The dependency on approval
from an elevated dignity.
There's no doubt that the elevated figure on the Tarot Hierophant card is the pope. The word hierophant is Greek, meaning someone who shows the holy. The card is sometimes called The High Priest, which is just about the same: the one claiming to be closest to what's holy, thereby kind of holy himself, too. But that's far from certain.
The pope and other kinds of hierophants are heads of something symbolic, which is not the same as calling them symbolic heads. Usually, they have tremendous power and final say when it comes to what the divine may want. So, the divine seems mostly to want precisely what the hierophants want.
Temples are lavishly decorated, since they are to be the domains of gods. For the same reason, hierophants are lavishly dressed. Their appearances represent the splendor of what's holy, since they are supposed to be the closest links to it. That's why they can carry all that gold and jewels, without embarrassment. Some seem to indulge in it more than others, though. Above is a photo of the present pope, Benedict XVI, in a public appearance, below a portrait of Pope Paul III made by Titian in 1488.
In the Tarot deck, the Hierophant card is one that signals tremendous significance, but not necessarily as much substance. Whatever the hierophant might claim, we're all just as bewildered before god. The divine has no definite location, so there's no way anybody could be nearer to it than others. The Tarot Hierophant is the head of rituals, but the essence of any spiritual path is what each of us makes of it inside ourselves. That's a temple no hierophant can make his abode.
So, if the Tarot Hierophant card refers to a person, it's someone very pompous indeed, whom it's of vital importance to treat with respect - whatever you might feel about it. You need that person's approval. At least, you can't afford offending him or her.
If the Tarot Hierophant card refers to an event, it's a moment of great symbolic significance, which can lead to triumph or to debasement. There's not much more to do than hope for the best - and make sure not to offend anyone.
Watch out, because the Tarot Hierophant is a person or an event that is much more important to the final outcome than you might expect - definitely more than what seems reasonable.
A. E. Waite's Texts
About the Tarot Hierophant Card
5. The High Priest or Hierophant, called also Spiritual Father, and more commonly and obviously the Pope. It seems even to have been named the Abbot, and then its correspondence, the High Priestess, was the Abbess or Mother of the Convent. Both are arbitrary names. The insignia of the figures are papal, and in such case the High Priestess is and can be only the Church, to whom Pope and priests are married by the spiritual rite of ordination. I think, however, that in its primitive form this card did not represent the Roman Pontiff.
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Hierophant Card
He wears the triple crown and is seated between two pillars, but they are not those of the Temple which is guarded by the High Priestess. In his left hand he holds a sceptre terminating in the triple cross, and with his right hand he gives the well-known ecclesiastical sign which is called that of esotericism, distinguishing between the manifest and concealed part of doctrine. It is noticeable in this connexion that the High Priestess makes no sign. At his feet are the crossed keys, and two priestly ministers in albs kneel before him. He has been usually called the Pope, which is a particular application of the more general office that he symbolizes. He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power. The proper meanings of this card have suffered woeful admixture from nearly all hands. Grand Orient says truly that the Hierophant is the power of the keys, exoteric orthodox doctrine, and the outer side of the life which leads to the doctrine; but he is certainly not the prince of occult doctrine, as another commentator has suggested.
He is rather the summa totius theologiae, when it has passed into the utmost rigidity of expression; but he symbolizes also all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side. As such, he is the channel of grace belonging to the world of institution as distinct from that of Nature, and he is the leader of salvation for the human race at large. He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order; but it may so happen that the pontiff forgets the significance of this his symbolic state and acts as if he contained within his proper measures all that his sign signifies or his symbol seeks to shew forth. He is not, as it has been thought, philosophy-except on the theological side; he is not inspiration; and he is not religion, although he is a mode of its expression.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Hierophant Card
Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude; by another account, mercy and goodness; inspiration; the man to whom the Querent has recourse. Reversed: Society, good understanding, concord, overkindness, weakness.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool