Updated: Nov 26, 2021
The Heirophant is a complex card, one I have struggled with on a personal level; not being a big fan of heavy rules, particularly when it comes to what I should think and believe. It is a card of tradition, rules, and law, thick with religious teachings and a feeling of control. The image of the card often shows a priest sitting above his followers, dressed richly in the vestments of his religion, crowned to show he is closer to God than those who kneel beneath him; visually demanding that we heed his word. The Hierophant represents the societal view of right and wrong, and a need to follow the path as instructed. It is a card filled with judgment and a feeling of needing to earn wisdom and God's good grace.
I really struggle with this card, being a person who values my free will highly and doesn't care much for organized religion. In truth, I admit to being a bit roguish and acknowledge that my own disdain of religious overlords can be tainting my opinion of this card. That being said, I often feel the Hierophant shows up in readings as a representative of society's expectations; which can be either good or bad, depending on the society and one's ability and desire to blend with it. In short, the Hierophant is the face of societal norms, particularly when it refers to religion and ethics.
The Hierophant is the High Priest, and with that in mind, the feeling of this card will most likely change greatly based on the deck and the culture it represents.
In the beginning of my working with the Tarot, I had only the Rider Waite deck which depicts the Hierophant in his heavy robes and crown, sitting upon a dais. This image was cumbersome and restrictive to me, representing all the reasons church did not work for me. But as my exploration of the Tarot continued I came in contact with other images of the Hierophant, in which the image of High Priest wore the face of Druid, Shaman, and Mystic. I began to understand that this card was malleable, and the rules of engagement that are enforced through spiritual belief change according to the culture and community being dealt with.
The Hierophant is a representative of our collective view of God's will; the changing of his robes and spiritual adornment between card styles echoing the many ways we approach the divine. He is the overseer of tradition and the teacher of religious and cultural norms, and our relationship with him depends on how well we fit into a particular society. If he is showing up in readings for you, he is most likely asking that you examine your connection with your community and whether or not the belief system you surround yourself with is right for you.
I use to be put off by the way the Hierophant sat above his followers, in what looked like a holier-then-thou position; a view tainted by my own personal beliefs of organized religion, no doubt. But then I started thinking about him as a mystic and realized that many of the things the Hierophant experiences in his personal search for God are truly above the comprehension of most people. Like the shaman, he is a voyager of time and space, both of this world and not. His station as a spiritual leader is one earned through his experiences in the unseen world of spirit, and through such his vision is greater. With this alternate view of the Hierophant as a wyrd mystic, navigating the physical and spiritual world I now see that his appearance may also be a sign to go deeper, asking that I look between the lines and find the understanding behind societal rules and norms. He knows that not everyone can understand the greater workings of the universe and that rules are meant to keep the simpler folk safe. He reminds me that people often make judgments based on what they can understand and that those of us who see far beyond the veil must learn to communicate in a way that is understood by those with less knowledge.
I invite you to explore this side of the Hierophant to look at the card from his perspective, explore not only what he looks like and represents to others; sitting there on his throne of godliness, but who he is! See yourself as the Hierophant, what would such a position require of you? What goes on inside the mind of such a person? What does it mean to be an intermediary of god/universe?
When using the Major Arcana as a tool for self-exploration we give ourselves permission to grow in ways we never thought possible. When we walk the path laid out before us through these powerful representatives we begin to expand our consciousness and knowledge of self. If you are just finding this article now, I invite you to explore the whole series on my blog site-
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