IX. The Hermit

Alone upon the mountaintop, I find the star to guide me.

"The Hermit" by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
“The Hermit” by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Over the last several months, I have sat down to write this entry at least half a dozen times. I sit here, I throw down a few words, and I read through them…and then I delete the entry.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the Hermit. It is the card in which I see myself most strongly. It is the card I always find when I calculate my so-called “birth cards” of the Tarot: regardless of the method, I always find the Hermit with their lantern, still searching, still seeking.

The Hermit in the Shadowscapes Tarot bears a lantern and stands atop a precipice, white and black loons flying below their feet as they balance on a cairn of dark stone, the midst of the sky around them.

He takes his lantern. He was told by the wise woman that it was a bit of captured star, and it knows its way home. The lonely beam of light pulls him clear of the valleys and high above a glittering lake whose surface is a liquid mirror. His star-lantern marks the path, and he does not know where he goes, but each step lights the next, and the next, and the next.

-Shadowscapes Companion, p. 56

I’ve spoken a little on my time in, as I call it, The Forest of Faith, a wooded land I would “fall into” when I was in the depths of my spiritual depression, and then later my mental depression. The Hermit reminds me deeply of these times, of the ropes I found within my heart, that I was forced to rip from my essence. Still, there are times I find myself feeling as though my heart and spirit are bound in ropes, trapped and hidden beneath the surface. There, too, I found a lantern, lit with an ember ripped from my own chest.

Within this card, I also find a guide in shadow work, the mental and spiritual wrestling with the darkest parts of ones self. Now, in this dark time of the year, in this hallowed and sacred time, I find myself once more drawn to that work, drawn to the necessity of working with my own demons—especially as I begin to relapse, falling upon old rituals and routines that marked my darkest days. And the Hermit, with its lantern, can lead you through the darkest parts of the forest, the deepest shadows of the wood.

The Hermit is a two-part card of mind and spirit. It is the soul journey, the critical analysis of yourself and the forgiveness you give yourself for your flaws and shortcomings. It is the time I sit with a cup of tea and musing on how I see the world; it is the time I spend grappling with a soul-flight, of a kind, into the Forest where the Stag Queen and the Dark Hound dance the dance of the hunt.

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Remembrance for the Dead

white is the colour of bone and ash
to speak to the dead we bathe and fast
red is the colour of blood and death
we rub the bones and give them breath
black is the colour of womb and tomb
we sit in the dark to leave the room

.I.  Cleansing

In silence, I scrubbed the hearth and washed my tools, cleansing the bits of old and forgotten from pan, pot, and spoon.  I swept the kitchen floor and washed the counters by hand. And then I went to cleanse myself before making the offerings. With lavender soap, I cleansed and purified my body, murmuring a chant the whole while.

I cleanse myself for the ancestors, may you find me worthy of your presence this night.

I cleanse myself for the spirits, may you find me worthy of your presence this night. 

I cleanse myself for the gods, may you find me worthy of your presence this night.

Thrice for the ancestors, thrice for the three, and thrice again for the ancestors I whispered my words beneath the flowing water.

.II. Offerings

Rich tomato soup, roasted beets, and homemade bread. I cut and sliced and cooked mindfully, imbuing my intent into each food, each step, remembering those who had gone before. As I held the largest beet, now freshly peeled and still steaming in the chill October air, I marveled at how it looked like a fresh heart, so large and vivid and dark in my hands. I gave thanks to the ancestors in silence, thanking them for their trials that led to me standing in my kitchen that night, the steaming chthonic root still in my hands, staining my hands and fingers red.

.III. Ritual

Unplanned, we three arrived in red, black, and white. This chose our seats for the evening: each would sit at their color and read the words of the Necromancer’s Chant there before we began. We plated and poured, setting meat, bread, and wine on the table for us and for them. A meal to share with those gone by.

The table set and the seat veiled, we said the words and rang the bell. We ate in silence, pausing now and again to listen when we sensed we weren’t alone. The chair sat veiled, the meal before it, sweet red wine poured in the glass. We sat and we ate, thinking of those that had gone before, offering them to share in our meal, red as blood, red as life.

Once more, the bell was rung, once plates were cleaned and wine was drunk. We were free to speak again, and we thanked them for their presence, inviting them to stay if they would, or go if they must. We thanked them for their gifts and lives, and thanked them for their joining us this night.

Out came the cards, the pendulum, the acorns with silver symbols sketched on their shells. We shuffled and talked of what we had experienced during the meal, sharing wine and red juice and laughter. Once ready, we drew the cards, a spread of three, asking for each of us what would come next, what to do, and what to watch out for. We drew and we shared our readings, helping one another interpret the cards. Then each of us drew an Ogham rune from the bowl, the acorns inscribed with silver words, for further guidance on the paths we take.

The night was spent with good food, good wine, and good company, talking of love, of life, of witchcraft until the hour was late. Then, we cleared the table and said our goodbyes. Until next time.

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