Reading the Tarot by Jessa Crispin

Photo by Jessa Crispin


There is a forest of aspen trees in Utah that, it was discovered, is all one singular, massive organism. Just one source plant, that kept shooting up variations of itself, all genetically linked, all sharing the same root system.

My question is: did the tree begin reproducing itself in a barren landscape to keep itself company? Or did its endless fascination with itself drive out all potential neighbors?


When I pull The Hermit while reading someone’s tarot cards, I make a point to talk of quiet contemplation, of studious introspection, of an important internal accounting process. I downplay the social isolation part of the card. Thoreau, after all, our own American hermit, left his little cabin at Walden regularly to attend dinner parties nearby.

When I pull the Hermit for myself, just seeing the bearded man holding his lantern aloft drags all of my loneliness to the surface. I think, this will be yet another day when I don’t talk to anyone. A few days ago I clicked into my second year of solo travel, after leaving my Berlin home for a liminal existence. I have pulled The Hermit card a lot in the last year.


The Hermit could be Diogenes, who also carried around a lantern, looking for one honest man. He never found one. We remember him for being a pillar of wisdom, a philosopher and grandfather to the Stoics. In reality, he seemed kind of like a dick with all of his daddy issues, spending his time alone because he forgot that being part of a society means overlooking other people’s flaws, their weaknesses, the lies they have to tell in order to save their souls.

But then I never liked the Stoics much anyway. It’s all the grit needed to bear existence stuff. I am too prone to their positions as it is. I need something to pull me out of that corner, not bring me a pillow and quilt so I can make my home there.

The Hermit card is linked to Virgo, who has her own problems with the loneliness that perfection brings. The Virgo longs to be whole, unsullied by humanity. At some point, she will have to face the fact that the quest for perfection is a secret death wish. Being whole, being sealed and purified and perfect, soaked in bleach and boiled to sterility, is the opposite of life. To breathe is to sully oneself. It’s kind of the point.


Today I pulled The Hermit, after a few mad days in Paris with a gentleman. For the duration we did not leave each other’s side. We breathed in each other’s skin cells, we drank from the neck of the same wine bottle, we spoke all of our thoughts aloud. Leaving that apartment was like leaving a thick fog. I was surprised to look down and see only me again.

I am so permeable, I think. I don’t just connect with a lover, I turn liquid. I lose all boundaries and sense of self. I have woken from month long stays in the past, having accomplished nothing, not remembering fully what was done or said. And then I resist solidification after. It’s painful, the recreation of self. The Hermit is this corrective, the lantern not looking for another honest man, just trying to track down where I left my other shoe, my own thought process, my discarded work.

If only I didn’t like the melting so very much. If only I didn’t value that process more than my own wandering forth.


“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” Seneca, On the Shortness of Life


On the bridge down the street from my sublet, in the city that I cried my entire way to after leaving Paris, there are padlocks secured onto the railings. People have Sharpied their initials onto the locks, to represent a relationship they wish to keep safe, and then they attached them over the water. As long as the lock remains, the relationship remains, so it goes.

You see these everywhere, on bridges all over the world. Over this river, however, the locks are all of industrial size and strength. No one in this city is taking any goddamn chances. Some of the locks are rusted shut. They look chemically fused to the iron.

I think of adding my own lock, one with only my own initials. To lock myself down, over this river, to prevent the melting. To close the gap between myself and the Hermit, so that when I see his lantern again, I won’t see it as a scolding.


Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of and She reads tarot cards specifically for writers and artists, meant to unearth creativity and remove blocks. You can contact her at Additional info is here.