The Fool, overwhelmed by all that he has experienced asks himself the questions we all face at some point in our lives – “Why? What’s it all about?” The view of reality he had created in the mirror of his memories was restricted by his five senses and blinkered by his experiences, and were only part of the truth. He can no longer trust what he once thought to be true. Now he must rely on his inner sight. He feels the profound need to retreat from the world in order to find answers.
He enters the forest where it appears at its darkest and most tangled, knowing that he must forge his own path and not follow another’s. He is aware that as he steps over its threshold he is leaving behind civilisation and the boundary of man’s authority to enter the realm of raw nature, teeming with wild plant and animal life. There is no going back. This is the unknown and it frightens him, the landscape reflecting his confusion with its labyrinth of twisted and hidden paths. He does not know what he will face here, perhaps his deepest hopes, anxieties or fears. It might be haunted by trolls and ogres or populated by beautiful fairy maidens and questing beasts.
He feels certain that this place will challenge him. Completely alone, separated from the familiar world and its distractions, he must learn to know himself. The Otherworld, where nature and human consciousness know no separation, surrounds him, eternal and timeless, not in some distant time and place, but here and now.
Legend tells us that Merlin became mad after the bloody battle of Arfderydd and fled to the forest in despair. Alone and without distractions he reconnected with the raw power of Nature and the essence of himself which was no longer masked by civilisation. Merlin harnessed this power to work towards his higher goals and thus became the wise man and great magician of the later tales, but he could have been lost forever in the forest, grubbing around like a savage beast.
When this card appears, it tells you that you are feeling a profound emptiness in your life, but now is not the moment for outward action. Instead, the Hermit advises you withdraw from the distractions of the everyday world and spend time in meditation and mature reflection. It’s time to discover your life’s purpose, what you really need and where you actually have to go. You can only do this if you stop long enough to listen to the quiet voice of your soul within.
Text and illustration © Anna Franklin, Pagan Ways Tarot, Schiffer, 2015