Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The 4th century monk Paul of Thebes is regarded as the first Christian hermit. He is, in a sense, the prototype for the image of the Hermit found in the Tarot. It isn't surprising therefore that this painting of Paul of Thebes by a 16th century German artist looks like it could be a Tarot card. The classic elements of the Hermit are all present: the solitary figure setting out at dark, prayer beads in hand (symbolizing his reliance on his faith), and a lantern at his side (enduring symbol of literal and figurative illumination).

Historical figures such as Paul of Thebes are a reminder that certain ideas and images such as the hermit were well established in the collective imagination of Western Europeans by the time the Tarot cards were created.