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Hermits

 
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When I was a kid there was an entire group of people that now no longer exist: Hermits.

For those that do not know, these were typically men, bachelors or just single, who cobbled together tiny cabins out in the woods, many of which are still standing today. Most liked to drink, but not all, and simply preferred to be alone, logging, being farmers and even prospecting…yes, even here in Maine.

Where did they go, and why?

Perhaps it was just a product of their times; the hardy souls died out. Here in Maine the State had a lot to do with it. We had Oresa who was a Hermit Woman, who raised Goats, and yet at 80 years old, the State swooped in and tried to evict her from her own property and put her in a nursing home for “her own good”. We fought for her right to stay at home, and in the end, the State had to pay for an attorney to defend her against their own charges. It was stupid, but in the end, many Hermits just moved into subsidized housing.

Me, I am happily married, and I love my wife and kids, but if they were to be killed in a car accident tomorrow, I would rent my home out and build a shack, and be a Hermit. I have the land, so I would just spend my days logging, prospecting and farming.

Would anyone else want to be a Hermit if they could? And, are their currently Hermits where you live?

Hermit-Shack.JPG
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My much better half and I have those tendencies, socially speaking, and singly or together would become hermits out of choice.

It's relatively easy to manage in a city. Just don't make any friends beyond the passing or nodding acquaintance level, make your own food from scratch at home, and devote yourself to solitary passtimes and tasks.

Is it really hermitage if we have the internet, and Permies.com, though?

-CK
 
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, these were typically men, bachelors or just single


Would anyone else want to be a Hermit if they could?



I tried in my early twenties to live off in the woods in a tent.  As soon as word got out a single woman was out there by herself I was 'visited' too often to feel safe.  
I then squatted in a very tiny hunters cabin with much the same results.   I spent several months in each well isolated location though and what solitude I could enjoy was wonderful.

I still like periods of solitude but love having a soul mate, children and grandchildren so in the end I doubt I was ever really hermit material.



 
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Well then, I guess I'm a Hermitess, or so say the locals.  

Came out here 21 years ago, wasn't much here, but over time built up the place to suit all my needs.  Seldom "go out there", have little want/need for the nonsense.  Oddly enough, I've had a couple of like minded individuals join me, so am I still a Hermitess?  Yeah!  

In these parts, there are a few who are just fed up with the "system" and want away from the noise/BS.  I've seen some try and fail, and others make it; year 7 seems to be the make or break point.  Over the years I've heard and on occasion spoken to people who talk about "opting out of the system", they have some very romantic ideas about it all,... Truth is, a solitary independent life out in the backwoods is a challenge, having left a synthetic world to leap into the "real" world of nature in all Her glory.  It molds you, hones you from who you thought you were, into who you must be.  

Anyways, that's my 2 cents worth!

Cheers!  K
 
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Private property rights may be more strongly enforced these days, so many who would have been hermits are now known as "homeless."  I think all the categories of "bums","drifters", "men of the road"," vagabonds","squatters","tramps", etc are now known as homeless.

I'm a hermit by nature but probably would not survive long as one.
 
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Adults used to get so upset when I said "I want to be a Hermit when I grow up".

I still do.

The problem is, finding the cash to fund this lifestyle.  I would want to own the land I live on which requires money for taxes and money for fixing that home (because I haven't the skills to fix it)
 
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My neighbor tells me stories of men who lived out in the woods on their own. They were counterfeits on the run for the law, hiding a few years in the woods behind the village. Some had guns and robbed the villagers of vegetables if they were hungry. The police knew they were there but had no guns and no appetite to get them out. The police came one day to stop the villagers hunting, they bound him to a tree, went hunting , to release him on their way back out, telling him not to bother them again.
He sighs and gets dreamy eyed and says they were the good days and we didn't even know it at the time.
Don't know if it's all true, but i sure like the stories.
 
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I am with you on this, Travis. My property is 3/4 of a mile off the road and through the woods, with nary a neighbor in site, and I would rarely leave if I had my druthers.  Water, rocks, trees, and all the buzzing, flapping, leaping, swimming and crawling critters that go with it - who needs anything else?  
8AABB840-EE1B-43B0-B259-BDBA4E166A0A.jpeg
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Travis Johnson
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raven ranson wrote:Adults used to get so upset when I said "I want to be a Hermit when I grow up".

I still do.

The problem is, finding the cash to fund this lifestyle.  I would want to own the land I live on which requires money for taxes and money for fixing that home (because I haven't the skills to fix it)



Raven I say the following respectfully, and not in argument at all. It is hard to tell from the written word sometimes "tone", and I wanted to be sure you knew I was just explaining how the "system" worked here, and in no way being argumentative.

Here, the way of the Hermit was to squat upon a landowner. This was NOT a bad thing. My deeds are filled with provisions for this. They did not own the land, they just had life-long rights to live in their shacks so even if my Great Grandfather died unexpectedly for example, the Hermit had a home. I bet on my deeds I have 6 or 7 hermits with these rights. These were legal binding rights, no different then a right of way. The only real pain is when a deed has this provision, sometimes in a sale or buy situation, a death certificate has to be tracked down to show with the person's death, the provision is no longer binding in the will.

Deeds deserves it own thread. My word, I am 9th generation here so some of my deeds go back to before the USA was the USA (1746), so things get wacky. I have a friend at the Registry of Deeds and more then once she has read an old deed and said, "I have never seen that before." That is why Title Searches only go back 100 years!

As a kid in the 1970's (I mean my name Travis just screams 1970 anyway), a lot of these hermit houses were occupied. Only a few now are still standing due to neglect and snow loads.
 
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I could easily fall into the hermit lifestyle, if it weren't for my hubby who keeps me grounded in society.
 
r ranson
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Travis Johnson wrote:

raven ranson wrote:Adults used to get so upset when I said "I want to be a Hermit when I grow up".

I still do.

The problem is, finding the cash to fund this lifestyle.  I would want to own the land I live on which requires money for taxes and money for fixing that home (because I haven't the skills to fix it)



Raven I say the following respectfully, and not in argument at all. It is hard to tell from the written word sometimes "tone", and I wanted to be sure you knew I was just explaining how the "system" worked here, and in no way being argumentative.

Here, the way of the Hermit was to squat upon a landowner. This was NOT a bad thing. My deeds are filled with provisions for this. They did not own the land, they just had life-long rights to live in their shacks so even if my Great Grandfather died unexpectedly for example, the Hermit had a home. I bet on my deeds I have 6 or 7 hermits with these rights. These were legal binding rights, no different then a right of way. The only real pain is when a deed has this provision, sometimes in a sale or buy situation, a death certificate has to be tracked down to show with the person's death, the provision is no longer binding in the will.

Deeds deserves it own thread. My word, I am 9th generation here so some of my deeds go back to before the USA was the USA (1746), so things get wacky. I have a friend at the Registry of Deeds and more then once she has read an old deed and said, "I have never seen that before." That is why Title Searches only go back 100 years!

As a kid in the 1970's (I mean my name Travis just screams 1970 anyway), a lot of these hermit houses were occupied. Only a few now are still standing due to neglect and snow loads.



Ah, Hermits are very different there.  Here, they either own the land (inherited from family) or they built homes on public land (at least one days hike from the nearest sign of humans).  

I like the idea of having a hermit on your land.  I wish we could do something like that here but the government has always had a lot of say about occupancy and taxation.  

Still, I wouldn't mind being either kind of a hermit.  The less overhead expenses, the better.  But I could see needing to interact with humans a couple of times a year for some necessities.  The Crazy Frenchman (who lived at Crazy Frenchman's Cottage in one of the local parks), had an arrangement that once a month a woman would leave food at him at the trailhead.  He would hike out when he felt like it and pick up the food.  
 
                              
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Why did Maine go after Oresa?
Did she skip on taxes or was there junk buildup or something, that caused neighbors to complain -- what was the trigger? You got to get on the radar for them go after you.

The idea of having a hermit on the deed would, honestly, scare me, even though I'm a hermit and loner myself. First off, I'd be afraid of lawsuits if something goes wrong with the hermit or because of them.
Seems like this is legal gray area: can landowner be liable for something related to squatter, especially deeded one? With crazy lawsuits that I see happening, I'd say this is a real possibility.
Secondly, I'd be worried about drug and alcohol abuse and any consequences from such, like cops on the property or someone harming me or my house because they overdone the fire water, or stealing from me.
And taxes being what they are....I wouldn't want to pay them while a squatter on my land does not. Not rich enough for that. In general, being a loner I guess just wouldn't want another hermit near me....LOL...two hermits are too many.

Besides my US citizenship I got another one, where I'm originally from: there're plenty of rural hermits there...it's a common thing to do. But mostly, these people are drunks. Not all of them though: world-famous Agafia Lykova certainly is not.
 
Travis Johnson
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private privacy wrote:Why did Maine go after Oresa?
Did she skip on taxes or was there junk buildup or something, that caused neighbors to complain -- what was the trigger? You got to get on the radar for them go after you.



I am not really sure. I know it was not property taxes because she only had one acre and lived in a shack. I think my Grandfather just paid them for her.

As for junk; oh my, there was junk, but here, what does it matter? It is not like other states where people care about "property values". What you do on your side of the property line is up to you. I like keeping my place picked up, but that is me. If you want to live in a dump, that is your prerogative. That is the beauty of Maine; you can have a really nice house next to some junk trailer because people do not worry about what the next person is doing. Here in Maine there is no "keeping up with the Jones". If someone buys a new truck, their neighbor will just shrug and say, "I am glad I don't have to make that payment", and really mean it.

I really think they were looking out for he best interest; the way she was living was NOT healthy, but she had always lived that way, so why stop her at age 80, or whatever she was? Heck, let her live out her days, and that is just what happened.

private privacy wrote:The idea of having a hermit on the deed would, honestly, scare me, even though I'm a hermit and loner myself. First off, I'd be afraid of lawsuits if something goes wrong with the hermit or because of them. Seems like this is legal gray area: can landowner be liable for something related to squatter, especially deeded one? With crazy lawsuits that I see happening, I'd say this is a real possibility.



No, this could never happen in Maine, and here is why. Unlike most states, Maine is 95% PRIVATELY owned, yet we are the vacationland for a reason, so we must allow sportsman, ATV's, Snowmobilers, etc onto this private land. IF landowners could be held responsible, most landowners would cite liability laws and post their land. So to encourage land access, the state passed a liability law. This has been tested many times. Like when a landowner was digging a new house foundation, an ATV came through and landed in the hole and was killed. The landowner was NOT held responsible because of the law. Its way I have over a mile of ATV/Snowmobile trail on me, I simply cannot be held liable if some crazy kid does 120 mph through my fields and then smacks into a tree. That was his fault, not mine.

I am thinking about having my parents put my sisters as lifetime squartters on my parents home upon their passing. In that way they are assured (being down-syndrome adults) that they would always have their home because losing that would kill them, and yet by me having the deed to it, keep other people who might take advantage of them, from stealing it under them. In this way, my sisters are protected for life.


 
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Fun fact: A hermit is technically someone who chooses isolation for religious/spiritual reasons.
Asceticism extended to one's social interactions.

The etymology of the word is a reference to 'of the desert' - the concept being that deserts are uninhabited.

Then there is the European tradition of garden hermits: Ornamental Hermits
Where (for novelty or status) wealthy estates would build shacks/grottos and either have an implied hermit or hire someone to live there as a 'garden feature', a talking point.
Sometimes the hermit would be dressed as a druid and told to repeat a latin phrase (to look wise) - sometimes their lives were just a silent pageant to entertain the landowners guests.
 
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Jondo thanks for noting the spiritual sense of hermitage. That's pretty wacky about 'garden hermits' for hire though, never heard of that before!

More to add on the spiritual aspect of hermit life:

As someone earlier in the thread noted, hermit-like lifestyles are challenging in large part because they tune you out of synthetically 'safe and stable' seeming life and tune you forcefully into nature. This is also why it is a spiritual tradition, helping one tune in to spiritual matters and the force of life itself. In fact there is a profound spiritual current referred to as 'Hermeticism' closely related to the proto-science of alchemy, though I'm not sure if/how 'hermit' and 'Hermes/Hermeticism' are actually related.

Hermitage in the age of the internet is another good point that came up. I think the world wide web is in many ways parallel to the world wide...world. One can go on the internet to socialize and soak up society, tuning into the more-synthetic side of things which is superficially satisfying. Alternatively, a hermit could still go online, using the internet as an aid in tuning into nature. The synthetic, computers and all, are at their essence natural as well. As society/mainstream becomes more immersed in the internet and vice versa, the internet is certainly turning up the volume on the synthetic, but one can still navigate to the more-raw-natural.

Personally I have gone through hermit-like phases in both rural and urban areas. In my experience trees are an important ally to have around as a hermit. It really is about what one tunes in to. Tuning into society has its perks and importance. Tuning out of mainstream society and opening up to nature and the wild wonder that is oneself-left-to-one's-own-wits can be profound. I find it helpful to fluctuate between both and ideally always hold a balance of both in my heart. The internet has been helpful even (and maybe especially when used) as a hermit: Wikipedia and other sites open up entire facets of nature, and online interactions offer unique interpersonal experiences, I would not find as easily in wandering wondrous woods or mysterious innerverses.

Earlier in this thread hermit life seemed about lone self-sufficiency, just oneself and nature trying to survive in a material sense. There is a whole other aspect of hermit life, also about oneself and nature trying to survive, but it is more in a mental sense where attention is sustenance and emotion is one's belly.

May peace be upon you as some spiritual hermits say
 
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My best friend called me one day during our post-university employment slump, drunk and enthusiastic about the idea of reviving the hermits-for-hire tradition and renting ourselves out as interestingly dressed garden novelties in Austin. I was totally into it, but the Craigslist folks seemed to have the impression that we might be hermits with benefits, so that didn’t last long...

I have spent a lot of time living in the woods alone, and enjoy it, although I do start getting an eerie, floaty, not totally unpleasant but emotionally challenging detached feeling after a week or two without encountering another human. I also get people-shy and will start hiding out if anyone comes around and watching until they leave before I come out. And grocery stores become unbearable when I do have to go into town. Ultimately I think I would enjoy committed hermithood, but might need to maintain a smidge of human contact in there somewhere to make it feasible for the long haul. Or maybe I would need to push through the human contact thing for a longer period of time and I would get over the weird feelings; it almost feels as if there’s something worthwhile waiting on the other side of that emotional resistance, not to get too woo-woo about it. I really enjoy the austerity, manual labor, simplicity, and solitude, for sure.
 
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Well if they are being good hermits you wouldn't know they are there now would ya?

A big part of being a hermit is being unseen by most folks. So they could be all over in the hills and mountains around you and you might not even know.

My closest neighbor would easily classify as a hermit, he goes to town 1-2 times a month to get supplies and then stays on his property the rest of the time.

I and other neighbors make sure to stop by once in awhile to make sure he has some socialization, but he is happy as can be to be up on a mountain alone.

I specifically make sure I don't hermitize up on my place. Making sure I get into town to socialize and get some sort of public exposure. It would be easy to start becoming a hermit up on my property, as I have little interest in what is going on elsewhere. I can fill my days easily on my property and have no yearning to leave. But I make sure if I want to or not, to get off the property and meet up with people, go browsing in stores, and generally keep from being too anti social.

In my area there are plenty of other hermits tucked in the hills and mountains. Some more so that others. Some areas they have built a bit of a hermit community where law enforcement and government folks just don't go to. If the government need to speak to one of those folks they wait until they come down from the hills. Might take a month or two before they do, but eventually everyone comes down for some sort of restock of supplies.
 
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Two months ago my wife and I read a book called "The Stranger in the Woods" by Michael Finkel.This man lived 27 years with but a momentary contact with two people once! He lived by petty thievery but never lit a fire so he would not be seen After 27 years he was caught.A remarkable read! Still available on Amazon.Finkel is not only a fine writer but an exhaustive researcher and reporter! About this topic; we've known several homeless friends who have been urban hermits for over fifteen years.
 
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Just joined the forum & this topic caught my eye right away!  My dream is to live out in the middle of nowhere, grow my own food & be self sufficient.  Currently far from the dream.  We had to move from the mountains of East Tennessee to Southern Maryland to care for my in laws, who both have dementia.  We lived here up until 16 years ago, it has changed SO much, we might as well be living in the middle of Washington DC.  So many businesses, homes, cars, traffic & PEOPLE!  The older I get (I'm 60), the less I want to be around other people.  Even family, actually, especially some family, too much drama!  I'm really hoping I can stay healthy enough to live my dream some day.
 
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Hello Permies

Catherine, welcome to Permies.

In Portugal there are some hermits.
I have knowledge of a lady in the mountain (Serra da Estrela).
And has this couple, who has been documented video, they are not totally hermits, but live a fairly frugal lifestyle.
The video documentary does not have english subtitles and the audio is in Portuguese. But believe that the message transmitted is very real / authentic.



All good
 
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I am one ..divorced, children grown and prospering and I come out of the woods as seldom as I have to ...except thursdays, at the pub ...do I still count ?

Oh, and I’m going this year to climb the divide , again ...but that still counts, eh?
 
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In the 1950’s there was an old man who herded goats in southern Illinois near Orient.   No one knew exactly where he lives, and no one really cared. Without a doubt he had a shack set on on someone’s land. He never bothered any one, and, to my knowledge, no one bothered him.  On rare occasions I would see him crossing a road with his herd.
 
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Agree Hermit means more spiritual, perhaps introvert is a good way of putting it.  Many in permaculture, or homesteading are able to have introvert, or hermit, tenancies, hobbies, self reliance and chose to isolate at times. I find it highly amusing some that can't do such ( not those in permaculture or homesteading world) judge as extroverts. Many of them can't manage their own spoiled , catered life, nor a life of self reliance but judge those who do. So I think that is why many who do keep it quiet. There is an awesome YouTube of a Priest that did actually take leave and repaired a remote stone cottage as a Hermit, the name of the home even relates to hermit for spiritual reasons.
 
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In trying to define hermit I was intrigued to wonder why we apply the term to the hermit crab, who is neither reclusive nor spiritual, but lives in other creatures' discarded shells.
 
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At least in the US (probably everywhere) the population has doubled in the last 70 years, and land investment has become a much more involved thing it seems to me. So there are just fewer places that aren't occupied or noticed regularly, where people could squat without being harassed. Toss in satellite images of everything and drones everywhere, and it makes it tough for anyone to make like Jeremiah Johnson.
 
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Hermits still exist in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. I'm not up to speed on all the details or particulars, but the one I knew, a bona fide person living in seclusion, had to report his being there to the local bishop. A hermit is considered a 'religious,' i.e. much like a brother or sister/nun) especially if they are to present themselves as such to the public. This is to protect both the Church and the public. Again, I am not fully knowledgeable re: the details of why/how/what; but there are hermits in these modern times. I suppose it is possible to just 'declare oneself' a hermit and live in the wilderness, surviving on your own, and occasionally the beneficiary of charity from others, but the person couldn't really consider themselves a hermit in the eyes of the Church. Again, it isn't obnoxious legalism, but for the protection of all parties.  
 
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I agree with other thoughts here- if you own the land (free and clear with no mortgage, if you're going for hermit lifestyle), or have a solid agreement with a person or organization to stay somewhere long-term (certainly can work in some cases), you will likely be totally fine if that is the lifestyle that suits you.
If you don't own the land, it has become prohibited by the laws of at least the US, and you will be harassed and ultimately be either hauled away or have your things bulldozed. They will tell you it's for your own safety.
It can be a grim reality re: differences in access to these resources, but I do believe there's hope in the future and I think certain long-term farm stay options (many of which are discussed through the forums on here) can provide an experience that will be suitable for some and similar in a lot of ways.
 
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Kind of a hermit.  8 yrs.
Found I don't need people.
Full time rv. In Michigan 6 months/Florida 6 MO.
Do Ckns, herbalist, gardening in Michigan. Still trying to figure out Florida
 
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as i get older, the hermit life is looking more and more idyllic.
i'm with this woman's philosophy on furniture, but definitely prefer having a hot bath or shower.
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When I was younger I felt like a man trapped inside a woman's body. Then I was born. My twin is a tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/t/bootcamp
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