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The Hierophant Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in astrology, Myers Briggs, and pop culture with expertise in relationships and dating.

The Hierophant doesn't necessarily represent a Christian figure, even though the traditional card relates to the Pope. The card is an archetype of a religious authority. This could be a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, or a shaman.

The Hierophant doesn't necessarily represent a Christian figure, even though the traditional card relates to the Pope. The card is an archetype of a religious authority. This could be a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, or a shaman.

The Hierophant Card Explained

The Hierophant traditionally represents the Pope. He was the most powerful religious leader in Europe when the Tarot game was created. The position still has significant power, but theocracies are no longer the norm.

The Hierophant is the fifth trump card in the Major Arcana. The card has spiritual connotations to it and is under the influence of the earth element.

The Hierophant is about cultivating a consistent relationship with God in order to recognize infinity and to develop virtues. The card is about rituals, prayers, meditation, mental energy, and studying.

Description

The Hierophant has his right hand raised in blessing or benediction. Two fingers point up and two fingers point down. The Hierophant is a bridge between Heaven and Earth. He parallels the High Priestess Card (II), which is also sometimes called the Popess. Note: The Hierophant card may also be called the High Priest as a counterpart to the High Priestess.

The Hierophant acts as a bridge between humanity and divinity. In his left hand, he holds a triple cross, which serves as an emblem for the office of the pontiff. The bars on it indicate his ecclesiastical rank.

The Hierophant is known as the "Teacher of Wisdom." In most depictions, he sits on a throne between two pillars symbolizing Law and Liberty or obedience and disobedience. Sometimes the card includes worshipers. The Hierophant is sometimes referred to as Jupiter, the god of the sky and thunder in Roman mythology.

  • Jupiter is the Roman version of Zeus.
  • Jupiter can be dogmatic. His ruling must be obeyed.
  • Jupiter has no problem visiting Earth and going back to Mount Olympus. But he isn't a messenger like Mercury.
  • The planet Jupiter is the first king god in the solar system. Saturn and Uranus are part of the same hierarchy and legends.
  • The Hierophant's ruling planet is Jupiter.

History

  • The papacy was not just a religious force during the Middle Ages or Renaissance. It was also considered a political and at times military force.
  • When Tarot was invented, the Pope controlled most of central Italy. The area was known as the Papal States.
  • The Pope had more power than kings. The Emperor (IV) is the highest ruler of the secular world. The Pope is a step above him as a teacher on core principles. The Pope decides the religious zeitgeist.
  • The Pope has priests, bishops, archbishops, and the like working in churches and other venues to maintain order and power.
  • In the Middle Ages, a Pope could declare a Christian monarch heretical and powerless to rule.
  • During the Renaissance, many didn't question the Pope as God's human representative. Those involved with religious Reformation completely disagreed with it. (Reformation is considered the reversed Hierophant position.)
  • In Tarot of Marseilles, the Hierophant wears a red cape and a blue robe. The High Priestess would wear a blue cape and a red robe.
  • The title Hierophant was used for the chief priest in the Eleusinian mysteries, an Ancient Greek cult.

Card Alignment

Upright Interpretations

Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude, mercy, goodness, inspiration, education, learning, religion, seeking counsel or advice, family values, tradition, institution, ritual, following plans, consistency, schedule, devotion, rhythm, dutiful, loyalty.

Reversed Interpretations

Abuse of position, society, concord, weakness, poor counsel, breakdown, rejection of family values, rebel, challenging the status quo, miscommunication, Mercury retrograde, dissonance, lack of knowledge, no effort put into studying, self-teaching, cutting one's self off from a corrupted system.

The Hierophant card is about putting in consistent effort for a goal. You're not relying on luck or whimsy. You put years into skill development and then see results.

The Hierophant card is about putting in consistent effort for a goal. You're not relying on luck or whimsy. You put years into skill development and then see results.

Symbols

Three Tiered Crown: Represents the three worlds the Hierophant rules: the conscious, subconscious, and super conscious.

Papal Cross: Designates him as the highest rank within the church. The cross relates to Jesus and his sacrifices and devotion. The Hierophant overall is embedded with Christian iconography.

Red: The color red relates to the blood of Christ and his eternal sacrifice for others.

Blue: The color of trust and often used to designate rank. Jesus in artwork is often depicted in blue and white and occasionally red.

White: Purity, blamelessness, innocence, and acceptance of the spirit.

The Worshipers: People in the card often kneel down to the Hierophant. He initiates them into the church. The card is about reconnecting with a religious body, finding a religious community, and connecting with someone who devotes their time to religious study. Coming to the Hierophant and accepting his blessing is a rite of passage.

Crossed Keys: The crossed keys are at the Hierophant's feet. The keys represent the balance between the conscious and subconscious minds and the unlocking of those mysteries.

The Hierophant teaches people how to connect with their mind and their resulting actions. He helps people to see the wholeness of themselves. The leaders before him would work on the conscious or subconscious separately.

The Hierophant is a loaded card. In the upright position, it's about coming together with like minded people. It's about initiation. In the reversed position, it's about self-care and self-teaching.

The Hierophant is a loaded card. In the upright position, it's about coming together with like minded people. It's about initiation. In the reversed position, it's about self-care and self-teaching.

Upright Position in a Reading

The Hierophant in the upright position indicates religious practice. A spiritual leader guides you on both practical and abstract matters. The leader uses religious doctrines to help you navigate your issues. They'll give you direction, consistent plans for self-care, and information to read.

The Hierophant teaches you about a belief system, or many belief systems. This is necessary before you can discover and create your own beliefs and make your own choices. This will be discovered in the next card: Lovers (VI). The Hierophant works with you to develop fundamentals, and he does so from trusted sources.

  • The Hierophant is an authority who nurtures spiritual awareness.
  • The Hierophant teaches on core principles.
  • The card encourages you to take on a formal study and delve deeply into a subject.
  • If you have already mastered a skill, the card could be encouraging you to become a teacher or mentor. It is your responsibility to share your knowledge.
  • Adhere to key principles.
  • The Hierophant also calls on people to honor family traditions and sacred rituals.

Organization Needs to be a Priority

If you've been lacking structure in your life, now is the time to get organized. The earth element is all about steady, consistent growth. Through intentional practice and skill development, one can create a strong legacy that supports their family, health, and wealth. Developing a career isn't about luck and whimsy: it's about consistency. You are the Tortoise in the race with the Hare. You win by continuing to push forward. The Hare is tempted to go off track and snooze because they rely too much on their natural skill to actually have devotion to the craft.

The Hierophant encourages that you meet with like minded people. Don't try to develop your spirit or skills only in solitude. It is important to gather with others, discuss ideas, and develop friendships.

The card is ultimately about identifying with others. You want to be with others who have similar goals and dreams.

The Hierophant card encourages you to think about what you worship. Where are you devoting your time? Could you devote your time to something better?

The Hierophant card encourages you to think about what you worship. Where are you devoting your time? Could you devote your time to something better?

Reversed Hierophant in a Reading

The reversed Hierophant can be a good thing. It reminds you that you are your own teacher, and that all the wisdom you seek comes from within—not from some external source of power. It is time that you get to know yourself better. You might be amazed at what you can do in solitude.

You need to follow your own path. You should live in your own truth and interpret your belief system. No one should control you or demand that you think one way or another. If you are off track, people can correct you with grace.

The Reversed Hieorphant suggests:

  • You have the fundamentals to carve your own path.
  • You need to trust yourself more and know you're not going to be an unmitigated disaster.
  • If you feel like you're blindly following others and are too compliant, then you need to push back. Stand up for yourself and your mind.
  • Others may question your motivations to go against tradition, but sometimes reformation is necessary. (Don't forget the Catholic church's past with indulgences or other crimes against humanity. The system is often broken, and if you keep following it you will be contributing to the injury of others.)

When the Hierophant is upright, the system is good and you have a good teacher. When the Hierophant is reversed, the system is bad and you need to be your own teacher. Everyone at some point must learn to be their own teacher.

With the reversed Hierophant, you no longer need external approval to succeed. You can strike out on your own and make a big difference. You don't have to be tied down to a toxic workplace, you have the power to break free. Going against convention could save your mental health.

  • Trust your inner voice. Spend time in meditation.
  • Challenge the status quo if it's broken.
  • Test ideas that were taught to you as truth.
  • Testing the boundaries will give you independence.
  • Seek out opportunities to rebel and reclaim your personal power.
  • If you have felt restricted then now is the time to break free, so you can find freedom and flexibility.

The reversed Hierophant encourages you to examine the world around you, the broken systems, and the corruption. Your intuition has led you to a place where you understand that you can't trust everything. There is plenty around you that is broken. Be conscientious of the world around you.

  • The reversed Hierophant can represent a rebellious teenager.
  • It's okay to have conflict with your parents or other family members. Work to close the gap when appropriate.
  • Authority figures are in a position where they can take advantage of people. Good authority figures understand boundaries. Bad authority figures are oppressive and manipulative.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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