Saturday, April 17, 2021

Tarot Tales: O is for the Old Man (Hermit)

Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My theme this year is Tarot Tales. I am making a selection of folktales, legends, and other traditional stories that correspond to tarot cards. Storytelling and tarot go well together. Do other stories come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

The card: The Hermit

Meanings: The Hermit is about being alone, but not really about loneliness. Rather, it's a card of introspection, soul-searching, self-reflection, inner guidance, and focusing on yourself. Obviously it can also symbolize taking a break from worldly things and concerns. 

Selection process: Hermits do appear often in world folklore and legends, usually as religious role models or spiritual guides. However, I wanted to find a story that dealt with self-reflection and seeking a truth - and also wanted it to be a good story.

The story: King Cormac's journey

Origin: Ireland

Cormac Mac Airt, High King of Ireland, is visited by a mysterious stranger who carries a golden branch with nine golden apples. Such beautiful music emanates from the ringing apples that even wounded warriors and women in labor fall into a peaceful sleep from it. King Cormac asks for the branch as a token of friendship. The guest agrees to give it up - in exchange for the king fulfilling three of his wishes. Cormac, not even considering the consequences, agrees.
After that, the stranger returns three time in three years with his three requests. First, he takes away Cormac's daughter, then his son, then his wife. Finally, Cormac is left alone, as as he waits the return of his family every day on the ramparts of Tara, he re-evaluates the worth of the magic branch that puts everyone easily to sleep. He realizes that making sorrow disappear with music is not helping anyone.
So, King Cormac sets out to find his family. He gets lost in the mists and wanders alone for a long time until he arrives to a magic land, where he sees many strange things. Eventually, he finds a castle, and he is greeted as a guest. His hosts put a pig over the fire to roast, but they announce that it will only be done when four true stories are told over it. Everyone takes turns telling stories, and Cormac realizes his host is none other than Manannan Mac Lir, the King of the Otherworld and god of the sea. Cormac finally tells his own story, admitting he had made a bad choice when he traded his family for the golden branch. Lesson learned, Manannan gives him his family back, and sends him home, to rule more wisely and honestly over Ireland.

Sources & notes: Read the story here or here, and find more info here.

Runner-ups: I read an entire book of tales about Taoist immortals which was quite fascinating. Lots of hermits in here.

What is your favorite place to be alone? Where do you go or what do you do when you need to think things over?


  1. Awww I liked that story. A very good moral, about the banishing of sorrow being not worth the sacrifice of joy.
    As a kid, I used to disappear into the woods near my house, sometimes for many hours at a time. I'd bring a backpack full of stuff: books, art supplies, whatever. Then, I'd walk far enough that it seemed unlikely I would be found, and kind of camp there until I was ready to make my re-appearance at home. This was done mainly to avoid after-school activities that I did not want to participate in. Ball-room dancing class, for example. There were white gloves, and if you didn't have them, you couldn't come in (another excellent loophole).

  2. Wonderful story. Thank you.
    I have an image of all my cooking happening magically while friends (when Covid restrictions are over) gather around and tell stories.
    Now, that's the sort of dinner part I'm willing to organise:)

  3. Wow, what a powerful story and I love how you tied it to the Hermit card. Thank you for sharing.

    Anne from

  4. This is definitely a wise story! While nice music is great, I understand one's family is more important.

  5. That is my favorite card - it fits my personality perfectly.

  6. I'm familiar with these character and even with the branch of golden apples... and still, I don't think I've ever heard this tory. I liked it :-)

    The Old Shelter - The Great War

  7. Interesting story. I can't help wondering where his family stayed whilst they were missing and maybe they didn't want to return to the king? Just a thought.
    Hermits have such diverse roles in folklore.

  8. A great story. I like the idea of everyone telling stories before the meal is ready - you've given me an idea. I stroll down to the beach when I want to be alone and think. I like it there.

    Here's my O!

  9. I think covid has given many people a chance to get a little more introspective -- and a chance to realize how much they value the friends and family whom they haven't been able to be with.
    Black and White: O for Oz

  10. Happy ending, I like this story ;)

  11. I love stories of monarchs who learn a lesson and resolve to do better going forward.

  12. Great story. I like it when Irish heroes find themselves in Otherworld and learn the lessons they sought.

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Odin