Card Spotlight: The Hermit

Occult Ornithology– Now on Kickstarter!

The next card spotlight is for the ninth card in the major arcana, The Hermit, represented by a grey heron.

When deciding who should represent The Hermit card it was quite difficult, I knew I needed a bird that lives a solitary life outside of breeding and who visually could mirror the feelings inspired by the Rider-Waite hermit card. I’ve always had an affinity with herons, their elegance and focus, when I finally thought of using heron, a grey heron seemed to fit perfectly to the card and it’s meanings, and no other bird seemed to fit so perfectly.

The card when drawn commonly in its upright position can mean: The Hermit can be representative of a period of introspection and soul-searching. It can indicate that through solitary meditation and inflection that you need to re-examine your personal goals. This card encourages to listen to yourself for a while and follow your own path.

When drawn in the reverse position, The Hermit can mean: You are secluding yourself too much from the outside world, that you are isolated or withdrawn from people in an unhealthy way. It can also indicate that you are not doing enough self inflection and relying on others too much rather than trusting yourself. When going through a period of introspection, be careful not to cut off your friends and loved ones.

Why a grey heron? When I thought about a heron for the card, the first thing that popped in my head was how often herons are seen peering into the waters edge, my favourite memory of herons is visiting Amsterdam’s Vondelpark which is full of tiny ponds, each pond had a resident heron sat at the waters edge poised looking for fish. While the herons where obviously hunting for food, I was still given the impression of introspection and the idea that they were staring at themselves in the waters. Outside of the breeding seasons, herons live a solitary life and unlike a lot of birds don’t flock nor migrate with other herons, their solitary lifestyle as well as their poised, focused natures made them an ideal candidate for The Hermit. In ancient Rome, Herons were seen as birds of divination, their calls were seen as predictions of events to come, the original Rider Waite design has several divinatory associations.

The Hermit- Rider Waite

Symbolism in the card: In the Rider Waite design of the card, an old man is seen on a journey in a secluded place. He holds a lantern to light his way, inside is the seal of Solomon, a 6 pointed star seems a symbol of wisdom. The old man also holds a staff which can represent power and strength. In my interpretation of the card, the staff is replaced by the heron standing on one leg, representing strength, balance and power, I fought with the idea of holding the lantern for a while (and even included it in my preliminary sketches) but I didn’t think it looked right, so instead had the heron holding the seal of Solomon itself. I replaced the mountains of the original design with the calm pond, reflecting the hermit while he looks ahead.

If you found this interesting, you can read my Judgement here!

Occult Ornithology is currently on Kickstarter! Back the project here

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