The Hierophant tarot card is sometimes considered the male version of the high priestess (and vice versa) but the tarot card meaning is quite different. What is important for the hierophant in tarot is the trappings and decorum that can be seen in the scene and the way the Querent reacts to such institutions in their life.
Keywords associated with the Hierophant Card
Upright: Scholarship, wisdom, authority, knowledge, mysticism, doctrine
Reversed: Arrogance, elitism, intentional ignorance, hypocrisy, charlatan
Traditional Representation and Description of the Hierophant Card
In most iconographic depictions, 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 a triple crown, and the keys to Heaven are at his feet. Sometimes he is shown with worshippers, as his alternate title is the Pope or, sometimes, Jupiter. The card is also known as “The High Priest”, as a counterpart to “The High Priestess” (which itself is also sometimes known as “The Papess”, as the counterpart to “The Pope”).
Modern Representations of the Hierophant Card
In many modern packs, the Hierophant is represented with his right hand raised in blessing or benediction, 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 Hierophant is thus a true “pontiff”, in that he is the builder of the bridge between deity and humanity. In his left hand, he held a triple cross. The Hierophant is typically male, even in decks that take a feminist view of the Tarot, such as the Motherpeace Tarot. The Hierophant was also known as “The Teacher of Wisdom”.
Religion, administration, or any kind of formal and structured organization, all of these fall under the influence of the Hierophant card. While there is also a way to learn, grow, and acquire knowledge, here the goal is not to learn through personal experience but through learning, through shared beliefs, and structured dogma handed down through generations.
Last, but not least, the Hierophant card also represents the entire set of beliefs and inner values that the Querent has built for themselves year after year, as they become their own Hierophant and rely on past experience to build a set of default reactions for themselves in any situation. The most important lesson that should be kept in mind is that no matter how solid a set of beliefs seems, you need to challenge it day after day and be ready and willing to change if you truly want to grow on your spiritual path. Faith and deeply set beliefs can offer you structure and a safety net but beware of the honey trap of blind faith that can soon send you tumbling down from your own spiritual advancement.
The Mythic Tarot (1986)
The Haindl Tarot (1990)
Osho Zen Tarot (1995)
Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)
Spellcaster Tarot (2016)
Ostara Tarot (2017)
Upright Hierophant Card Meaning
The Hierophant is usually standing between two pillars, like the High Priestess, but these are not the pillars of the temple of Solomon. He wears the traditional garb and symbols of a religious figure, not unlike a Christian pope. He holds a cross in one hand and uses the other to make a traditional blessing gesture.
You can often see a pair of keys crossed at his feet, as well as some devout priests or faithful disciples kneeling before him.
Where the Emperor represented authority in its most basic and primal form, the Hierophant card represents the authority vested in a religious or spiritual order, and by extension the influence of any organization with a strict and codified set of beliefs, demands, and requirements.
This can also represent a formal and codified commitment affecting the Querent. Marriage, for instance, could be one of the various elements falling within the Hierophant’s purview. Like most major arcana cards, there are several layers to be found in understanding the Hierophant meaning, and context and card associations are important.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
The number 05 card of the Major Arcana, the Hierophant, represents time spent in serious study and scholarly learning, and the gathering of knowledge on any and all subjects. What have you read about romance from people who write about and think about the subject professionally? Who do you consider wise in the ways of love? This card challenges you to think about love and romance as a subject written and thought about in philosophy, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. It is not just an emotional experience but a collection of all the experiences of everyone.
If you are single, this card will ask you to “study” singleness as a subject and then work to better understand your singleness. Have you chosen to be single? Did someone else choose for you to be single again by ending a relationship with you? Do you want to be single for an extended period of time, or are you actively looking to find a new relationship? And if so, what kind of relationship are you looking for? Something casual and short-term or something long-term?
If you are in a relationship, this card encourages you to think about all you have learned about the relationship up to this point and what you feel like you still need to learn. If people around you want to ask you for advice about relationships, where, in your experiences, do you feel you have become an expert? Where have you been awakened about relating and loving another person or other people? Consider a simple exercise: write down your top 5 or 10 “aha” moments in your story/stories of love and romance; what wisdom have you attained?
In a Question about Career and Work
Career encompasses school and education if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path. Regardless of your current stage of development, the Hierophant represents the accumulated knowledge and awareness you have about your study and/or work journey.
If you are a student and this is your card, then you need to think about where you are in your educational journey to make sure that you are advancing successfully and will attain the degree and expertise you are seeking. The Hierophant is what your teachers and professors should be doing for you as you make your way to professional and expert knowledge that you will use in life to help society function and evolve.
If you are working, but not doing something you would consider a career, then this card will really ask if you are satisfied with your work or if you need to improve your knowledge and skills. What are your options for advancement, increasing your skills, or elevating your expertise? If you look at your work through the lens of this card and are happy where you are, keep enjoying your work life. If it jars you to realize you want something more or different, then now is the time to start making the change.
If you are in a career path, then this card can push to you advance to a more knowledgeable and expert position. You may even find, depending on your level of knowledge and expertise, that this time is ideal to strike out on your own and become your own boss. You may realize that you have a powerful insight about your career and company that needs to be presented to those above you in order to increase your value and power within your career.
Reversed Hierophant Card Meaning
In a reversed position, the Hierophant card can represent the deliberate kind of weakness achieved by being too kind and trusting in any situation, regardless of any sign or warning that might be found.
In a more positive outlook, combined with a more positive card, a reversed Hierophant card meaning could simply focus on the gregarious aspect of this major arcana without any religious or dogmatic undertone, just a large amount of people gathered together for one reason or another.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
Reversed, this card shows your lack of knowledge about some aspect of a relationship that you would do well to learn more about, mainly through study or as a student to someone with relationship expertise, like a relationship coach or counselor. It could also show up to let you know that someone you have a relationship with is being willfully ignorant or arrogant about the relationship. Regardless, you need to put more effort into understanding and learning about your relationship or “relationship” in general and theoretically.
In a Question about Career and Work
When this card appears reversed in a question about work or career, then you want to be aware that you need to upgrade your skills or face becoming obsolete. It could also indicate that you have to work under or with someone who is not as knowledgeable as you are, who is arrogant because they are insecure, or who is conning you and the company. If there is a problem where “the books are being cooked” or a lack of knowledge is causing a significant problem, then you want to do what you can to overcome the lack and increase your authority through professional development and new training.
The Fool’s Journey
With the initial lessons of experience and structure well learnt, the Fool recognizes the blank slate of their own knowledge and need for instruction. This is where the Fool learns their place in a bigger, larger world as part of a group and community.
This step of the journey is essential, as the hierophant tarot card starts opening the Fool to the outside world. Due to the religious trappings usually depicted on the card, this is also where the Fool discovers various belief systems that try to make sense of life’s many mysteries.
Meditating with the Hierophant
If there are some similarities to be drawn to the High Priestess when using the Hierophant as a focus for any kind of meditation session, the main difference comes from the specific outlook of that meditation. Contrary to the other major arcana, the path to be followed here is not introspective, but rather well defined along a well-trodden path, through the use of dogma or ritual in order to channel a spiritual path that might be less personal, but that has been recognized and used century after century.
A great way to make sure that you are not blinded by your own beliefs is to use the hierophant tarot card as an excuse to explore other philosophies or faiths through meditation. Learning what other people believe and experiencing it first hand can be a blessing to better understand your own beliefs and even let them grow stronger sometimes.