“It is reasonable to have certain, well-defined expectations of ourselves and others.”
In the traditional Rider-Waite and older tarot decks, The High Priest, or The Pope, is the primary figure, later coined as the Hierophant. While the Emperor concerns himself with the establishment of social order, the Hierophant focuses on the commencement, recording, and maintaining of spiritual traditions. Ceremonies, sacraments, sacred rites and clerical initiations are all part of his personality.
Hence the Hierophant came to represent a figure who might be a teacher, or one in institutional authority via churches, schools, companies, or institutions. There is always a role present concerning conformity—either too much or too little, and the struggle the Hierophant himself may have in remaining open to new outlooks while he lays his solid spiritual groundwork. Sometimes it represents accepting an alternate interpretation while staying within the confines of a certain educational framework. In seeking knowledge, one may not always arrive at the truth in the same way.
The ability to pass on these rites in their finer forms imply the need for formal education, esoteric institutions, and iconic order. The Hierophant speaks for all the spiritual and educational underpinnings we have developed in our societies: schools and churches, institutions—or the outer ways we have established for training ourselves to find inner truth. Whereas the High Priestess is about internal intuition and an innate knowledge that simply is, the High Priest disseminates formalized beliefs we exactingly arrive at by cataloging them into certifications, licenses, and church doctrine.
This symbol shows up when the energy surrounding an event involves due process or conventional boundaries, or the question whether or not to take such an orthodox approach. Instead of being allowed to be innovative, you may be called to adapt to an existing set of beliefs or systems for the time being, to do what is expected of you. There may even be wisdom in following established social structures; challenging the status quo at that time may prove counterproductive for all.
For those on an alternative spiritual path, this symbol may at times bring a scowl—but its meaning is not entirely devoted to rigid and outdated dogma. The Hierophant speaks more about a vehicle: a way to carry historical beliefs and practices forward in time. His is not necessarily only a stifling influence.
Some family traditions, for example, are enjoyable—and not so much from the traditional display of the experience as its underpinnings: the sentimentality that can percolate from the experience. If we find a nugget of truth or a takeaway that significantly shifts our world view—whether we maintain that viewpoint long term, or later release it—the memory of these experiences is stored as “family” in our emotional body. The takeaway emotions are carried forward at a molecular level regardless of the stolid structural events that may have prompted them.
The Hierophant is the fifth calling card in the deck. In numerology the number five denotes freedom from constraints, or freedom-seeking behavior. At first glance this may seem off, while we think of the High Priest as more static and confined. Other interpretations associated with the number five seem to ring true, however, such as the intense focus on intellectual and scientific logic, as well as the zeal to arrive—something we have certainly observed in religious fervor and persecution. Fives are typically freedom seekers who are not there yet, and most likely going about it in pendulum fashion, from apathy to avidity. Moderation can be a difficult lesson to learn with fives.
The Hierophant’s chief Zodiac being Sagittarius, his is a sign that usually enjoys searching for deeper, hidden matters, and, to some extent, the truth. There is always an urge to connect with a larger order and community while seeking this truth, which could either help or hinder its discovery and preservation.
While we have ample proof that effective group efforts can promote powerful synergy, entrainment, and provide enriching experience, this card reminds us that groups, too, can become stifling. At what point you see your part in a group as too restrictive is the moment you need to start to trust your own individuality—because, if you’re looking for something innovative or free-spirited, it is not here.
The card may also show up when it is beneficial to join a group or group effort. It may be as simple as joining a gym. It may involve accepting that the group way of thinking or educational opportunities at hand will motivate you to take the next large step in your journey.
The Hierophant also points to generations of development within our cultures: that which lays the foundation for many of our innermost beliefs, even our own sense of what is obedient and what is not. He guides us with a well-christened belief system, one more likely established before our physical birth; for as we know, most societies must build these iconic systems over hundreds of years.
If being part of a group continues to create enriching experiences for you, then continue. But keep in mind that group synergy is not necessarily conscious oneness. Om consciousness and at-Onement with the whole of everything is not the energy of the Hierophant. Although group synergy is powerful, it’s not the same as conscious wholeness.
Group synergy, entrainment, or mass Law of Attraction all carry the idea of receiving and cultivating ideas in groups—the souls we have chosen to travel beside in this lifetime. Though we may also download many seeds of enlightenment that can only resonate with us individually, we must realize that many of our ideas and attitudes are ultimately shaped by those around us.
In a work setting, the Hierophant leads us on an exploration of company rules, structure, and executive order. The establishment exists to preserve the service offered. If the executive level is a healthy one, its regulations will trickle down to the worker bee skill level and the final product(s) offered. From a employment standpoint, if we want to be part of the team, we must first learn to play by the rules, because the rules are in place to support our skill set. On the other hand, if you know someone has broken a company rule for a good, even right, reason—it may be time to reevaluate the validity of the company rules, how they support its entire structure, and whether or not they continue to be valid.
Learning the rules and conventions of a system doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to them. Ultimately the rules must change, and they exist to support your development as long as they work. When you master the rules, you are no longer enslaved by the rules. They become second nature, to protect and produce, until it’s time for new ones.
As our bodies age and undergo exposure from life, the rules about how they function change. Perhaps we find ourselves in a situation where we feel better when we take our medications as prescribed, but we also listen to the feedback system of our bodies. In our bodies, our organ systems and their energies work intimately together as a group. You can’t isolate one symptom and find the root cause of the disease, because an entire system is behind the process.
Ultimately we must interpret the Hierophant’s total energy with the view that his right hand is raised in benediction, or blessing. He is offering a blessing akin to many Renaissance artistic representations of the iconic Christ Pantocrator.
He may also represent those that appear in your life to help you: a psychotherapist, counselor, priest, spiritual mentor, financial adviser, guide, or trusted friend to whom you can turn for wisdom, knowledge, and blessing.
This gesture, in which Christ’s first two fingers and thumb are typically extended and his third and fourth finger are closed, is among his most frequently occurring hand gestures in Christian art. It is most commonly seen in iconic artwork representing the Christ Pantocrator, or Christ Almighty. The sign emerged as one of blessing in early Christian and Byzantine art, continuing through the Medieval period into the Renaissance.
The benediction is most frequently seen in iconographic images of Christ like the one above. This image shows the beatific sign with the thumb closed over the palm rather than open. With the thumb opened, the three open digits represent the Holy Trinity. Closed represents the dual nature of Christ as man and God. It’s important to note that this gesture is always made with the right hand, the hand with which one blesses.
The gesture originated with Roman art, a signal to indicate one was speaking. It gained popularity as a Christian symbol shortly after Constantine’s issue of the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. This edict allowed Christians to practice their religion freely without threat of persecution.
Uncommon Tarot Meanings:
‡ Stuttering or disturbed speech patterns because of dogmatic intimidation.
‡ The issue comes with being caught in a hierarchical system.
‡ The current social construct is out-of-date.
‡ Conventional ideas may work this time.
‡ Developing a new order or routine will bless you.