merged with part of his or her energy field.  There’s still a part of you which is separate and unique but there’s also a part of you that is an amalgam of you and your partner.  Then say that you have children or even just get a roommate and it starts to look like this:

3circles

 

So your energy field – the part of you that is uniquely you – is now merged with two other energy fields.  Then throw in the people at your job and you look like this:

4circles

 

As I’m sure you noticed the part that is uniquely you just keeps getting smaller.  You can make a very good argument that all of those other energy fields merging with your energy field is a good thing.  We draw strength and inspiration and love from interacting with other humans. But if you keep adding and adding and adding energy fields, at a certain point you’re so merged with other people’s thoughts and feelings that you don’t know which are yours and which are theirs.

And, as if all that weren’t enough, throw in the internet.  And facebook. And instagram. And twitter. You encounter people in the stores and on the streets who appear to have their smart phones permanently affixed to their ears and they respond to every post, every personal message, every tweet.  It’s as if the internet has become a secondary sensory system for them, tendrils reaching endlessly in and out into virtual reality.

The Hermit is a deliberate withdrawal from all of that.  And it begins with a single question: “Who in the hell am I?”

All Native cultures honor the tradition of, “the Spirit Quest.”  An individual goes off to be alone, fast, meditate, and seek visions and messages from the Spirit World.  Not just to ask, “Who am I?” but to ask what am I? What is my place in this world? What should I be doing in this lifetime?  Why do I exist?

And that’s what The Hermit represents.  It’s a period of withdrawal from the world, an emptying out of, “others” so that you can find your authentic self.   And, no, it is not made any more or less valuable by sharing it with others. It stands alone.