If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.
The way out is the way in.
Recently, I have begun praying the rosary. I’m in the middle of a 54-day novena, praying along with a group of others for our heart’s desire. I’ve been praying that I may live wildly and freely, unbound by others’ expectations and boxes. I can feel this prayer working and growing within me every day. The saint that we’ve been focusing on during this novena is St. Thecla, who listened to the apostle Paul and herself became an evangelist. Her story is told in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla. Thecla was captivated by Paul’s preaching, particularly with his ideas of celibacy, which seemed to offer her freedom from an arranged marriage and the Roman ideas of respectability proscribed to young women of her day. Instead of being caged within her proscribed gender role, Thecla became a wandering preacher, wearing men’s clothes, and living on her own terms.
I’ve been thinking about St. Thecla quite a bit lately as I have been considering the tarot. The eighth card in the Major Arcana is Strength, which traditionally features a young woman closing the mouth of a lion. In St. Thecla’s story, when she refused the advances of a prince of the city, she was thrown to the lions, but they would not harm her, and one female lion actually protected her from the others. Thecla, like Strength, is portrayed in the company of lions, not dominating them, but quietly present with them.
Later in her life, having survived several attempts by powerful people to have her put to death, she withdrew from human society and lived in a desert cave, as many of the church’s early mothers and fathers did, where she ministered to people who came to visit her, and performed many miracles of healing.
So today’s Tarot character, the Hermit, is also reminiscent of St. Thecla. The Hermit withdraws from the hustle and bustle of society in order to focus and think, to pray and contemplate, to do inner work.
The way out, they say, is the way in.
The Hermit is a special kind of activist, an inner activist, who anchors and focuses the work that must be done through prayer, contemplation, generating healing energy, developing wisdom–not hoarding it. The Fool comes to the Hermit in the wilderness to learn to anchor and channel energy, to balance outward movement with inward contemplation. The Hermit is always portrayed carrying the light of their own inner wisdom in the wilderness. The Fool comes to the Hermit and learns to find the fount of Wisdom within.
One of the lessons I still carry from my college days was one a group of our professors worked hard to help us explore: that the work of the activist to create social justice must be balanced with inner work. Contemplation feeds action. Action enriches contemplation.
If you’re a Hermit, don’t give into feelings of shame that you aren’t doing more active work in the world. Do the work you’re called to do. Anchor energies. Pray. Find wisdom. Welcome the seekers. Be a refreshing fountain where your beloveds who are at the front lines of activism may come and receive your healing calm and wisdom.
2. Holiness everywhere. In the Aenid of Virgil is the phrase: Incessu patuit dea. The Goddess is revealed as she passes. Everywhere you turn, She is there.
3. Wide and welcoming tables, and the people who work to create them.
4. My colleagues are so incredibly supportive and welcoming.
May we walk in Beauty!
“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
“Our space was a home because we loved each other in it.” —Barbara Ehrenreich
“A lot of what we experience as strength comes from knowing what to do with weakness.” —Barbara Ehrenreich
“There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” —Barbara Ehrenreich