Description and Symbolism
Some frequent keywords are:
Education ----- Knowledge ----- Status quo ----- Institution
Conservadorism ----- Discipline ----- Maturity -----
Social convention ----- Belief system ----- Group identification
Conformity ----- Experience ----- Moral values -----
Coletivity ----- Orthodoxy ----- Obedience to the rules
In many modern packs, the Hierophant raises his right
hand in what is known Esoterically as the Blessing, with
two fingers pointing skyward and two pointing down, thus
forming a bridge between heaven and earth reminiscent
of that formed by the body of The Hanged Man. The Pope
is thus a true "pontiff", in that he is the builder of
the bridge between God and humans. In most designs, the
Hierophant is seen seated on a throne between two pillars
symbolizing law and liberty or obedience and disobedience,
according to different interpretations. He wears the triple
crown, and the keys to heaven are at his feet.
Often referred to in older decks as "The Pope", and
occasionally as "Jupiter". The papacy was not just a religious
force, but was a political and military force as well.
When the tarot was invented, the Pope controlled a large
portion of central Italy, and allied himself opportunistically
with rival kingdoms in order to secure political advantage.
Renaissance culture did not question the abstract ideal
of the Pope as God's human representative on Earth. The
more commonly encountered modern name "Hierophant" is
due to Antoine Court de Gébelin, and was the title of
a chief priest in the Eleusinian mysteries (an ancient
Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries), and is
usually regarded as the spiritual counterpart of the temporal
The card stands for religion and orthodox theology,
as well as representing traditional education and conventional
moral standards, the "Man of high social standing". These
interpretations merely scratch the surface of the card,
however. The Pope card also represents the Biblical story
of God's creation of man and woman. Some interpretations
also suggest a link between the card and the myth of Isis
and Osiris - a claim made about many cards. Some say the
card corresponds to the astrological sign of Taurus; others
Sagittarius or Leo. The Hierophant is the card representing
organized religion - any religion. It's positive aspects
are about the positive aspects of the relevant religion.
It's negative aspects are the over crystallization of
rituals, formulas and mind strangling beliefs. For example
- many religions state: no drugs. No treatment for cancer,
no antibiotics for disease, no painkillers for an operation.
This can be life denying. "Hierophant" literally means
"the one who teaches the holy things." Ideally, the Hierophant
prepares the Querant spiritually for the adventure of
life. It also represents individuation; the point where
the child starts to understand the boundaries between
the self and the other; family and the community, me and
thee. And the point where the individual starts constructing
their own identity - consciously, unconsciously, or as
shaped by exterior forces. Works of Sigmund Freud and
Michel Foucault explores these forces. The Hierophant
is Key 5 of the Major Arcana. Five represents the essence
of things as they are - consider the word "quintessence"
from the Latin words for five and nature. It is also the
number of the senses; sight, hearing, taste, feeling,
smell. The Hierophant stands athwart the world of the
senses and the world of meaning. It is related through
cross sums (the sum of the digits) with Key 14: Temperance.
The Hierophant presents the lessons of heaven to earth;
Temperance guides the soul from this world to the underworld.
Some authorities say that the Hierophant generally represents
assistance, friendship, good advice, alliances (including
marriages), and religious interests. Reversed; it often
refers to bad advice, lies, and persecution. Others say
that it represents the first level of understanding. When
it appears in a tarot spread, it is a warning to the Querant
to reexamine his or her understanding of the meaning of
things; of the structure of the world; of the powers that
be. Watch out for hypocrisy. The negative aspect of The
Hierophant is well illustrated by the myth of Procrustes.
Procrustes was a man (or a monster) living in the mountains
of Greece back in mythic times. He would invite weary
travelers to come into his home, wash the dust off their
feet, have a meal, and allow them to lie down on his bed.
If they were too big for his bed, he'd cut them to size;
if they were to small; he'd stretch them to fit. At last,
Theseus came through those mountains and accepted Procrustes's
seemingly kind offer. When Procrustes tried to cut him
to fit, Theseus at last slew him, making the road safe.
In this way, the Hierophant is like Freud's superconscious.
It shapes us, sometimes brutally. Sometimes, this shaping
is necessary for us to become who we are. Sometimes, it's
merely the replication of historic cruelties. Freud opined
that the superconscious is the internalization of the
parents. The Hierophant may represent the parents, living
in the Querant. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck explicitly
connects the Hierophant with the Ten of Swords. The dead
man laying face down on the beach, penetrated by ten swords,
has his hand in the same position of blessing as the Hierophant.
Perhaps hinting that the artist believed that the path
of the Hierophant leads to ultimately to death; a sanctified
death, but death none the less.
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