Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Hierophant

By Joy Marshall  | Instagram

Hello my Magical Friends! Welcome to the fifth card in the Major Arcana. A few weeks ago, we spoke about The High Priestess as the gateway to the power of the subconscious. She represents intuition and the twin pillars of darkness and light. The Hierophant is the masculine energy counterpart to The High Priestess. 

In the traditional RWS deck, he is depicted as a man standing between two pillars (although not the same two pillars as The High Priestess). He wears blue robes, covered by red robes, with accents of white. This triple colored apparel represents his connection over the three worlds he rules; the conscious, sub-conscious, and super-conscious. In the RWS deck, he wears a triple layered crown, which represents the same thing. 

The Hierophant is a religious figure. As such, he holds a triple sceptre, the Papal Cross in his left hand. His right hand has two fingers extending toward the sky, and two extending to the Earth. This is a religious blessing, but it’s also symbolic of the phrase “as above, so below” we discussed in The High Priestess. 

In the RWS deck, two keys lie crossed at his feet. In my representation, he holds the keys in his hands. The keys represent the conscious and unconscious mind crossing. Keys universally symbolize unlocking doors. In this case, the door is knowledge only he can teach.

By his feet, kneel two acolytes ready to learn the knowledge he has to offer, and with some study and work, unlock the wisdom in themselves. 

The Symbolism of the Hierophant

The Tarot use similar symbolism again and again. In every card we have visited, we talk about color symbolism and how important each color used is to tell the story. And that’s what these cards are; stories we can learn from or take inspiration from. 

The symbolism in this card is generally self-evident, yet it’s always been one I’ve struggled to connect with. The Hierophant is all about religious leadership, about orthodoxy. It speaks to a strict regime and traditionalism. It is a conservative card, and favors conformity and institutionalism. It is a card of obedience. 

To me, this conformity makes me feel very boxed in. I was raised Catholic and found little comfort or connection to the religion. But many of my friends and family did. They found structure in the tradition and repetition. They found great wisdom and guidance from the Priest and Pope. Going to church and taking in the words of the Priest was a way for them to connect to their ancestors and roots. They found identity in the words of their Priest, and shared that identity with other congregation members, with close and extended family, and with passed on grandparents. The tradition became a heritage and it all came from religious leaders. 

This speaks to the inherent duality of The Hierophant. It can be read as a refuge, a sanctuary, or someone’s salvation. Alternatively, it can be a box, designed to oppress. 

The term Hierophant defines someone who brings a congregation into what is holy. It speaks of someone who presumes authority. This could be a religious leader, but it could also speak to the leader of a traditional family. 

Ultimately, your spirituality is your own. The Hierophant is more akin to an Emperor of the Divine, as opposed to the High Priestess, who is a guide to the divine. Neither one is more nor less important than the other. Like the Empress and Emperor, they are two side of the same coin. They are in equal measures darkness and light, masculine and feminine. Sometimes a guiding hand saves the day, other times, a ruling hand is what is needed. 

About the Contributors: Joy Marshall and Tatiana Pimentel are a photographer-model duo on a journey to create accessible and diverse fantasy art that tells a story and helps people connect to their own path. Find more information at The Witching Hour Photography.

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