The Hermit

2015 watercolor and pen

I conceived the basic concepts of what would become my Hermit illustration long before I began the tarot project. I assume the Hermit is an immediately identifiable aspect of each person, not so much mired in symbolism and cryptic mythology as so many of the other cards. We've all felt the pull of self-reflection, the loneliness of quarantine, the self-preservation in exile. I felt it quite a bit in my youth but I attached a melodramatic importance to it.

Often when I'd feel a teenage romance was unrequited, I'd reach a point of acceptance and then a strange sort of sexless arrogance, like I was some earthbound angel or spaceman meant to only appreciate the beauties of the human race from afar but never to actually touch it.

I feel like a lot of teenagers rationalize rejection in similar ways to keep from looking in the mirror and feeling the naked accusation that they just aren't good enough in someone else's standards. But as I'd imagine myself walking isolated shores on distant planets, a lone cold figure in a sprawling glittering universe of wonders, I felt special for not being chosen. 


As I got older I would experience a similar feeling, though far less valiant, in times of deep overwhelm. When daily life avalanched around me, I wanted to pull leaves, bushes, grass and twigs over myself like a blanket, hiding from boogie man banks and the looming haunted house of adult responsibilities. In my adult life, when faced with romantic rejections or responsibilities I didn't want to accept, I found myself identifying with bog men.

Bog men, darling National Geographic centerfolds, are people whose corpses were mummified by the peaty swamps, preserved in a mixture of water and earth matter. I no longer saw myself as the charming angel or sexless alien but as the insulated bog man, a decaying wonder preserved by the natural world against the rotting laws of men. I would close my eyes and imagine sinking into hundreds of years of hibernation in that cool, all-encompassing mud. 


I explored themes of isolation in a more romantic aspect of my life as I began to write lyrics for music. In the early 2000s, I flirted with the idea of calling my band (which had more names than songs) Mannequin On Moon, the symbol for isolation in its purest form. Imagining a mute, plastic motionless effigy on the moon's surface encapsulated the romantic feelings of isolation I harbored.

I'd even fantasize about myself on a space station, visible to the voyeuristic eyes of planet earth through a one way camera. I'd leave video messages to earth updating the world on my life on the moon but I'd never hear a word back. Eventually, the moon seemed too populated in my head and the concept of the mannequin on the moon became Mannequin On Mars, a much colder atmosphere.

My illustration of the Hermit depicts this beacon of pure isolation, the plastic Mannequin on Mars. She is positioned with one hand pointing down to the concealed, potentially prehistoric bog man astronaut beneath the Martian soil. Her other hand points skyward to the stars somewhere beyond the cocoon of red sky. This speaks of the optimistic focus of the Hermit, almost a blind faith in the greatness beyond the world seen with our eyes.

This is paralleled in the hermit's catatonic eyes - his right eye lights up with the clearly visible star that the mannequin points to beyond the red skies. The mannequin serves to further divorce the prehistoric astronaut from human connection, instead offering painted-on eyes, cold plastic skin, synthetic hair, and a half-hearted gesture of anatomy. 

The traditional Hermit depicts a gray old man while my hermit is actually a prehistoric time travelling astronaut, literally frozen in a catatonic trance. Of course my hermit needed to be an astronaut to continue my romance with feelings of isolation and my honoring of the heroic qualities offered in those times in our life when we are lucky enough to get to know ourselves.

I believe that this astronaut is beneath the Martian soil voluntarily. The space is less his tomb and more his womb, evidenced by his fetal position. Eventually, my hermit will reach the understanding that he needs and his story will continue beyond the confines of the red soil. But it is through silence and self-imposed isolation that the hermit learns the valuable lessons he needs to continue on his path.

To further indicate this, I depicted the hermit with bare feet, easing his connection to the source. He is plugged directly into the matter around him though he remains disconnected from the world that we know. Such achievements are similarly possibly through quiet meditation and self-reflection. 

The clocks in the borders simply reinforce a common theme of the Hermit card: the passage of time. Likewise, the astronaut helmets in the borders are supportive of the theme of isolation.