It is a festival that prepares us for the quieting of nature outside and, if we allow it, within ourselves. After all, the cold climate and the longer nights foster an attitude of introspection.
As I hold The Hermit card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck in my hands, I see a bearded old man holding a lantern in his right hand and a staff in his left hand. Like the Fool’s card, he is a pilgrim, a wanderer. His wisdom is imparted through his journey. The lantern is lit and placed in front of him and in the distance, mountains suggest that he has completed his journey and has returned to guide us. His solitude indicates the benefits of withdrawing from the chaotic everyday world to turn inward. He wears a serious, trustful expression and we may connect him to the archetypal figure of the elder or the sage if we wish. As such, he is the one who finds meaning in the chaos of life, as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav suggests in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (CW 9, Part I, § 74).
The card depicts a person encouraging us to search within ourselves and seek our own internal light. It’s akin to a busy day at work when, at day’s end, we yearn to return home promptly, seeking the solace and company of our loved ones.
What I see in this card is that, especially during childhood and youth, it’s important to have a guiding figure outside of ourselves with whom we can connect. Most studies in psychology emphasize that this is a crucial aspect of feeling safe, of continuing to grow and understand oneself better and act confidently in the world.
Eventually, adulthood and maturity arrive. These guiding figures start to become scarce in the external world. Many people come to realize that they carry wounds, small or large, and that the individuals playing the roles of father, mother, or caregivers naturally had their flaws. After all, they are only human, despite bearing the mantle and sword of maternal, paternal, wise man, or wise woman archetypes.
This brings us to the Greek myth of Chiron, the Hierophant, who acts as a bridge between earthly knowledge and that which surpasses what the intellect can fathom. Chiron’s injuries transformed him into the Wounded Healer, someone who, through his own pain, could better comprehend the pain of others. It’s an illusion to think we can heal all psychological wounds. Sometimes, it’s about embracing and tending rather than solving
When the masks fall—and it’s crucial that they eventually do—the moment arrives to willingly withdraw a bit from the world and connect with the Hermit residing within us. Doing so, we grant the archetype the chance to reveal the light it carries within each of us. The knowledge that even in the darkest night of the soul, the light remains within us is reassuring. We discover that we have the psychological resources to face our challenges after all.
In such moments, the Hermit archetype can emphasize the right to make choices for us, but also expresses the duty to take responsibility for them. Discovering our unique way of existing in the world comes with its costs, particularly if we choose to deviate from the traditions that provide collective protection. It’s important to be prepared to bear the price.
When we turn to the Hermit’s card, we cannot help but notice the seeker traveling alone. It’s one of the phrases that struck me the most in The Power of Myth when Joseph Campbell mentioned that at this stage of the hero’s (or heroine’s) journey, it may be beneficial to have someone as a companion, but it is also okay to be alone.
For me, the lesson is that in the heroic journey we undertake throughout our existence, we enter this world alone and we will depart alone as well. There’s no need to fear. After all, between these two moments symbolizing the ultimate mystery, we encounter numerous allies, guardians, heralds, shapeshifters, tricksters, and mentors from the outside. If we are fortunate, we will encounter antagonists and, if we’re very lucky, a great villain to teach us how to confront our own shadows. However, the inner guidance, The Hermit, is always there, patiently waiting, just within the reach of a breath.
And if we’re wise, we can observe the inhalation and exhalation of nature’s seasons, revealing the opportune moments to turn inward and outward in a rhythmic pattern throughout the year. We can utilize this wisdom as a metaphor, akin to how Jung correlates the phases of life with the seasons, and as life progresses, we traverse the spectrum from Spring to Winter.
You can listen to the sweet English version of the Waldorf song by searching for ‘I go outside with my lantern’ and ‘Waldorf lyrics’ on your preferred search engine. However, here is the version I found used in U.S. Waldorf Kindergartens:
I go outside with my lantern,
my lantern goes with me
Above the stars are shining bright,
down here on Earth shine we.
The cock does crow, the cat meows, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.
‘Neath heaven’s dome till we go home,
la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.
When I finished writing this text, or rather, when the text finished writing itself, I was humming ‘La bimmel, la bammel, la boom. Balanga, Balanga, lampião’ And it felt so good!”
Primavera de 2023
Monica Martinez is the former Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythological RoundTable® Program South American Coordinator. She is a trained Jungian Psychoanalyst with a private practice in Brazil. On the academic field, she is full professor on the Communication and Culture Graduate Programme at the University of Sorocaba, Brazil, and visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences de l'Information et de la Communication (Celsa) of the Sorbonne Université (France). She holds a PhD in Sciences of Communication (University of São Paulo) and completed her postdoctoral studies at the Methodist University of São Paulo. She has been interested in mythology since the first book of Greek mythology she ordered from a catalog when she was 9 years old.