Kim's Tarot Blog

The Hierophant as Spiritual Guide

Posted on: November 6, 2009

The Hierophant V - Spirtual Guide

The High Priest, the Shaman, the Judge, the Medicine Man — these are some of the names that the Hierophant V has taken in the course of human history. As the spiritual leader of society, he was sought out frequently by his community to solve all manner of problems, from civil disputes to relationship issues. At the core of his decision making was the true spiritual way, what was the right course of action from a divine standpoint. This spiritual knowledge was said to be bestowed by God himself, and often had to be acquired or renewed by performing unique rituals. This communion was often considered dangerous, and only fit for the most revered members of the priesthood, definitely not for the population at large. As has been said before, the Hierophants in society were the link between the common folk and the divine, and they did all the hard work so the people would not have to. Tarot readers also serve in this capacity, by guiding others along their spiritual path.

The Hierophant is the flip side of the coin to the High Priestess II. While she is the keeper of arcane secrets, he is the one that doles out the message. What good is it to acquire all knowledge, without sharing it? While she guards the way to the unconscious land of the Moon XVIII, the Hierophant preaches the wisdom to be gained there. In the real world, these divine messages may become corrupted in translation, as it is nigh impossible to describe spiritual truths in a way that inexperienced people can comprehend. How do you describe music to a deaf person, or mathematics to a flea? Without traversing the watery depths of the Moon, you are only receiving secondhand knowledge from the Hierophant, and clumsily attempting to live according to his message. You are following the form without the experiential knowledge to back it up. At his best, the Hierophant spreads his message to give a glimpse of what can be achieved, to encourage you to follow your own spiritual journey.

The Hierophant is also connected to the Devil XV. You cannot have light without darkness, and the Devil’s temptations and base impulses naturally tug at the Hierophant’s holy ways. While the Hierophant shows you the best paths through your life, the Devil shows you the dark avenues and shadowy shortcuts. While everyone struggles with the Devil’s “sins”, they do so because they have already been indoctrinated with the Hierophant’s truths. You cannot resist temptation without already knowing the difference between right and wrong, and the Hierophant serves as a baseline from which to weigh your options and do what you know is right. When you do succumb to the Devil, your guilt stems from the Hierophant’s influence as well. Only by bringing these two cards into the proper balance can you learn to find your own truths, and not rely on that given to you by others. That is why the Devil is so close to the Star, Moon, and Sun cards, because we cannot find our own way until we face temptation squarely, shatter our stability and illusions in the Tower, and explore the truth for ourselves.

In the Minor Arcana, we see the Hierophant’s influence in each of the fives. In the Five of Cups, the figure is in deep despair, as he has suffered some great loss. Over half of his cups are toppled over, and he can do nothing more than mourn his loss. At this point in life, a spiritual counselor is often sought out, so we may regroup and figure out what our next course of action is. The Hierophant serves this role with divine compassion, reminding us of the circular progression of life, and that “this too shall pass.” He reminds us that there is a loving force in the universe, and we are not forgotten, despite the intense brutality of this world.

The Five of Pentacles portrays a less pleasant view of the Hierophant’s influence. The figures here are sick and infirm, walking past a church that offers them no hope. Whether they have turned away from the Hierophant, or he has turned from them, it is not clear. Either way, divine light is minimized to a glimmer through a stained glass window, and the people are on their own. As religious truth is in constant danger of falling into formalized rituals without meaning, so are we in danger of tossing out any spiritual truth that does not fall within our preconceived expectations of what the truth is. Remember that truth can come just as easily from a begging Tibetan monk as it can from a High Priest in all his formal regalia. Also, a pairing of these cards appeared in a reading as a codependent relationship. One partner held all of the power (as the Hierophant), and the other depended on him for everything (as the Five of Pentacles). This suggests that the relationship between these cards is highly strained, whether it is through too much distance or too much reliance on each other.

The Five of Wands is the card of competition and struggle, and the Hierophant’s role is less obvious, yet still visible here. The five men are all fighting for the same prize, whether it be land, title, or role. None of them have any visible advantage, and they seem to be enjoying the fight. This suggests sports competitions, where all the players know the rules of the game, yet still struggle to win within the limitations, while remaining good and just people. The Hierophant here is the rule-keeper, the referee. He instills all the information needed to play the game of life fairly, and it is up to us to play by the rules and earn our way to the top. This also suggests job interviews, where a group of people follow the guidelines and strive to succeed without hurting their competitors in the process. The Hierophant allows us to be good people, while going after what we want.

The Five of Swords breaks out into full blown warfare, with winners, losers, and neutral observers. Even in warfare there are established rules of war that are agreed upon and cannot be broken, reinforcing the Hierophant’s fair play and established order amidst chaos. However, it introduces another aspect: the holy war. What is worth fighting for, and what is better to walk away from? Are you the crusading attacker, going after what is rightfully yours, or the wise peacemaker who retreats to fight another day? Or do you simply lay down your sword and find a new battle, one with players who respect the rules and refuse to fight over petty, meaningless issues? The Hierophant gives you a belief system that can support you well, and sets a standard of what is worthwhile in your life. It is his influence that prods the Good Samaritan to help the downtrodden, rather than ignoring their plight and keeping to his own affairs.

Personally, I have drawn the Hierophant frequently when considering my own path in this life. I am to be a spiritual guide to others, illuminating the path with the tarot cards. Have any of you had the Hierophant appear in this capacity? What other insights have you had when dealing with this card?

-Kim

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