When we find something beautiful, we want to share it with the world. This pure will to share that which one finds within is at the core of the spirit of the Hierophant. First, there is the excited finding of the inner truths that have been carried over by the spiritual traditions since the ancient days. Then, there is the compassionate drive to shine the light of those discoveries upon the whole world.
No card could be more apt as a first Tarot card interpretation on this blog, as I hope to share with you my discoveries down the path that I have taken in applying the cards of the Tarot to my spiritual practice, personal development, and on the road of awakening.
Speaking of the road of awakening: as far as our spiritual lives are involved, the fifth Major Arcana card, the Hierophant, may speak to those two aspects of spiritual discovery: one, the initial awakening to the reality of the spiritual self, and its related religious, spiritual, or inner development practices (ancient or new, formal or free); and two, the oftentimes irresistible urge to “go tell it on the mountain”, announce it to the winds, or in the very least, influence the world in accordance to the newly found spiritual truth, practice or insight.
On The Fountain Tarot pictured to the left, The Hierophant is represented by a wise-looking, mature man who opens a wondrous box of ancient secrets from which a bright light emits, illuminating and embracing everything around. His eyes are set in the box’s content—that lovely, exhilarating rush of spiritual insight that has its roots in the hearts of communities of millennia ago, and that has been passed down through the ages, surviving and adapting to many modes of thinking, continuing to be relevant to us in the modern age.
The many subtle colors suggest all the facets of life (bodily, financial, mental, relational) that the light of the spiritual truth touches upon and influences. The wise man’s clothing is reddish, telling us that despite his connection to the higher realms of subtle existence, he is well grounded here on earth, well invested in his project of helping others awaken and see the beauty that his eyes have gleaned. He wears studious-looking spectacles, suggesting all the learning, studying and contemplating that he has done over the years to discern knowledge and truth from the copious amount of information available to the human mind.
So, if this gentle Hierophant comes up for you in a reading, you may be reminded to look back at your spiritual path since the first moments of insight, through the paths, traditions and practices that have brought you this far. Honor the legacy of the individuals and groups that have kept the flame alive, delivering it to you. Then, consider the ways in which you are yourself keeping the fire going: by sharing this joy and this all-encompassing love in a genuine and organic way; by being spiritually open and receptive; by blessing and assisting those you encounter; by not being afraid to pass on the hope that you have received.
The High Priest, as the Hierophant is also known, can also be a reminder to us of the learning process on the path of inner development. Besides books and knowledge-gaining, this learning also comes from opening ourselves to the lessons of life. The Spiritual Tarot summarizes this card’s key phrase as the “inner teacher.” We are called to listen to the wisdom of the inner teacher–that quiet yet persistent voice that is undisturbed by the winds of existence in the world.
On the gorgeous Lumina Tarot, the Hierophant is vividly illustrated by a modern shaman/mystic. This insightful man carries with him the wisdom of many generations: around his neck are beads that could represent pearls of wisdom, as well as two keys. These keys were carried over by the artist from the original Rider Waite Smith‘s Hierophant. The keys are likely to symbolize the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” that Jesus the Christ passed on to Peter in the gospel of Matthew. That is, the Hierophant represents every human being’s Spirit-given access to the radiant reality of heaven, and our ability to inhabit the sacred reality of the Kingdom here on earth, right where we are. The priest in this depiction proudly holds up a skull. The skull and bones can represent our non-dying nature: long after our flesh has perished following our deaths, a part of us remains “forever”: our bones. In the background, again we see the many colors we saw previously in The Fountain’s Hierophant rendition, those colors decorating the sacred geometry that symbolizes the deep Cosmic reach of higher levels of consciousness, along with its real effects on our everyday, manifest world.
Many of us do not believe in an eternal soul. In that case, this Hierophant highlights the concept of non-death: that which was never born, can never die. We awaken to the fact that that which we identify as “me” is in fact an amalgamation of biological and mental processes that find their origins eons ago and that are interconnected with the entirety of the Cosmos, having developed self-awareness, and along with that the inexact idea of an enduring self. That self that was never truly “born”, can never actually die. Whether you believe in the soul or not, we can all appreciate this concept of non-death and keep it in our spiritual toolkit. The Lumina ‘s Hierophant puts the ultimate reality of our true selves on display and shows that this card is an invitation to plunge into the deep mysteries of our true nature, and its connection with the entirety of the Universe. From that place, we are empowered to bring a message of hope to those around us, a song calling on humanity to remember that the hard shell of a self never truly was, and that the physical, mental and spiritual forces that brought us into being will forever and ever be.
The Hierophant’s common meanings in Tarot usually refer to religion, conformity, tradition, education, embracing of convention, social structure, or even religious events such as weddings. Its message depends on the question and on its position on the spread. The Spiritual Tarot says that its key phrase is inner teacher, reflecting the inner search for guidance and the sharing of the inner light with others, as we just discussed.
So next time the Hierophant shows up for you in a reading, remember to look back with appreciation at our shared spiritual heritage, the continuation of which each one of us has been entrusted with. When you find the ground of being that is the light within, keep the it aflame by passing it onto others with your words, advice, action, love–with your whole being.
I hope you enjoyed these interpretations. See you next time!