Upright: Tradition, Conformity, Rituals, Group Membership, Wisdom
Reversed: Rebellion, Innovation, Breaking Traditions
The Hierophant tarot card is a representation of tradition and conformity. In the RWS deck, the figure depicted on the card is surrounded by two followers — typically assumed to be monks as evidenced by their tonsure — and wears a triple crown to symbolise his authority. While the High Priestess is ruler over internal esoteric wisdom, the Hierophant rules over externally generated spiritual, occult, and religious knowledge, and the dissemination of such knowledge. The High Priestess is mysterious, a coach, and invites us to look within. The Hierophant is orderly, a teacher, a guru, and invites us to look above.
When The Hierophant Appears in a Reading
The Hierophant Upright
When The Hierophant card appears upright in a reading, it indicates that you should embrace the value of tradition and community. It can also be a sign that you should join an organization or take part in rituals that will bring comfort, stability, and guidance to your life. Rituals like meditation and prayer can provide you with a sense of purpose and connection to something bigger than yourself.
An upright Hierophant invites us to break away from the status quo and think for ourselves. It’s a reminder to be open-minded, to continue learning, and to stay curious about the world around us. It also encourages us to step outside of our comfort zone and take risks in order to grow.
While the Hierophant often reflects religious and cultural wisdom, knowledge, and organisation, he also can represent group activities. When one needs to embrace structure to grow and transform their lives, the Hierophant is wont to make an appearance.
The Hierophant Reversed
If The Hierophant card appears reversed, however, it could signal that you need to break away from conventions or outdated beliefs. You may be feeling a need for freedom. You may be lured by innovation, and independence, yet struggling to manifest. You may be feeling constrained by societal expectations and want to assert your individuality. The Hierophant indicates that now is the time to step out of bounds and explore new paths.
A reversed Hierophant indicates that you should question authority and break away from any oppressive systems or traditions that have been holding you back. Oppressive systems may show up in any manner of ways, such as religious beliefs or culture. The Hierophant reversed encourages you to think for yourself and break out of any cycles that limit your potential. While it’s important to respect tradition, it’s also essential not to let those traditions limit your growth or stifle your creativity. Embrace change, don’t fear it, as this is what will ultimately help you move forward into something better.
Tradition, while powerful and an important way of staying grounded, can also be limiting. The Hierophant reminds us of the importance of both honouring our roots and traditions, embracing wisdom, while also striving to push boundaries forward.
Symbolism of The Hierophant Card
In the RWS deck, The Hierophant tarot card is filled with symbolism that reflects its meaning. His triple crown and Benediction gesture signify his spiritual authority. The Hierophant is a wise man who has seen and experienced the world, yet he still follows the rules of tradition. He holds up two fingers in the Latin gesture of Benediction, signifying both blessing, but also the importance of adhering to rules and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
His two followers, the monks, are willing disciples and they represent guidance, structure, and conformity, as well as the important relationship between spiritual guidance and personal growth. The monks are at his feet to learn and to grow, admitting they do not know it all, and to unlock their full potential they must look both within and also above.
The pillars signify stability and structure, while the crossed keys symbolise knowledge, the power of unlocking it, and the spiritual truths that are to come. The Hierophant’s robes are a reminder to stay humble and reverent in the face of knowledge and tradition.
The Papal Cross is representative of the power of religion and how that is (sometimes, but not always) an element of one’s spiritual growth. The Papal Cross is an official symbol of the office of the Pope, the highest authority in the Holy Roman Church.
The significance of the three bars on the Papal Cross is up for some debate, but with regard to tarot, common interpretations include:
- The Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
- The Three Theological Virtues: Hope, Love, and Faith
- The Three Realms of the Soul: material, physical, and spiritual.
I personally believe it is the latter, and with this cross, the Hierophant reaches out to us to offer a reminder that we must embrace all three realms of our being to reach our highest potential.
The Hierophant tarot card is a reminder that we can use tradition to our benefit, but also an invitation to boldly break away from convention if necessary. By taking risks and embracing change, you can create something bigger than yourself—something that will serve as a beacon for generations to come.