Tarot Spread: Hermit's Guidance

To me, the Hermit is a guide, a light in the dark when you want to find your way out. As the saying goes, not all who wander are lost. And not all who want to get out of their current situation are able to do the work necessary to get out. By that I don’t mean that you have to buy into a ”pick yourself up by your bootstraps” meritocracy because I recognize the reality of systemic inequities. What I do mean is that you have to actually do something to move yourself forward. I might believe in guardian angels (emphasis on might), but I don’t think you can get anywhere without trying. Even opening your eyes and looking for help is a first step. So to help those who are lost or confused, I offer a bit of help in the form of the Hermit’s Guidance

There are six questions to ask. For each one, you have one card in response. For some of you, you know what your Forest is, and if that’s the case then you can select a card from the deck. For you, the card will serve as an interpretive aide in understanding the other cards, highlighting meanings and visual clues that you might not have paid as much attention to if it weren’t for that specific card you chose.

Forest: What was I trying to navigate?

Trees: What has distracted me?

Darkness: What prevents me from seeing my own way out?

Lantern: From where can I draw hope to find my way?

Guide: What or who must I address before I can move ahead with purpose?

Trail: Once I’ve done that, what’s the most useful next step I can take?

Below is the process by which I developed the spread thanks to my take on the Hermit. If you use the spread, please let me know how it works out for you. And please give me credit for the spread. There’s enough love in this world that we can share.

The Concept

I talked about the process I went through with the last tarot spread in step-by-step detail because it had lots of shifting parts. The Hermit’s Guidance spread is more straightforward because it’s based on my own understanding of a major arcanum that is near and dear to my heart, not that that should surprise you. So here is the more conceptual process I undertook for coming up with the cards and titles of their positions.

I created the spread starting with the idea of the Hermit and one of my favorite interpretations of it, the Fountain Tarot’s Hermit. In that deck, we see the cold wintry night that is popularized in the Smth-Waite/Rider deck, but instead of the mountains we have the woods. The woods has a more figurative sense of confusion and lost direction than the mountains, and that’s made literal in the form of the two cards Forest and Trees, as in ”can’t see the forest for the trees.” Of course you can get lost in the mountains, but I don’t think anyone expects that climbing a mountain is easy, whereas wandering through the woods seems harmless enough. After all, how many fairy tales are there about children going rock-climbing? 

The woods also signals the isolation of the hermit without assuming asceticism or literal hermitage. I think full-on retreat from the world is nonsense and a waste of time. And I don’t feel bad about that because, frankly, anyone who has fully retreated from the world isn’t going to care what I think of them. Instead, I see the Hermit as tied to the Life Path Number 9—my own—which is the teacher and humanitarian. Because of that, I don’t love the idea of the Hermit as an isolationist. While the Hermit doesn’t necessarily care about being surrounded by people—even friends and family—I find that the Hermit (and the Virgos represented by that major arcanum) is at his best when teaching or guiding others, so a mountaintop guru is usually low on my list of Hermit figures (but still okay since they’re sought out for wisdom). But like the mountaintop petitioner, the person who seeks the Hermit’s guidance needs to be willing to do something to get there.

The Hermit is out in the woods for his own reasons, probably to avoid the bullshit and drama that everyone else brings down upon themselves, but as I mentioned I don’t think he’s a misanthrope. The Hermit is willing to teach those who want to be taught, those who intentionally seek out the Hermit’s wisdom. They have to make sacrifices. They have to be willing to do the work because the Hermit rightly has a fair amount of skepticism about the bullshit nature of many people’s thoughts, feelings, and. efforts. Because of this, he isn’t just going to help willy-nilly.

So now we get to the shift with this spread. If you’ve found yourself lost and in the dark, it’s very possible that you aren’t there because you were actively searching for wisdom in the form of a secluded Hermit. It’s more likely that you were engaged in something that the Hermit might think of as bullshit, and you simply stumbled into his woods. Now, the Hermit could help you, but because he’s a pedant, he’s going to make you help yourself: ”teach a man to fish" and all that. 

This spread is not for those who want good fortune and wisdom to just land upon them, like manna from Heaven. No, this is for the person who has recognized that they have gotten lost somewhere and they want to find their way out, but they’re stumbling in the dark, and they’re just exhausting themselves, so they need someone to help them find the way forward. They don’t need the Hermit to give them food and shelter. They need the Hermit to light the path forward so that they can start moving with renewed purpose. For that reason, we have the remaining cards, which highlight the importance of darkness and hope, along with accountability and responsibility.

Notes about the Questions and Positions

  • The fifth card uses the verb ”address” because it can be used to indicating accepting and facing the problem as well as greeting the person (or other source) who might be able to provide assistance.

  • The opening clause of that sixth card ” Once I’ve done that” is critical as a way of demonstrating that you’re going to be doing the work, and it’s a reminder that the final card is no good to you before you’ve addressed the need for help or redirection.

  • The design of the spread happened naturally. The idea was to illustrate the straying path and then to find a way back to the original navigation point, but as I shifted the cards around, rotated and un-rotated them, I realized that it became a tree-like arrow, showing a way not only back to the starting point of deviation but also a way pointing ahead.