The Hermit Tarot Card: An example for Masons to emulate?

by | Mar 29, 2024 | Freemasonry, Tarot

Composing my recent Tria Prima blog regarding Key 7 (The Chariot) has made me think more deeply on the rest of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, looking for obvious – and sometimes not-so-obvious – connections to Freemasonry. 

The imagery of Key 9 (The Hermit) has always resonated with me, perhaps because this relatively simple card is loaded with Masonic meaning.  Not as elaborately rendered or colored as the other cards, it features a hooded figure standing atop a lonely mountain at night, holding up a staff and holding out a lantern as he looks down the face of the mountain.  While this card does not immediately call to mind any Masonic symbols, a little reflection uncovers layers of meaning.

Hermit card from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck

Most obviously, the figure on the card has made it to a peak, which is often likened to mountains depicted in other Major Arcana Keys – most notably Key 0 (The Fool) where the central figure is embarking on a climb to greater heights.  In Masonry, we embark upon a path that leads to certain heights and goals.  We join the Craft and eventually are raised (itself a term invoking heights) to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.  We may then find ourselves in the officers’ line of our Lodges, eventually serving as Master in the East.  We join various appendant and concordant bodies, contributing to their work, and are sometimes called upon to lead them.  When filling these roles, or in other leadership positions, it can sometimes feel “lonely at the top,” and we as leaders feel as isolated as the Hermit.  Isolated or not, our leadership roles may come as no surprise even as new members of the Craft.  Indeed, as Arizona Masons hear when they first receive their aprons, their “ambitious feet may tread round after round that leads to fame in our mystic circle” (p.26).  However, even with this in mind, our Masonic journey may be just beginning.

Rather than rest on our laurels and enjoy the distinctions of a Past Master (or past head of an appendant or concordant body), we now have a duty to share the light we received in Masonry to the next generation.  Take what you have learned – your insights, the lessons of your mentors – and pass them on to the next generation, just as the figure of the Hermit holds his light up to guide others along the path he just completed.  Bro. Paul Foster Case refers to the Hermit as the “way-shower, lighting the path for climbing multitudes below” (p. 115).  Also, keep in mind that there are other peaks to climb, just as other peaks are in the background of the Key.  Even this may be a superficial explanation of this powerful image, as it does not address the internal progress we have made along our paths or the next “peak” on our own spiritual journeys!

Hermit card from The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn

Another great example from Masonry showing the role of the Mason as a guide and mentor to his brothers comes in the Fellow Craft degree.  Here, the role of the lecturer is assigned to the Senior Deacon – a rather junior Lodge officer compared to the Wardens and Master.  The Senior Deacon then guides the new Fellow Craft through an explanation of Masonic symbolism as well as an overview of architecture and the liberal arts and sciences.  Presenting the lecture in this way shows how important it is for a Brother to pass along knowledge and advice, even as they are “climbing the mountain” to its heights and may only be a few steps ahead of their fellow Mason.

Hermit card from the CBD Tarot de Marseille

An additional point of reflection comes from the light in the Hermit’s lantern being of six points, in the form of a Star of David.  In addition to the Hermetic breakdown of the Star as being one of two triangles signifying “as above, so below,” it also has Masonic resonance.  Keep in mind that there are six lights in a Lodge – three Great Lights and three Lesser Lights, the Lesser shedding light upon the Greater.  All these have meaning to the Mason, and help guide us as we follow life’s pathways, so it is perhaps quite natural that the Hermit’s lantern, raised to illuminate the way, has a light of six points.

As mentioned before, this relatively simple Key has a lot to unpack, and there are some aspects which go beyond this simple discussion.  Two examples for further examination come to mind:  First, the Hermit’s hood is shaped like the Hebrew letter Yod (י) which is itself packed with symbolism, given its ties to the first letter of the Divine Name.  Secondly, the role of the Hermit and his lantern may also relate to or be reflected in the role of the torch-bearer (δαδούχος) in the Golden Dawn system (itself having significant Masonic tie-ins) and how this individual is uses to point the initiate to enlightenment. 

Written by Nick Hoffmann

Nicholas Hoffmann is a 32° Freemason, Knight Templar, and a member of Chandler-Thunderbird Lodge No. 15 in Chandler AZ, and Black Mountain Lodge No. 845 in San Diego, CA, where he served as Master in 2022. He is also active in both York and Scottish Rites, and is an avid student of Western Esotericism via BOTA and Ordo Hermeticus Mysteriorum. Raised in Pittsburgh, PA and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University (BA, Philosophy and European Studies; MA, Philosophy), Nick’s passions also include history, philosophy, theology, genealogy, and heraldry. Currently second-in-command of the Navy’s Phoenix recruiting district covering much of the southwest, he is a career Surface Warfare Officer with service in multiple ships and afloat staffs, and has written about naval matters in addition to Masonic and esoteric themes.


Case, Paul Foster.  The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages.  New York: Tarcher-Penguin, 2006.

Grand Lodge of Arizona.  Arizona Masonic Ritual.  Phoenix: Grand Lodge of Arizona, 2023.