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I Go Outside with My Lantern: A Lantern Walk Song to Better Understand the Hermit Card

Updated: Feb 2

Photo by Vlad Bagacian

When I began structuring this essay in my mind, trying to make a rational attempt to contemplate the meaning of the hermit’s card (number 9), a song spontaneously took over and started resonating in my heart. Initially, I tried to suppress it (silly me!). ‘Round up the usual suspects,’ as Captain Renault famously said in Casablanca (Warner Bros, 1942). But as we often find, attempting to suppress something only makes it more enticing and alluring, and the song persisted within me. Consequently, I decided to give it a voice, realizing it served as a splendid metaphor to introduce the card!

I go with my lantern, And she goes with me. Above, the stars are shining bright; Down here on Earth, shine we The light went out, I’m going back home Sway, sway lantern.

My daughter, Laura, and I started singing this song almost a quarter of a century ago when she was two years old and attending the Waldorf Micael School in São Paulo, but it still echoes in my fondest memories when winter approaches. Originally written in German, the song is sung with slight variations in Waldorf School kindergartens all over the world to celebrate the arrival of the winter season. This celebration typically occurs in the Northern Hemisphere around Saint Martin’s Day on November 11th and in the Southern Hemisphere in June. In Brazil, this European-origin festival is celebrated during Saint John’s time on June 24th. It is also a major celebration in the city of Porto, Portugal to this day. It is a festival that prepares us for the quieting of nature outside and, if we allow it, within ourselves. After all, the cold climate and the longer nights foster an attitude of introspection.

As I hold The Hermit card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck in my hands, I see a bearded old man holding a lantern in his right hand and a staff in his left hand. Like the Fool’s card, he is a pilgrim, a wanderer. His wisdom is imparted through his journey. The lantern is lit and placed in front of him and in the distance, mountains suggest that he has completed his journey and has returned to guide us. His solitude indicates the benefits of withdrawing from the chaotic everyday world to turn inward. He wears a serious, trustful expression and we may connect him to the archetypal figure of the elder or the sage if we wish. As such, he is the one who finds meaning in the chaos of life, as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav suggests in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (CW 9, Part I, § 74).

The card depicts a person encouraging us to search within ourselves and seek our own internal light. It’s akin to a busy day at work when, at day’s end, we yearn to return home promptly, seeking the solace and company of our loved ones.

What I see in this card is that, especially during childhood and youth, it’s important to have a guiding figure outside of ourselves with whom we can connect. Most studies in psychology emphasize that this is a crucial aspect of feeling safe, of continuing to grow and understand oneself better and act confidently in the world. Eventually, adulthood and maturity arrive. These guiding figures start to become scarce in the external world. Many people come to realize that they carry wounds, small or large, and that the individuals playing the roles of father, mother, or caregivers naturally had their flaws. After all, they are only human, despite bearing the mantle and sword of maternal, paternal, wise man, or wise woman archetypes.

This brings us to the Greek myth of Chiron, the Hierophant, who acts as a bridge between earthly knowledge and that which surpasses what the intellect can fathom. Chiron’s injuries transformed him into the Wounded Healer, someone who, through his own pain, could better comprehend the pain of others. It’s an illusion to think we can heal all psychological wounds. Sometimes, it’s about embracing and tending rather than solving.

When the masks fall—and it’s crucial that they eventually do—the moment arrives to willingly withdraw a bit from the world and connect with the Hermit residing within us. Doing so, we grant the archetype the chance to reveal the light it carries within each of us. The knowledge that even in the darkest night of the soul, the light remains within us is reassuring. We discover that we have the psychological resources to face our challenges after all.

In such moments, the Hermit archetype can emphasize the right to make choices for us, but also expresses the duty to take responsibility for them. Discovering our unique way of existing in the world comes with its costs, particularly if we choose to deviate from the traditions that provide collective protection. It’s important to be prepared to bear the price.

When we turn to the Hermit’s card, we cannot help but notice the seeker traveling alone. It’s one of the phrases that struck me the most in The Power of Myth when Joseph Campbell mentioned that at this stage of the hero’s (or heroine’s) journey, it may be beneficial to have someone as a companion, but it is also okay to be alone.

For me, the lesson is that in the heroic journey we undertake throughout our existence, we enter this world alone and we will depart alone as well. There’s no need to fear. After all, between these two moments symbolizing the ultimate mystery, we encounter numerous allies, guardians, heralds, shapeshifters, tricksters, and mentors from the outside. If we are fortunate, we will encounter antagonists and, if we’re very lucky, a great villain to teach us how to confront our own shadows. However, the inner guidance, The Hermit, is always there, patiently waiting, just within the reach of a breath.

And if we’re wise, we can observe the inhalation and exhalation of nature’s seasons, revealing the opportune moments to turn inward and outward in a rhythmic pattern throughout the year. We can utilize this wisdom as a metaphor, akin to how Jung correlates the phases of life with the seasons, and as life progresses, we traverse the spectrum from Spring to Winter.

You can listen to the sweet English version of the Waldorf song by searching for ‘I go outside with my lantern’ and ‘Waldorf lyrics’ on your preferred search engine. However, here is the version I found used in U.S. Waldorf Kindergartens:

I go outside with my lantern, my lantern goes with me Above the stars are shining bright, down here on Earth shine we. The cock does crow, the cat meows, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom. ‘Neath heaven’s dome till we go home, la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.

When I finished writing this text, or rather, when the text finished writing itself, I was humming ‘La bimmel, la bammel, la boom. Balanga, Balanga, lampião’ And it felt so good!” Monica Martinez Primavera de 2023



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