I have loved the Tarot for many years, and with 78 cards to get to know, I have a deeper attraction to certain cards.
Having studied the Rider Waite and Thoth decks, I have always felt weird around the Hierophant, who is normally pictured as a Pope type figure. The witch in me often runs screaming from this image, even though I know it is only a symbol. What the traditional Hierophant references is a leader of a hierarchy, and a conduit between humans and the divine – as guided by a system. He represents the established social order, the rules and regulations. Hierophant can also mean schools, big business and any institutions.
Lots of us have a negative reaction to the traditional Pope image of the Heirophant, and it’s obvious why. Because of my ancestral and political issues with Popes/ Priests and organized religion, I have tried to shift my vision of this powerful card into something that makes sense to a post post modern neo pagan buddhist earth mama like me! I have heard of the Hierophant being referred to as a Shaman. That works for me. In the Lord of the Rings Tarot, Gandalf is the Hierophant. I’m a big fan of “Daddy G” so I can go with that one… The image is of someone who has spiritual and worldly power.
Enter – my new favorite Tarot deck – The Wild Unknown. Here we see the Heirophant as what seems to be a Raven or a Crow, holding a key. Whether Raven or Crow (here is a good explanation of the difference) both birds are known for their intelligence, and are seen in mythology as conveyers of omens and signs. The key is a symbol of wisdom, the knowledge that can unlock power. The bird is speaking the truth conveyed through the key, directly inspired by the lightning bolt of the divine. I especially like that this powerful leader of an earthly organization is not depicted as male or female.
I believe that we all have the innate power to connect into divine wisdom. But the truth is, that we are human and therefore bound by our limitations. This is when the Hierophant appears and says – Hey! There is help! There is established paths to understanding Divine Wisdom, or to whatever you are seeking. You don’t have to go it alone. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find a teacher or guide, get into some ancient teachings, tap into wisdom that is established and time-tested. Let yourself be supported by a bigger structure. It can support you in times you need it most.