The Eremites were a monastic order of ascetics prone to severe self-mutilation and rejection of pain. They were politial radicals with had a strong vision for the Homeworld's future, but after it was made impossible by the anchoring of the thread, they abandoned the Homeworld en masse. They condemned the culture of the Great Houses as a cult of sterility and the Homeworld as a "diseased tree bearing weak tasteless fruit". The Eremites saw their departure from the Homeworld not as permanent but as part of the "Hegira", a circular pilgrimage that would end in their "Redux", when they would defend and scourge the Homeworld at its moment of greatest need, then return to prominence and power among the Houses. The Eremites' apologists would later refer to them as a Great House in their own right.
When the Eremites left the Homeworld, they took with them a crude labyrinth and a breeding-engine, which was necessary following the sterility imposed by the anchoring of the thread. Despite the relation of their name to the word "hermit", the Eremites remained a tightly-knit community for generations after the Diaspora. They were led by the Black Council, a parody of the ruling House assemblies missing the position of the President. In their histories and songs they belittled the first President of the Homeworld as "Urizen the Architect", who they would mock in elaborate ironic rituals.
An agent of the Order of the Weal observed the initiation ceremony of an Eremite cardinal, and it was recorded in The Little Book of Absolute Power. The cardinal-elect was starved for forty days and forty nights to obtain a delirious, ecsatic fugue state. Then they would be bathed in bleaching acids and, after a ritual involving the extinguishing of candles – performed behind black velvet curtains while the Council led a cycle of prayers – the cardinal-elect would be sewn into the flayed skin of a recovered corpse. They would then tell their story and, after a single drum-beat, be led by a procession of flag-bearers through the spokes of the labyrinth to the centre for the investiture.