Arcanum IX The Hermit

The Hermit’s Cave at Dale Abbey

(VIRGO) PRUDENCE: (North/Below)

Esoteric Titles:
The Sage of Inner Light
The Servant of God
The Lord of Silence

The image found in Arcanum IX is that of a lone apparently monastic figure, cloaked and hooded carrying a staff in one hand and a lamp or lantern n the other. He stands on a remote, barren and empty landscape. The figure is in late middle age and resembles that of an old sage, wise man or prophet. He is the embodiment of isolation from the world, of a monastic retreat or of one self-imposed insulation. Originally the figure carried a lamp in the shape of an hour-glass denoting the passage of time and his staff was entwined with a healing serpent, reminiscent of the Greek teacher and mentor Aesculapius. The serpent on the staff signifies the etheric currents described in Chakra Therapy as Ida and Pingala which unite the 3rd eye or ajna chakra with mulhadara, the base or root chakra. The symbolic parallels are therefore clear to understand, that worldly wisdom comes through age and experience and that everyone at some stage of their life turns away from the pleasures and distractions of the world and enters a hermetically sealed condition. Traditionally this card is attributed to the zodiacal sign of Virgo, denoting humility, chastity or patience and the planets Mercury and Saturn symbolising self analysis which leads to a deeper understanding of oneself. However, in Alchemy it has a secret affinity with AquariusThe Angelic Being, where the planet Mercury is exalted and Saturn is its arcane ruler. It is the key which leads to self-development or self-enlightenment through persistent and constant effort in order to reach the ultimate goal. [The French Hermit and Holy Man, Nostradamus]

The French Hermit and Holy Man, Nostradamus

9. The Hermit (King Lear) Yod – Of Enigmatic Silence

Hermits appear in several of Shakespeare’s plays including “Henry VIth Part 1”, “Edward the Third”, “Troillus & Cressida”, “The Merchant of Venice” , “Loves Labours Lost” and “Macbeth”. However, the play that corresponds most closely to Arcanum 9. The Hermit in my view is “The Tragedy of King Lear” primarily because at some point in the play Lear loses his regal equanimity and withdraws from the world in order to understand his place in it and who will eventually succeed him when his time as King has ended. Essentially, he needs to decide how to divide his kingdom between his three daughters and his sons-in-law. He also demands to know who sincerely respects and loves him so that he can leave his legacy to the rightful and loyal successors. Meanwhile his daughters and sons-in-law wait in the side-lines with eager anticipation. Only Cordelia speaks her mind truthfully and she is removed by Lear from any future hereditary rights, titles or possessions. His withdrawal from the world is an attempt to come to terms with his own personality as a father to his three children and as a human being with the great responsibility as monarch which he must pass on. At some point in the drama King Lear appears, in strange bedraggled garb of lichens and wild flowers, cynically ranting on about the hypocrisy and injustice of the world and the Duke of Gloucester, recognising his voice, calls out to him. At first when Cordelia’s men arrive on the scene Lear escapes, then Oswald enters and while attempting to kill Gloucester is killed by Edgar (disguised as Tom o’Bedlam). Lear is finally found fatigued and distraught, in a manic state of mind he thinks he is in hell but brought before Cordelia, he then imagines he is in heaven and that she is the Lord’s administering angel. However, when he recovers his wits he realises that it is indeed his own daughter Cordelia.

Pray, do not mock me: I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

The plot and narrative of the play also coincides with the biographical details of the ancestor of Edward de Vere, the 12th Earl of Oxford who had three daughters. John de Vere (1408-1462), the 12th Earl of Oxford, and his eldest son and heir, Aubrey de Vere (d.1462), were inadvertent casualties of the Wars of the Roses although the 12th Earl was not an openly committed Lancastrian supporter. The 12th Earl was not attainted for his ambivalent part; however on 12 August 1462 almost all his manors were granted in their entirety by Edward IVth to his younger brother, the future Richard the Third, a monarch vilified in Shakespeare’s own history play. Besides his eldest son, Aubrey, who was executed with him, the 12th Earl had four other sons, John de Vere, who succeeded him as the 13th Earl of Oxford, Sir George Vere, Thomas Vere (d.1478), and Richard Vere (d.1480), and three daughters, Elizabeth Vere (d.1499), who married William Bourchier, Mary Vere, a nun at Barking, and Joan Vere, who married Sir William Norreys (c.1441-1507?). Sir Edward Norreys (d.1487), the eldest son of Sir William Norreys and Joan Vere, who married Frideswide Lovell, whose brother, Francis Lovell, was one of the leaders of the rebel forces which were defeated on 16th of June 1487 at Stoke by an army in which the vanguard was commanded by John de Vere, the 13th Earl of Oxford, one of many instances in the Wars of the Roses in which family members found themselves fighting on opposite sides.

The Hermit’s Prophecy:

In 1621, more than a century after the 13th Earl of Oxford’s death, Sir Francis Bacon disparaged and derided the 13th Earl’s relationship with Henry VIIth (while Bacon was imprisoned in the Tower of London he wrote the play Henry VIIth), recounting a story of the King’s severe displeasure with the Earl for keeping an excessive number of retainers, and claiming the King exacted a fine of 15,000 marks. Sir George Buck (Master of the Revels and the butt of de Vere’s portrayal of his family line viz: Sir John Oldcastle alias Falstaff in “Henry IVth Part One” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”) repeated the tale, reporting the fine as being some £30,000 and incorporating it into the prophecy of a hermit who foretold woe to the Oxford earldom and its ancestral relatives for their role in the death of the pretender, Perkin Warbeck and the Twins in the Tower:

“And this dealing with them being reported, and near to Heveningham Castle, the chief seat of the Earl, it came to the ears of an old hermit who lived in the woods near to Heveningham Castle, and who was held to be a very good, devout and holy man. And this man as soon as he heard this news was much troubled and grieved afterward, because he much loved the ancient and noble family of Oxenforde. And in much anguish of spirit, he said the Earl and his house would repent and rue this guilt and bloody pursuit of these innocent princes. And for the events of which prophecy, this hath been observed, viz., that not long after the Earl was arrested for a small offence, and so small that no man thought that a man of his merit and credit with the king could be called in question. He was also fined £30,000, the which in those days was a kingly sum. After this he lived many years in great discontent, and died without issue or any child lawfully begotten him. Ross concluded that, for many reasons, the story is and remains apocryphal to this day.”

In Act IV, scene 3 of Edward IIIrd, Charles advises King John that he has witnessed a prophecy by a hermit before engaging in the forthcoming battle:

“I have a prophecy, my gracious Lord,
Wherein is written what success is like
To happen us in this outrageous war;
It was delivered me at Cresses field
By one that is an aged Hermit there.
[Reads.] “When feathered foul shall make thine army tremble,
And flint stones rise and break the battle ray,
Then think on him that doth not now dissemble;
For that shall be the hapless dreadful day:
Yet, in the end, thy foot thou shalt advance
As far in England as thy foe in France.”

Indeed, one might argue that the 17th Earl of Oxford had inherited the hermit’s curse himself because he lost all ownership or association with the Shakespeare Folio of 1623 as well as several volumes of poetry including “Venus & Adonis”, “The Rape of Lucrece” and “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” which are now attributed to one William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon (See the “Twin Lives of William Shakspere and Edward de Vere”).

The De Vere Society’s banner

On the 12th of September 1577, the 17th Earl of Oxford’s daughter Frances Vere, was buried at the parish church of All Saints, Edmonton. So, three daughters and the absence of a male heir was a feature of the play King Lear as well as Edward de Vere’s own life and family circumstances. In 1591-2 Oxford disposed of the last of his large estates. In Michaelmas term 1591 he sold Castle Hedingham, the seat of the Oxford earldom, to Lord Burghley to be held in trust for his three surviving daughters by his first marriage, Elizabeth, Bridget and Susan Vere. On the 7th February 1592 he sold Colne Priory to Roger Harlakenden, who purchased the property in the name of his son, Richard. The sale resulted in further lawsuits by the Earl of Oxford for fraud against Roger Harlakenden which dragged on into the next generation. On 24th February 1593 Oxford’s only surviving son and heir, Henry de Vere, was born at Stoke Newington, where it was reported that ‘the Earl of Oxford is sometime resident in a very proper house’. However, the Earl also had an illegitimate son by his mistress Anne Vavasour who in James 1st reign was knighted. The Earl of Oxford’s London residence in Hackney was actually situated down the road from a bedlam house and presumably of some psychological interest to the Earl since the question of sanity enters many of Shakespeare’s plays including for example the character of Ophelia in “Hamlet” and the character Malvolio in “Twelfth Night”. By the time the Earl had settled his family and their future he had retired from the theatrical and aristocratic circles where he had played such a creative, illustrious and controversial part.

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:

The 20th path on the Tree of Life connects Chesed (Mercy-Jupiter) with Tiphereth (Beauty-Sun). It is known in Tarot as the Spiritualising Intelligence of the Higher Self and emanates from the right hand side of the Tree onto the middle pillar. In this sense compensating or adjusting for any disorientation, imbalance or disharmony caused in the initiates consciousness by the transference from one “archetypal world” to another (Briah-Yetzirah) as represented by the card 11. Justice (Libra) and the previous path, 8. Strength (Leo). Astrologically, it is associated with the planet Mercury and its rulership in Virgo denoting self-consciousness and the natural ability to observe and analyse the various participators in the chronological stages and areas of life’s journey. Here the Tetragrammaton, (see below) is clearly defined as a basic numerical and elemental principle within the Qaballah. The voluntary isolation of the Hermit in this sense brings forth an illuminating or spiritualising force just as the pain or suffering of the initiate, depicted in the Hanged Man, brings forth a prophetic or inspiring revelation. The gestalt image of a ladder reinforces this idea since each level must be carefully attained and consolidated. This blissful experience or delight is both mystical and transcendent and is regulated by an act of will and intelligence. As a result the initiate becomes more self-controlled, self-sufficient, self-actualising and less distracted or influenced by external factors. All the mundane attributes associated with this path such as simplicity, honesty, prudence, humility, practicality and self-discipline are expressed and made manifest at this stage.

Yod (Iי) – No 1 Energy (Fire) Nos 1-9 (Ennead) Value 10 Knight (Spiritual Dimension)
He (Hה) – No 2 Vapour (Air) Letters A – I Value 5 Queen (Intellectual Dimension)
Vau (Vו) – No 3 Liquid (Water) Letters J – R Value 6 King (Emotional Dimension)
Heh (Hח) – No 4 Matter (Earth) Letters S – Zero Value 5 Page (Physical Dimension)

Positive: Planning, foresight reflection and retirement from mass consciousness, evaluation – a spartan lifestyle or stoical indifference. Wisdom and knowledge of the occult sciences.

Negative: Precipitous thoughts or actions, miser Social parasite/paranoiac, fruitless activity, Lacking in inner resources.

SPHERE 9 Yesod (Foundation) Emanating Purity Yod – A Hand
Astrological: Sagittarius or the 9th House.
Constellation: Ophiuchus – The Serpent Bearer
Sacred Gemstone: Sapphire or Tourmaline

The next Arcanum in this series can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

“Arcanum X, The Wheel Of Fortune”

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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,