Hierophant (Creep or just Mis-understood?)

Major Arcana V, The Pope, The Hierophant, Tradition, Faith, The Druid…., these are just some of the names this particular card appears in various decks. So what does this card mean to you?  Barbara Moore recently had a discussion on her Tarot Blog at Llewellyn on the Hierophant card and its different portrayals in different decks. It appeared from the responses that this card seems to primarily have a negative “feel” to it.

Wikipedia defines as: A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy. The word comes from Ancient Greece, where it was constructed from the combination of ta hiera, “the holy,” and phainein, “to show.” In Attica it was the title of the chief priest at the Eleusinian Mysteries. A hierophant is an interpreter of sacred mysteries and arcane principles. In the Rider Waite Tarot deck and similar decks, The Hierophant (sometimes called “The Pope”) is one of the twenty-two trump cards comprising the “Major Arcana”, and represents conformity to social standards, or a deference to the established social moral order. As the guide towards knowledge, insight, and wisdom, in a tarot reading it might, for example, represent a priest, scholar, therapist, or teacher although these individuals are more definitively represented by the Hermit, or suggested by the traits attributed to the King of Cups.

Samples of some traditional meanings; Spiritual teachings, organized religion, culture, inner guide, spiritual father or teacher, establishments, organizations, groups, preserving a tradition; passing on knowledge to individual people through formal education and religious training. As far as traditions; Respect the achievements of generations past, do not disdain tradition out of hand but see what wonderful things it has to offer.

(Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

–W. Somerset Maugham)

Upright advice: Put your beliefs into practice.
Shadow: Unquestioned conformity, dogma, self-righteousness
Reversed possible advice: Follow your own path despite the pressure to conform. (Paul Quinn, Tarot for Life.)

So in one particular spread and relating to a career situation, The Hierophant showed up in the Past influences position. Ok, so this was referring to the Querent’s formal education, collage and specialized training in her field. In the same spread, for the same querent, by a different reader and from the perspective of a spiritual standpoint, The Hierophant showed up in the Other Influences position. Which of course was clearly her religious training and upbringing, which is extensive and deeply rooted.

Lets take a look at some M.A. V Images

Faith-Legacy of the Divine, Hierophant-RWS, Hierophant- The Gilded Tarot

Rachel Pollack states in her book Tarot Wisdom, “The picture has changed remarkably little over the centuries, even when people give it a different meaning.  The Hierophant can mean a particular teacher or the educational system in some way.”

Rachel also includes; A Hierophant Reading

  1. How has tradition affected my life?
  2. What have I learned?
  3. How have I broken with tradition?
  4. What effect has it had on my life?
  5. What do I have to teach others?
  6. How can I fulfill this role?

How has the Hierophant came up in readings for you?

Does this card automatically conjure bad vibes?  Why?

Check out this post by Barbara Moore of a very creepy Heirophant.  The Dream Enchantress’s Hierophant.

my response to this post LOL : ” I would have to agree with Corrine, the first thing that came to mind when I saw this card is that it is Creepy. Reminds me a bit of the character, Cardinal Richeleau’ played by Tim Curry in “The Three Muskateers”. While in a position of power, this character’s pursuit of personal gain and pleasures, reek of evil in his relentless race for success and power at the expense of whomever gets in his way.”

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