I’m not sure at face value what this card means, but I’ll list some of the symbols I see. It seems like a religious figure. They’re holding up a hand with three fingers and a staff with three horizontal pieces. Two keys cross on their chest, one white one black. Several tall columns line the space where The Hierophant sits. A crescent moon is on the foot of the robe.
Reflection After Research
The Hierophant is associated with the element of earth, which indicates an association with the external forces in our lives.
This card represents conformity/convention or deception, which can be thought of a few different ways:
- A deception. A covering up of one’s true self in order to conform to better fit in.
- A deception. A covering up of knowledge or information because you might think it best. This assumes you know what is best and can decide that for others. (Or the opposite, someone trying to hide something from you and deciding they know what is best for you.)
- Conformity. Authoritative orthodoxy. Institutional and cultural expectations. Persecution or punishment for failure to conform.
This is in contrast to card 2 of the Major Arcana: The High Priestess. She can represent heterodoxy (being unconventional or in the minority). The Hierophant represents a “higher” or “divine” authority as opposed to a legal or governing authority as the Emperor might.
The pillars represent the strength of the Hierophant’s philosophy. But pillars are man-made and can crumble like the Tower. This card may urge us to pay heed to the balance between our belief system and the truths we hold and openness to new ideas. To not be afraid to question how we came about some of our ideas. A rigid and dogmatic approach to life or to others is a refusal to understand the social location of others. Or perhaps we are feeling punished or persecuted by a “hierophant” in our lives: an institution, social pressures, religion.
We do not exist in a vacuum and we do not learn our values and beliefs in a vacuum either. I like what Paul Quinn says in Tarot for Life: Reading the Cards for Everyday Guidance and Growth: “Our task is to keep the ones [the ideas] that expand out spirit and retire the rest. … the Hierophant represents not only what one has learned or must learn, but also what one must eventually unlearn to nurture the heightened consciousness beckoning in the World card” (62, emphasis in original).
So the light side of this card could have to do with moral or ethical matters, loyalty to a group or collective beliefs, or following your own path even if it goes against convention. A shadow side to this card could be unquestioning conformity, self-righteous or dogmatic views, or behaving in ways that do not conform to your values.
Returning to the element of earth, this card represents how we view the world and how we are expected to behave within the world.
From my animal decks:
Bull: Bull can represent sacred knowledge passed though generations “through custom, ritual, symbol, myth, and beliefs.” Dogma is rigid, but a rich symbolic history of our beliefs can be a pillar for us.
Stoat: A link between realms.