Reading: The Hierophant

Reading 2015, Nov 11
Animal Wisdom Tarot, A Reading for the Hierophant in Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot Handbook

Position One: How has tradition affected my life?

Beaver, Eight of Fossils (Pentacles)

The tradition of “family” has affected my life in multiple, conflicting ways. For the majority of my life, family was a obligation and a system where I had to be obedient. This was a joyless tradition since it was all work and no spiritual fulfillment. I had no concept of family as a positive, safe place for spiritual and emotional support.

I have finally begun to assimilate with my family of choice, and this took a lot of learning and unlearning (the Hierophant as education in a tradition). It has been a healing process and, as I am becoming more confident, an enjoyable kind of “work” as portrayed in the Eight of Pentacles. In fact, I’m bringing some of my own “traditions” to the family, particularly holiday traditions. Before I became an active member of the family, they didn’t celebrate a lot of holidays even though they recognized them. This has been a really enjoyable experience, bringing these holidays to life and making them our own.

Each eight card in the Animal Wisdom Tarot contains a lemniscate, representing cycles and patterns. Traditions are shared patterns of actions and beliefs.

Position Two: What have I learned?

Dog, Ten of Fossils (Pentacles)

This new way of experiencing tradition has taught me how to play and be happy, to feel fulfilled. Now, of course it’s a learning curve and I still experience fear and inhibition a good bit of the time as well. But that doesn’t diminish this incredible lesson which I continue to grow with.

While the traditional RWS depiction of the Ten of Cups shows a family joyful in only needing each other’s company, the traditional Ten of Pentacles can be said to be more structured and rule-based. In this context, the Ten of Pentacles can represent family tradition. And that doesn’t mean less loving or more strict. Tradition, when done “right,” can be a warm and beautiful shared experience. That is what I am learning to be a part of.

This card appeared in my reading for the High Priestess regarding what is deep within me. So maybe I’m just learning to let it out 🙂

Position Three: How have I broken with tradition?

Scarab Beetle, Ten of Branches (Wands)

This card in the Animal Wisdom Tarot can can represent “conscious transformation.” In the traditional RWS depiction, it can represent excess and burden — the person in the card carrying the ten wands has their arms full and can’t see the road in front of them. I can relate to both sides of this card. The old “tradition” of family life for me was very much like the person weighed down with so many branches she can’t see anything else. But like the Animal Wisdom Tarot’s interpretation, I have made a conscious choice to do something else with those branches, and the road ahead is clear, even if I’m not sure exactly where it leads.

Position Four: What do I have to teach others?

Bat, Master of Suspension (The Hanged Man)

The Hanged Man shows us that a drastic change in perspective and/or a pause can bring great transformation or enlightenment. Not only do bats hang upside down, but they can “see” with echolocation. While I am by no means a “master of suspension,” I have made huge strides in my life from being utterly trapped with no sense of my own power to embracing my power, making choices that are far outside my comfort zone, and creating a new life for myself, starting with my inner world. I can teach and encourage that in others.

Position Five: How can I fulfill this role?

Salamander, Two of Branches (Wands)

Twos represent duality and balance, as symbolized by the yin-yang symbols on the twos in the Animal Wisdom Tarot deck. And while the salamander is a symbol of fire, she also lives on both the earth and in the water. A fiery spark with a balance of emotion and reality. Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says that this card “illustrates the tension between stability and mobility” (148). So perhaps I can fulfill this role by carefully choosing when to remain still (like the Hanged Man) and when to move forward. A balance between the creative action of the Magician and the quiet contemplation of the High Priestess.

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