Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols by Robert V. O'Neill The Hermit

The Hermit

On PeakCharles VI
Grey SkyWirthDellaroccaMet Sheet
Standing stillWestcottT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
Grey RobeWirthDellarocca
Peaked HoodWestcottT de MarseilleCharles VI
Hood on HeadWirthParisian
Face ShowsWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
ElderlyWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
White BeardWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
Looks DownEtteilla IIIGumppenberg
Right Hand LampWirthT de MarseilleMet Sheet
Lamp BlackGoulinatDellarocca
CylindricalWirthGumppenbergMet Sheet
Holds UpWirthT de MarseilleCharles VI
Left Hand StaffWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
Plain WoodWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza
Faces LeftWirthT de MarseilleVisconti-Sforza


  1. The portrayal of a desolate peak seems to refer to the Rosicrucian mystical journey. The Welsh alchemist and mystic, Thomas Vaughan cites a “Letter of the Rosy Cross” which “describes, under the allegory of a mountain, a certain profound state of introspection” (Waite: The Secret Tradition in Alchemy, p 285).

    In Azoth or Star of the East (p 161), Waite states that "Solitude is essential to such a work and the education of the superior conditions is best effected among the primeval sublemities of Nature, in mountain fastnesses in the divine desolation of the wilderness."

  2. Hexagonal glow in the lantern - The hexagon appears on the magic lantern illustrated by Levi (Transcendental Magic, p 252). In The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry (p 36), Waite shows a similar symbol, a radiant hexagon which he describes as “The Hexagon, encompassed by a solar glory.” The Frontispiece in Waite’s Hermetic Museum shows the hermit following the bright hexagonal light being carried before him by a female spirit.

    A further hint may be offered in Waite’s poem: “At the End of Things” from The Collected Poems of Arthur Edward Waite. (The text of the poem can be accessed at thanks to the research of A. Grinder.)

    The poem describes a spiritual pilgrim:

    And a star I stole for the good of my soul,
    Lest the darkness came down on my sins...
    I carried the star; that star led me...
    Did my star more than the cozening guide?
    The fool, as I think, at the chasm's brink...
    Did, even as I, in the end rejoice.

    The card suggests that the Hermit is now holding the star aloft so that others may find it. For example, in Lamps of Western Mysticism (p 307), we find “I put up this Lamp of the Heights as a beacon for others hereafter.”

Based on original research by (in alphabetical order) A. Grinder and R. O'Neill. To add to this collection of information, please email Robert V. O'Neill.

The Fool
The Magician
The High Priestess
The Empress
The Emperor
The Hierophant
The Lovers
The Chariot
The Hermit
Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
The Devil
The Tower
The Star
The Moon
The Sun
The World
Introduction to Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols

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Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols


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