Normally I don’t get into the figures on the cards, but the case of Dr. Rudolph van Richten is especially relevant to the meaning of this card. Which is to say, after all the tragedy and bloodshed and revenge and curses flung to the heavens… he stopped. He looked deep within himself. He asked himself, who am I now? What am I going to do now? Is this a path I want to keep following? And he found the answers in himself – no one else came along and gave them to him. Indeed, no one else could have given them to him, not after all of that, and not for such important questions. And he found his answers. Which is, I think, the reason he is different from all the darklords and villains of Ravenloft. He stopped, he saw where he was going, internally, and he asked himself if he was becoming something he wanted to become.
The Hermit is traditionally a card of solitude and introspection, because it recognizes that at a certain point, external advice is simply background noise and distraction. That’s not to say there isn’t value in other people’s advice, but it comes from people who aren’t you, haven’t had your experiences, and have no control over what you choose or what you want. It can’t answer the big questions – who you are in the universe, who you want to be in the universe, who you are as a person, what your experiences and existence mean to you. Only by separating yourself from all the influences and pressures of the outside world can you hope to really look inside yourself. The Hermit looks for wisdom alone, with only his lamp as a guide.
Once the Hermit has found the answers within himself, he will sometimes rejoin society, and so this card can also represent a mentor and a guide. The Hermit doesn’t necessitate physical solitude, but it is focused on the self, and the self alone. This isn’t about how you interact with others, it’s about finding enlightenment from within, and seeking the answers that only solitude can provide.
You might know people who do a whole lot of thinking about things, except that they keep thinking without looking for any external information, and thus their conclusions wind up being mind-bogglingly wrong. That’s the Hermit Inversed. You’ve thought for too long and come to too many conclusions without… experience, or information, or just about anything that you need to come up with a well-rounded opinion. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to get an outside viewpoint, and spending too much time alone isn’t necessarily good for you. You’ve become so wrapped up in your self-reflection that you forget that other people can have good advice – and you might be refusing to listen to it even if they give it to you. Go too far within yourself and you’ll wind up with a closed mind, or at least bad communication. Others might be standing outside your door with the means to help you, if they actually knew what the problem is in the first place. There are some questions only you can answer for yourself, but don’t take that to mean that only your opinion matters.