The Hierophant Artwork Description
“He wears the triple crown and is seated between two pillars, but they are not those of the Temple which are guarded by the High Priestess. In his left hand he holds a sceptre terminating in the triple cross, and with his right hand he gives the well-known ecclesiastical sign which is called that of esotericism, distinguishing between the manifest and concealed part of doctrine. It is noticeable in this connection that the High Priestess makes no sign. At his feet are the crossed keys, and two priestly ministers in albs kneel before him. He has been usually called the Pope, which is a particular application of the more general office that he symbolises. He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power.” 1
The Hierophant Associations
- Alternate Names: The High Priest, The Pope, The Spiritual Father, The Abbot.
- Five: 5 Instability, Obstacles.
- Element: Earth.
- Rune: Berkana “Birch”.
- Crystal/Gem: Lapis Lazuli.
- Kabbalah: Vav “nail”.
- Astrological: Taurus.
- Astronomical: Capella.
The Hierophant Basic Meaning
Counselor, advisor, guidance. Clarity and visibility. Satisfying conflict of the group by following tradition or conservative ideals. Brining metaphysical knowledge down to the material world. Appeasing community by conformity.
The Hierophant Controversies and Observations
As you’ll see by reading Thirteen’s Observations below, the Hierophant is the outward aspect of the High Priestess. This card is about enlightenment and resolution for the community as a unit, where the High Priestess is about enlightenment and resolution for the individual. Do not cling to modern-day interpretations of religious figures when reading this card.
Counter-part to The High Priestess
“He is also called the Spiritual Father, and more commonly and obviously the Pope. This card seems even to have been named the Abbot, and then its correspondence, the High Priestess, was the Abbess or Mother of the Convent. Both are arbitrary names. The insignia of the figures are papal, and the High Priestess is and can be only the Church, to whom Pope and priests are married by the spiritual rite of ordination. I think, however, that in its primitive form the card did not represent the Roman Pontiff.” 1
“Meaning: Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude; by another account, mercy and goodness; inspiration; the man to whom the Querent has recourse.
Reversed: Society, good understanding, concord, over-kindness, weakness.” 1
“Tradition; need for approval of others; stuck in dogma; conformity; spiritual guidance; search for enlightenment.” 2
“Basic Tarot Symbols: Twin pillars, staff, throne, hand raised in blessing, two acolytes.
Basic Tarot Meaning: Taurus the Earthly bull may seem an odd sign for a holy man, but it makes sense if you understand that the Hierophant’s purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess connects to the esoteric with her secret, solitary rites, the Hierophant (or High Priest) leads his flock in shared, communal rituals.
The Hierophant is well suited to be such a leader as, like all Taureans, he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of crisis. Such rituals, rites and traditions remind the community of their values, their shared identity and the religious structure that gives their lives order and meaning. No matter how chaotic and frightening the times, this can bring tranquility.
The Hierophant’s only problem is that, like the Bull, he can be stubborn and hidebound. Also, as he is working for the harmony of the community, the Hierophant is not a card that favors individuality. Harmony cannot be achieved if everyone is marching to their own drummer. The Hierophant is about shared feelings, beliefs and ways. It even can be about blending in or surrendering to tradition and community rather than asserting your uniqueness.
Thirteen’s Observations: The Hierophant card often features religious symbols that elicit strong feelings in both readers and querents. Some find it hard to disassociate the Hierophant from certain organized religions (or branches of a religion), which they view as domineering, irrational, even cruel. And so they tend to interpret the Hierophant only by his potential negatives: as hide-bound, literal and stodgy.
I like to point out that there are decks where the Hierophant is the Oracle at Delphi, a yogi, a pagan high priest or a village elder. If it helps, the reader can try and think of the Hierophant as one of these less conventional spiritual leaders.
It is certainly true, however, that the Hierophant can represent those in the querent’s life who preach by the book, or refuse to deviate one iota from old-fashioned ways of doing things. Try to keep in mind, however, that such irascible, orthodox types are usually acting out of fear. They’re terrified that any change will weaken the community and its faith. This is ironic as such traditions are meant to erase fear and create peace and harmony, not generate more fear.
Likewise, the Hierophant might well be a warning to the querent, himself, against being too stubborn, too fearful of change, especially in matters of theology, ethics or traditions. The Hierophant could appear as a reminder that the aim of traditions is not to follow them by rote, but to use them to keep alive the spirit and faith of a people.
This is an important message. When things are going very wrong in the world, it is the Hierophant who wades in, quiets the panic, and offers good, practical advice as well as spiritual assurances. He is the teacher, therapist, counselor, advisor, priest or rabbi. He answers questions people would ask of the divine, but also acts as the voice of the community, speaking for the people as well as to them.
The Hierophant symbolizes the community’s traditions, ethics and faith, the spirituality that defines and unifies them, generation to generation. ‘Remember where you came from,’ this card tells you, ‘the traditions of your forefathers, the lessons of your faith, and you will know how to survive this crisis.” In the most dire times of loss and fear, the Hierophant is there to remind you that you are never alone.” 3
Axank’s Dream Recollection
December 5-6, 2011