(from the book)
"By great diligence and labor, and continuance of earnest meditation thou may be raised up into it."
--Rosarium Philosophorum (pg. 90)
With the Hermit, the male progeny, now older and wiser, reaches the top of Fortune's wheel, and announces, "I do reign."
This figure in early Tarot decks was Saturn, the heavy and dour god of time. In Classic myth, Saturn devoured his children, as time devours all his children, and as his symbol, the ouroboros, devours its own tail.
Over time in the Tarot, Saturn's hourglass was transformed to a lantern, and the god became a wandering philosopher, the holy hermit. This hermit was likely to have been modeled after the Christian ascetics, who were popular figures during the Middle Ages, and on the story of the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who, with his lantern in hand, wandered searching for an honest man.
Several alchemical texts depict the early Christian hermit, Morienus (d. 704), who was also an alchemist, and taught this art to the Arabs. The card is inspired by these images and by the title page from The Musaeum Hermeticum (1625), which depicts a Diogenes like philosopher following nature's foot prints.
In alchemy, Saturn represents lead, and rules the nigredo, the dark phase that he journeys through in the trumps. This is signified on our card by his black companion the raven. His alchemical process is exultation, in which the prima materia, now recombined and balanced, is dissolved into a purer or higher degree of itself. This process is another aspect of the ouroboros symbol. It also is an analogy for meditation, the Hermit's practice, which can be described as a turning inward to raise consciousness.
Nine, the Hermit's number, signifies completion and wisdom. Nine is three
cubed, and hence relates to the thrice great, Hermes Trismegistus, founder of Hermetic philosophy. Nine is the end of the natural integers, and thus marks the completion of a cycle.
Tarot wisdom: The search for truth can be a long and solitary journey. When the path is not clear, we may wander a bit, but we have divine light to guide us. We've come a long way on our path, and are at the end of a segment of the journey. Now it is time for solitude, meditation, and introspection. We must turn inward to examine where we have been and gain perspective. We must integrate the wisdom we have acquired during our journey.