Have you joined a group that makes you feel like you belong? Are you following a course of instruction that has you deeply immersed in a new way of looking at life? Have you developed a newfound interest in your cultural heritage? Has work or family recently forced you to conform to certain standards? Is a person in your life or a philosophy you are interested in pushing you to behave to a norm? Expect to see The Hierophant card in your Tarot reading if you are submitting your individuality (consciously or unconsciously) to a group, a cause or an ideal.
A man sitting on a throne is holding up the two-fingered sign of peace with one hand while holding a gold staff with three crossbars in the other hand. He is the Hierophant. He has an ornate crown and wears a red robe with white trim. On the trim are crosses that are also embroidered onto his white shoes. These rest on a red carpet. Behind the man is a gray wall with two large gray pillars on either side of him. Around his head and shoulders, the backing of some of his throne can be seen. In the card’s foreground are two men kneeling before the Hierophant. These kneeling men wear ornate robes and have prominent bald spots on the backs of their heads. In between them are two golden skeleton keys crossed in an X pattern. The keys are directly beneath the Hierophant’s feet.
The Hierophant is the medieval Pope. Unlike today’s Pope, in medieval times, the Hierophant had his own army and the Vatican State was a sizable area of present day Italy known as “the Papal States.” The Hierophant is the embodiment of political and spiritual power that can only be found in groups. Even though the Hierophant is a man, he is merely holding his office until he dies and is replaced by the next Hierophant, but it is the maintaining of the papacy itself over two millennia from whence its power emanates. The keys illustrated here are presently on the flag for Vatican City. The bald spots on the heads of the kneeling men are traditional shavings that medieval priests and monks would make to show their submission to the authority of the Pope. As the priests submit to the authority of the Hierophant, so to does the Hierophant submit to the authority of the very office he holds.
Meaning in Past, Present and Future Positions
A Tarot reading is divided into three sections: Your past, your present and your future. A card’s meaning changes depending on the location it lands in your Tarot spread. When The Hierophant lands in the past position, this indicates a structured belief system and strong sense of cultural identity in your past. Perhaps you were raised among an ethnic group that stuck together. Maybe your early life saw much interaction in a religious setting.
In the present position, The Hierophant represents you following a new belief system. Perhaps you are volunteering for a political cause or attending religious services regularly after years of not doing so. The loss of some individuality in your life may be offset by the great feeling of being a part of something much bigger than yourself. Sticking to a new diet or workout routine is a manifestation of the conformity of the Hierophant card that is also self-improvement.
The Hierophant card in the future position is a powerful placement. Here the card reveals a strong pull toward an individual who will explain the meaning of life to you, as well as your role in it. This might be a good affiliation for you to make, or it could be a detrimental affair depending on just whom this person is. The Hierophant is not inherently a good or evil card, it is a card of wisdom beyond the personal.
The Hierophant is one of the Tarot’s Pillar Cards. The Pillars represent knowledge. The High Priestess has knowledge that she chooses to withhold revealing until it suits her. The Hierophant shares his knowledge to those who join his organization or are otherwise initiated into his ranks. The Justice card is the highest manifestation of the Tarot’s three Pillar Cards as it uses knowledge impartially, regardless of mood or membership, to help humanity. When more than one Pillar card is in your Tarot reading, the knowledge you are taking in these days is possibly the most transformative of your lifetime.
The Tarot deck has a grouping known as the Acolyte Cards. The Acolytes are a pair of subservient individuals in the card’s foreground. The Hierophant is the first Acolyte Card, numerically, in the Tarot. The Acolytes are the two priests who kneel before the Pope. Following him are The Lovers Card, which illustrates a man and a woman surrendering to their love for each other; The Chariot, which shows two sphinx submitting their control of the riddle of fate to the chariot’s driver; The Devil, who has two prisoners chained to their self-destructive cycle of pleasure-seeking; The Tower, which shows two previously comfortable homesteaders randomly disrupted from their domicile; and one card from the Minor Arcana, the Six of Pentacles, which is the card of giving or receiving charity. If The Hierophant appears in your reading along with another Acolyte Card, your individuality is being subsumed to a higher cause in an epic surrender of self to ideal. This may or may not be a good thing, but it is something to be aware of.
The Minor Arcana cards numbered with a 5 are much more influential in your Tarot reading when the Hierophant is also present. The Five of Cups represents loss and teamed with The Hierophant, it only magnifies the loss of self-respect represented by that intense Cups card. The Five of Swords is a card that illustrates the breaking of a bond and teamed with The Hierophant it can foretell you joining a religious, cultural or political organization that pulls you away from friends and family. The Five of Pentacles revels in its victimhood even more when The Hierophant is present, bending away from the light that life has to offer to the cold sorrow in the snow banks of self-pity. The Five of Wands suddenly becomes less about frivolous play and more about making your passion in life become a profitable venture instead of a mere hobby.
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