5 - The Hierophant

The Hierophant often symbolizes conformity and societal approval. Card from Rider Waite Tarot by US Game Systems, photo by Patti Wigington

The Hierophant sits between twin pillars, much like the High Priestess does. In the Kabalah, the pillars are from the tree of life, one representing Mercy and one Severity. One is law, one is free will. Both, however, are necessary, because man must make choices as to whether he will obey or defy. A pair of keys lies crossed at the Hierophant's feet, symbolizing currents of solar and lunar energy. Two priests kneel before him, one wearing the roses of desire and the other the white lilies of logical reason.

In some Tarot decks the Hierophant appears as the Pope, because he symbolizes the ruling power of religion and faith, the orthodox teachings that are palatable to the masses. This is in contrast to the High Priestess, who teaches secretly and only to those who are initiated into her mysteries.

When a Hierophant card comes up in a Tarot reading, look for some indicator of a preference for ritual and ceremony. In part, this can be interpreted as a need for acceptance from others, even from society as a whole. Think of it as a desire for institutionalized approval.

The Hierophant indicates the importance of conformity - but keep in mind that belonging to a group isn't necessarily bad. In general, some degree of conformity is the mark of a civilized society. After all, many of us - particularly those of us in non-mainstream religions - want to find a sense of community. How do you find that? By finding like-minded people to hang around with. Just be cautious that you're not giving up your individuality to meet the approval of the group - continue to remain who you are, but allow yourself to expand your horizons.

The location of the Hierophant can be important as well, and can change the card's message a bit. If it's in the "present" part of a Tarot card layout, it often can indicate someone who's found a new cause to be passionate about. Whether this is a new discovery of spirituality, getting involved in politics and activism, or just embracing a new philosophy on life, it signifies big changes in not only the self but the world outlook. Interestingly, in the "future" position, the Hierophant can represent these big changes moving towards you - often in the form of a charismatic and organized individual who will have a profound impact on the way you see the world and yourself. Again, this does not necessarily have to be bad - just make sure you're listening for the right reasons.

A reversed Hierophant shows someone who's open to new ideas and willing to think outside the box. This is the card of the non-conformist -- the rebel, the hippie, the artist who colors outside the lines. When reversed, the Hierophant indicates that it's time to do some unconventional thinking - and sometimes this means standing up and speaking out against the people you used to follow blindly.

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