Welcome to the Real Life Lessons from the Major Arcana series. We've gathered together 22 of the best Tarot readers to share their personal stories and interpretations of the Major Arcana cards.
Discover new meanings and spiritual lessons behind the Major Arcana cards, through real-life experiences and stories. And watch as the Tarot cards truly come to life!
Barbara Moore is a prolific author of many Tarot books and articles on Llewelyn.com. In this blog post, she shares the lessons she learned from the Hermit early on that helped her to become the dedicated writer she is today. Read on…
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My Evolving Life as a Hermit
As a child, my favorite activities were solitary: reading, writing, drawing. At family gatherings, I was the strange child hiding in a corner with a book while all the other kids played games and horsed around together. Being alone was preferable to interacting with other people. With hindsight, it is easy to see that my behavior was a defense mechanism. As long as my walls were high and thick enough, no one could get in to hurt me. Everyone has their sad childhood stories and everyone reacts to them differently. My response was withdrawal, a hermit in the making.
For many years, even before I came to tarot, I continued to embrace this definition of being a hermit: locking myself away from others, protected from the world, safe and happily involved with books…stories of other people’s lives. When I discovered tarot, my favorite card was the Hermit. For years my understanding of that card allowed me to elevate my loneliness, my separation from others, to something spiritual and high-minded. It shaped my identity and my behavior.
Early in my tarot studies I discovered birth cards and was delighted to find that one of mine was the Hermit. Not so delightful, though, was my other birth card: the Moon. The shadowy darkness and uncertainty in that card unsettled me. My inner Hermit could observe the world from on high, judging and organizing my thoughts by the light of my lantern. Everything seemed clearer from that vantage point. The Moon, although I didn’t realize it for many years, represented how I felt when I ventured into the world: confused, uncertain, not knowing how things worked, unsure of what to say and do.
Over the years, the tendencies I associated with the Hermit continued to drive my actions. Working with others was an unwelcome chore. Being a good team member and collaborating with people were skills I didn’t have and didn’t work hard to develop. Eventually I carved out a life as a freelancer, allowing me to work alone much of the time. While some of this behavior was certainly natural inclination, old wounds also fed that behavior, pushing it to unhealthy extremes. Attending conferences was a challenge because talking to others was so hard for me. It amazes me to look back at those days, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and remember how often I sat alone, too scared to interact.
Ironically, Facebook changed me (I say “ironically” because I recently left Facebook for other Hermity reasons, which I explain in my blog). I soon discovered that I could interact quite easily in that environment. Suddenly, I had friends…and they seemed to like me, which was a really wonderful and new experience. I’d never really given anyone a chance to like me before. Slowly but surely, I took off the strange Hermit shell I’d built up over the years.
Then came the years that changed everything. I began training in shamanic practices. My family faced hardships we’d never dealt with before. Everything felt hard and dismal and joy seemed a distant thing. Through these difficult times came lessons in compassion and empathy, a deepening of my soul. There is a saying in some circles: you can’t have Easter without Good Friday. These years were my Good Friday, my shamanic initiation over the course of months rather than one discrete experience. Now that my Good Friday time is over and I’m enjoying the glory of Easter, I see that my previous, narrow idea of the Hermit was merely a shadow of what that card really means.
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It took about a year after the Good Friday years to work through my experiences. Through that work, I learned about true transformation—why it is necessary, its process, and its results. My ideas about the Hermit ripened, growing more complex and more beautiful. And more scary.
The Hermit comes after Strength; after the facing, accepting, and integrating a shadow aspect of the self. After intense shadow work, the journeyer moves to the Hermit, a place of introspection and processing. The Hermit withdraws to consider the truths learned and to reorganize his worldview. Did this mean continuing to judge the world from on high while protecting myself? Quite the opposite. I learned that the Hermit’s lantern casts only a small light, just enough to see the next step or two. We are not always given to know the outcome of things. Sometimes we are only given enough to know the next step. We take that step, regardless of the outcome, because it is the right step for us to take at that moment. It requires faith because doing the right thing does not guarantee that everything will be rosy and happy. The card that follows the Hermit is the Wheel of Fortune…a card of uncertainty and reminder that we do what is right because it is right, not because it will get us what we think we want. Unless what we want is to live with integrity and authenticity.
In the past, I loved being a Hermit because I thought it allowed me a bird’s eye view and to create a world in which I could see clearly what actions would have which results, as if life were a huge chess game. Now I know that my Hermit’s lamp is not meant to make me safe. It is meant to guide me through my journey, which, like my companion birth card, the Moon, is full of uncertainty and sometimes monsters. Despite the confusion and monsters, following the Hermit’s light leads also to revelation and beauty. And ironically, it makes me better suited to engaging with others. Part of the Hermit’s journey, like that of the shaman or the Hero, is to return to community to share his newly acquired medicine with the world.
About Barbara Moore
At a party someone put a tarot deck in Barbara’s hands. She’s held on tight ever since. Her life has been a crazy-quilt of experiences—beauty school drop-out, theatre geek, stay-at-home wife, history student, editor, academic, Catholic, fundamentalist Christian, Methodist, Nothing, Everything, pagan, shaman—and tarot helps her make sense of the eclectic soup that has been her life.
Not that she wants to make too much sense of things, at least not anymore. Not so very long ago, structure, logic, and a thirst for Absolute Truth drove her life. Now that age is mellowing her, rounding her sharp edges, she is learning to love dancing with mystery, sitting quietly in silence, and admitting that the conscious mind doesn’t have to understand something for it to be valuable.
Barbara lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her wife Lisa and their dog, Whiskey. Every morning, she takes Whiskey for a walk and they play hide and seek with the Divine, finding magic (and burrs) everywhere. She also loves cake, art supplies, summer, traveling, and good books, a few of the things that convince Barbara that the Divine loves us and wants us to be happy.
Since her wife won’t be her sugar momma, to earn her keep Barbara spends her days consulting for Llewellyn and Lo Scarabeo, creating decks, writing books, presenting at conferences, reading for clients, and teaching.
Connect with her through her website: http://www.tarotshaman.com
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