Hermits and Magi (Magicians)
August 22, the Sun entered Virgo (the virgin), the zodiacal sign linked
to the hermit card of the tarot.
Historically, the purity and innocence of the virgin, as well as the celibacy
and self-abnegation of the hermit, are traits believed to foster spirituality.
Virgo is ruled by the mental and androgynous planet Mercury, associated
with the magician (or magus) of the tarot.
sign Virgo belongs to the element earth, one of the four elements described
by the Greek philosopher Empedocles around 450 BC. The tarot’s earthy
suit of pentacles or disks depicts typical scenes drawn from the down-to-earth,
pragmatic and mundane situations suggested by the element earth. Virgins
and hermits seek contact with the divine through the renunciation of earthly
played an important role in Western culture. Christianity tells us that
the Virgin Mary was chosen by God to give birth to the Christ child. Three
wise men (magi, magicians, astrologers) followed
Christ’s star to Bethlehem. Throughout the centuries, the Virgin
Mary is said to have appeared to virginal young people to relay her message
to the world. In a well-known Hollywood movie, Mary, calling herself the
Immaculate Conception, instructs Bernadette to dig a spring so that sacred
water can flow. The Roman goddess Vesta, who
was tended by virgins, is also associated with water
flowing from a sacred spring. Many modern astrologers link the asteroid
Vesta to the sign Virgo.
virgins of Rome were priestesses of the cult of Vesta, the goddess of
the eternal flame that burns forever in the hearth. The virgins of Vesta
were chosen as little girls by the pontifex maximus (high priest)
to serve the goddess for a 30-year term, during which they had to remain
chaste or else be buried alive. The vestal virgins were expected to officiate
at religious ceremonies, fetch water from a sacred spring, attend to the
temple and maintain an ever-burning hearth. Vesta’s mythology and her
link with the sign Virgo suggest that astrologically she may be associated
with work, devotion, commitment and service to others. The theme of the
perpetual flame of Vesta repeats in the lantern that illuminates the way
for the hermit of the tarot.
hermit comes from the Greek eremites, meaning one who lives
in the desert. The first Christian hermit was Paul of Thebes, who retired
to the wilderness in 250 AD. Hermits took flight to the desert to escape
religious persecution, renounce worldly pleasures, atone for their sins
and devote their lives to prayer and fasting.
the sign Leo
the lion, which precedes Virgo, we made reference to the
various mythological and allegorical stories about lions and hermits in
Western culture. One of these had to do with Saint Jerome who, like Androcles,
befriended a savage lion by removing a thorn
from the paw of the beast. Jerome used his knowledge (ruled by Mercury)
like magic to calm the ferocious lion. A noted
church father, scholar and hermit, Jerome combined the intellectual traits
of Mercury (the magician) with the attention to detail and willingness
to serve found in Virgo (the hermit).
Magic of Mercury
the traditional ruler of Virgo, is linked to the magician card of the
tarot. The Rider-Waite-Smith magician is a handsome young
man who is manipulating objects that represent the four elements: earth,
air, fire and water. The magician’s right hand is raised toward heaven
and his left hand points toward the earth, reminiscent of the phrase used
for centuries to justify astrology, “As above, so below.” Mercury’s magic
is the power of intellect, reason, logic, analysis and attention to detail.
Modern technology, which would appear magical to the ancients, is a product
of Mercury’s power.
is most likely the magician grown old. Experience has taught him that
reason alone and technical know-how are not sufficient for spiritual understanding.
The hermit has “been there, done that” as the magician, and now seeks
an inner path to spiritual enlightenment.
Posed by the Hermit Card
hermit card appears in a tarot reading, we ask ourselves where we are
on our spiritual journey. Are we caught up in manipulating the world of
the four elements, like the magician, or are we able to withdraw into
our selves for inner peace and understanding? Are we continuing to drink
water from a sacred spring? Are we maintaining
our perpetual flame, or have we let our spiritual fire die out? Do we
need to renounce some worldly pleasure for a greater good?
Meditations While the Sun Is in Virgo
is an excellent time to meditate on the tarot’s hermit and magician cards,
as well as the suit of pentacles of the minor arcana. Study their images,
look for their interconnections and reflect on how they relate to your
inner and outer life at the end of the summer.
If you are
interested in the connections between tarot and astrology, here are some
books you may find useful.
Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack, Element
2000 and 2001 Tarot Calendars by Llewellyn Publications.
Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack, Thoresons Publishing
and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf, Weiser
Companion by Tracy Porter, Llewellyn Publications.
Tarot Plain and Simple by Tony Louis, Llewellyn
is the Tarot?
traditional tarot consists of 78 cards divided into 22 major arcana cards
(greater secrets) and 56 minor arcana cards (lesser secrets). The major
arcana cards depict 22 spiritual lessons in allegorical fashion. The 56
minor arcana cards are similar to a modern deck of 52 playing cards and
consist of four suits containing ten pip or numbered cards plus four court
cards in each suit. The most influential tarot deck of the past century,
the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, was conceived by Arthur Waite,
illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and published by Rider in 1910.