What is the significance of the hermit and the spirits in the Rime if the Ancient Mariner?
This poem was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and is considered the epitome of a Romantic poem. Some of the qualities of a Romantic piece include imagination, the supernatural, nature, the individual, and a connectedness to God or a Higher power.
In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the title's spelling of "Rhyme" as "Rime" gives the poem a faraway and ancient feel--just as the language and syntax in the poem does. This helps add to the mystery and supernatural qualities of the narrator, the Mariner himself, who "traps" his listeners in an unbreakable trance.
The Mariner thinks only of himself when he shoots the albatross, thus cursing the creation of God. It is only after he is able to bless the sea snakes that the Albatross falls from his neck.
Thusfar, we have all the elements--the individual (mariner vs. crew), nature (albatross, wind, sea snakes, etc), the supernatural (the spirits, Death, Life in Death, the Mariner's trance, etc.), imagination (farway places, fantastic events) and connectedness (or lack of it) to God.
The spirits and the hermit, therefore, represent the connectedness to God. The spirits are the voices of beings unseen (angels perhaps?) who discuss his crimes and the punishment of the Mariner.
The hermit is the one who prays, who comes out to greet sailors from other lands, and who recognizes the supernatural quality in the Mariner upon his return. He essentially is the hometown proof that something odd and eccentric has happened to the Mariner--thus underscoring the supernatural element in the poem as well as the connectedness to God.