Note: This is an excerpt from the first draft of the Tarot of Bones companion book, which will be released with the deck in Summer 2016. Please note the edited version may be different. Thought you might like a preview of what’s to come!
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Card Description: A female black-casqued hornbill skull nests in the walled-up hollow of a tree, her unhatched eggs her only companions. In her bill she holds a fig, passed to her through a tiny opening in her cell by her mate.
My Inspiration: In the creation of the Tarot of Bones, there were a few cards that practically created themselves. The Hermit is one of them. The figure of the Hermit is frequently portrayed as an older, bearded man, walking in solitude across a rocky landscape with only a lantern to guide him and a staff to steady him. There are plenty of solitary animals in nature, but the one that really stood out to me as an analogue to the Hermit was the hornbill.
There are several species of hornbill; the skull I chose for this card was that of a female black-casqued hornbill. Like other tree-nesting hornbills, the female black-casqued hornbill selects a hollow high in a tree. She then walls up the opening with the exception of one small hole through which her mate gives her food and water. She also molts all of her flight feathers at once, leaving her unable to fly even if she did leave the nest. And so she stays until the eggs hatch, her feathers regrow and the young are old enough to be left alone while she forages for food.
This speaks strongly to me of the Hermit’s path: deliberate isolation and ascetic living conditions, but for the purpose of gaining something greater. For the Hermit it’s wisdom; for the hornbill, it’s bringing forth the next generation. Both are valuable additions to the community each may return to. The Hermit has his lantern to keep him on the path; the hornbill has her tiny window. And while both may be separated from others for now, they each rely on something from the outer world. The Hermit’s lamp may have been a gift from another person; the hornbill lives on the figs and other fruit her mate brings to her periodically.
The Hermit is a card of meaningful isolation. So when this card comes up for me in a reading, it’s often telling me that I need to have some productive “me” time. Maybe I need to schedule a few days alone in the woods or at the coast to do some writing, meditating or self-care. Or it could be a great time for me to hide away in my art studio for a week and see what comes of it. The hornbill emerges from her time in the nest both with her new family members and a beautiful new array of feathers that will allow her to fly once again. And I come out of my alone time with amazing creations and a lighter heart.
When I get the Hermit reversed, it’s a sign to come back out of my isolation for a while. Otherwise I run the risk of curling in upon myself too tightly, losing contact with the world and people around me. I am naturally an introvert, but even I need my social time. So the reverse Hermit is generally a “Hey, come out of your shell!” message for me.
It can also signify an unwanted time of loneliness. Perhaps everyone close to me is busy, or maybe I’m too busy to go see them. In this instance I need to make an effort to reach out to others, even if it’s just through an email or phone call. I also may need to sit with my loneliness and learn to not let it get to me so much; the Hermit has plenty of patience, something that I’ve always struggled with.