5- The Hierophant

This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.

This week we explore the what we learn as we move from structure and leadership into connecting to the our higher selves and higher powers. Time to discover spirituality with the Hierophant.

The Hierophant is called other things in the history of the Tarot such as the Pope or the High Priest. The Rider Waite deck and some of its contemporaries started using the term Hierophant to distinguish it from “traditional” ways of connecting to a higher power from more organized religions. While the High Priestess guides us to look within and understand ourselves through reflection, the Hierophant guides us to our understanding of a higher power by connecting externally to that higher power and by interpreting sacred texts or “mysteries” from that higher power. The Emperor has the keys to the castle but the Hierophant has the keys to the temple as well as the rites of initiation onto the spiritual path. With this step of the Major Arcana we explore what the higher power is for us, what tools we use to connect to it, and what help we need translating our own messages from our higher selves.

There are a couple of elements that are key for the traditional versions of the Hierophant card. I will list them here and then lets see what choices have been made in some less traditional decks.

  • Two keys, one gold and one silver, crossed at the foot of the Hierophant representing inner and outer ways, the combination of the Magician and the High Priestess, the sun and moon.
  • Either holding or touching a tome or tool of connection to a higher power, which is quite varied in all of the examples we will see.
  • Pillars of a temple behind the Hierophant, inscribed with codification of that spirituality, but the way is open for those who want to explore the path.

In the Lua Tarot a high priest stands in between two pillars covered in Egyptian hieroglyphics representing the gateway to divine wisdom. His two keys are black and white with the black unlocking the way to intuition and the white unlocking universal wisdom. He holds a sacred text in one hand and forms the sign of divine protection in the other.

This image is very traditional and for me hard to connect to. The Tarot, however, is also an older tradition, so choosing that as a tool means I don’t reject all traditional tools and traditions, otherwise why would I spend so much time writing articles about the deeper meaning of this tool? Sometimes its just as interesting to understand what you have difficulty connecting to, what you easily connect with and why.

The question you may want to ask with this particular version of the card is where you are looking and do you understand why certain sides of spirituality speak to you and others do not? Its the key to understanding what will unlock the door for your own intuition and this path for you to walk on, that is what are the right keys for you in the first place. If you already know the answer to this you can then move on to deeper questions.

In the Santa Muerte Tarot we see the Hierophant not as an interpreter so much as a mediator between what is above and what is below, what is past and what is the future. He has clarity and can connect on the right energy level to bridge two things. This Hierophant uses a Ouija board as the tool to help him mediate. His right hand is signaling divine protection like the traditional card, and is left hand is connected to the board which can represent grounding to his own spirituality.

In some occult sects that used the Tarot as a tool this meant you had to go through an initiation in a secret society. But I think all this really has to mean, or what it means for me is not about secret initiations. For me the “secret” is how to be completely present because that’s where we find clarity. Not above or below, not in the past or the future, not by initiation into a secret exclusionist sect or cult, but by being connected to the present moment within ourself.

Connecting to the present is quite the undertaking and its work we have to do everyday to stay connected. If this version of the card speaks to you I would focus on this aspect of connecting to your intuition. Some people describe the path to being present as vibrating at the right frequency, but I just call it breathing. Our breath is our ever accessible initiation into the present, and if we loose that connection we can always come back to it.

The Voyager Tarot has one of my favorite references for the Hierophant of the barefoot Buddha instructing us that the path to enlightenment is through the earthly plane, and by walking its many paths ourselves. The world is our temple and its only by walking its roads and doing good work in the world with the right attitude and intention that we can connect with a higher self.

The large ears of the Buddha in the upper left remind us to listen to our inner voice of experience versus external chatter. The elephant in the lower right references the Hierophant being able to clear the way for others because of clarity and awareness. We have this awareness and clarity because we are present and have the right intention.

If this card speaks to you today ask yourself what your work is in the world and if your connection and intentions to them are clear. How are you walking in the world, or are you? Make sure you are walking and connecting to your path, and that you know what that path is.

The Tarot of the Divine has my absolute favorite representation of the Hierophant with White Buffalo Calf Woman. White Buffalo Calf Woman was sent to the Lakota people by the Great Spirit carrying a sacred pipe to heal mind, body, spirit, and connection to the earth. She gave them a sacred bundle containing the tools and rites of the ceremonies they needed to perform from that day forward and taught them how to perform them. These are rites and ceremonies that are still performed and passed down today by the Lakota people.

To read more in depth about White Buffalo Calf Woman please read this article which also talks about the modern keeper of the bundle who is Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota People. https://www.lakotatimes.com/articles/the-story-of-white-buffalo-calf-woman-and-the-gift-of-the-pipe/

This card emphasizes the Hierophant as more of a teacher than a mediator. Do you have your own traditions and rites and what is the deeper meaning behind them that connects you to an ancestral or higher power? Who taught them to you, what stories do you pass down and how do they teach the next generation?

And finally the Osho Zen Tarot chooses to represent this step with No-Thingness. The Buddha called this shunyata.

The scary thing about this card is that you can’t tell where you are at on the journey. You are “in the gap” and disoriented. You are in the space between breathing in and breathing out.

The reassuring thing about this card is that all you need to do is to exhale to keep going. The journey to the present moment is already happening, and you just need to remember to keep breathing.

Though potentially disorienting this experience contains not just some possibilities but all possibilities. If you are “in the gap” remind yourself to exhale and breath into your next steps. lf you can do this you congratulations, you are now connected with the present moment. Welcome back. Now just keep breathing.