The Hierophant represents conventional knowledge of the religious experience, rather than true spirituality. Some card readers claim that this is the male counterpart of the High Priestess but, though you can see certain resemblances to her in the layout of the card, it seems to be a stretch. The central figure sits between two columns but that’s really about it. The columns are gray and identical and there’s certainly nothing mysterious about the person between them.
In the earliest Tarot decks this card was simply labeled, “The Pope,” and that’s exactly what he represents: established religions. In fact, the Hierophant represents religion as opposed to spirituality. This card is about dogma and priests and ministers interpreting spirituality for you, instead of you experiencing it directly.
This card may show up when you are involved in a very conventional lifestyle or working a very conventional job that requires strict adherence to the rules.
If the card represents a person it may be a kind hearted but conventional counselor such as a good therapist or a concerned priest, rabbi, or imam.
If you are in a romantic relationship it may show that the person you are involved with is very conventional and, at least outwardly, very straight laced.
REVERSED: This often shows up when a person is sick to death of being governed by rules and is starting to rebel against them. On a spiritual plane it may represent a person who is questioning the value of conventional religions and is seeking alternatives. In an employment situation it can mean that the questioner is tired of a boring, over-regulated job. In a relationship it can indicate a thirst for a more adventurous, spontaneous partner.
A Few Extra Thoughts About the Hierophant:
If you read Tarot cards you can probably identify with the phrase, “I’m more spiritual than religious. “ And you’re in good company. For decades the number of Americans who self-identified as christians stayed at a solid 87%. Suddenly, since the 1990s, that number has dropped to 70 to 75%. That’s an astonishing decline in a very short period of time. And of those who still identify that way an even smaller percentage attend church on a regular basis.
We don’t really know what the reasons are for the drop in numbers. It could be disgust over the evangelists who love their private jets more than the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps the flood of revelations about pedophile priests. Maybe just that the religion seems increasingly out of step with the concerns and beliefs of many of us.
Whatever the reasons, there are still about 3/4s of the people in this country who feel very connected to the christian church. Some of them are very, very fine people who actually try to practice their religion in their daily lives. Some of them are very, very horrible people who use the Old Testament as an excuse for their hatred and intolerance. And most of them, I suspect, are just drifting along out of habit. They were born into christian families and they’ve never really thought about it much.
So how do you make a space in your heart for those people?
The Hierophant is about people who have deliberately chosen to turn their spirituality over to someone else. To let priests, preachers, rabbis, imams or gurus tell them what to believe and how to feel and how to pray and what god wants them to do.
If you’re on a spiritual quest as a wiccan or a neo-pagan or you’re doing shamanic journeys or buddhist meditation, that notion seems terribly foreign. Why in the world would you want to put someone else in between you and a direct spiritual experience? Why in the world would you want to read about spiritual revelations in a book when you can have them yourself?
And the only answer is: because that’s where they’re at. That’s the phase and the place they exist in and that’s okay.
With the exception of a few souls like the Dalai Lama none of us are born with great spiritual insights. The fact that we’re walking this path of spiritual exploration testifies to that fact. Whatever set you on this path was probably an, “accident.” Maybe you picked up a book by Starhawk at a garage sale and thought, “I wonder what this is about?” Or maybe you did some serious astral traveling once when you were sick with a fever and realized there was a whole other realm out there. Or maybe you took a hit of acid and your whole soul sat up and said, “WOW!” Or maybe you had a friend give you a Tarot reading. . .
People who turn to organized religions just aren’t there yet. For whatever reason they’re doing exactly what they need to be doing right now. And all you can say is, “Blessed Be.”