(The above image is a copy of The Hierophant card in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The 7 symbols pointed out above are explained below.)
The Hierophant is the card of spiritual community. It simultaneously encourages us to seek out teachers and, once we have become masters of our craft, to seek out students. No matter who you identify with on the card, be humble in your position. As The Emperor is the masculine equivalent to The Empress, The Hierophant is the masculine equivalent to The High Priestess.
For more information about The Hierophant card, check out A. E. Waite’s description here.
Point 1 – TWO MONKS
Notably, The Hierophant is the first tarot card with a group of characters. The two monks add an element of community that is lacking from previous cards, specifically spiritual community. They are followers that listen to the wisdom of The Hierophant. The multiple characters in the card allow the reader to identify with different symbolisms during different times in their life.
Point 2 – CROWN
The crown that The Hierophant wears is a traditional crown reserved for the Pope. The crown not only aligns The Hierophant with the Pope but also gives him substantial spiritual authority. The three-fold design alludes to the Holy Trinity as well as the three characters in the card.
Point 3 – STAFF
The three-fold design of the crown is reiterated in the design of The Hierophant’s staff. It too is a symbol reserved for the Pope. Practically, it is a shepherd staff, alluding to The Hierophant’s spiritual authority; The Hierophant is a shepherd of men
Point 4 – KEYS
At the feet of The Hierophant lies crossed keys. This symbolism primarily alludes to The Hierophant being a Pope figure, with Jesus telling Peter that he will give him the keys to Heaven. There is also however an allusion back to The High Priestess. As her card contained many both/and paradoxes that symbolized the union of consciousness and sub-consciousness, these two keys can be seen in similar light; they unlock the spiritual enlightenment of consciousness and sub-consciousness
Point 5 – BLESSING
Similar to the keys, The Hierophant’s blessing acknowledges the spiritual divide and union. The blessing means as above so below. It is a call back to The Magician’s posture and it is an encouragement to live practically through ideals.
Point 6 – GREY COLUMNS
Another call back, the grey columns allude to the columns found in The High Priestess card. While those columns were black and white, these are grey, symbolizing the blend of opposites. In both case, they illustrate the nuances of spiritual enlightenment.
Point 7 – FLOWERS
Similar to The Magician card, The Hierophant contains roses and lilies. These flowers illustrate the passion (roses) and purity (lilies) required to reach spiritual enlightenment. They also symbolize a bloom in maturity.
An Upright Hierophant is an encouragement to trust spiritual and social traditions. If you are a novice, seek out teachers within virtuous institutions. If you are an expert, seek out students and learn from them though teaching. An upright Hierophant suggests connecting to your culture or religion in order to gain insight to aid you on your way through The Fool’s journey
A Reverse Hierophant suggests that you do not need any institution to help you towards enlightenment; the power is within you. Examine various traditions closely and criticize anything inappropriate that has survived through history. Be on the outside looking in. While this seems noble, the position of a reverse Hierophant can be alienating. People do not appreciate others who go against the status quo. In a reverse Hierophant, there is an encouragement to disregard these group insults and to trust in your intuition.
For more Tarot Card Meanings, check out our blog here.
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about Tarot here and his LinkedIn profile here.