KEYWORDS: Government, Society, Religion, Tradition, Teaching, Beliefs, Spiritual
CARD DEFINITION: You may be more worried about your social status and unsure if you are ready to sacrifice it at the cost of what you think is right. You seek wisdom and pure knowledge. Marriage and partnerships are seen.
REVERSE DEFINITION: You may be unconventional and not adhere to the rules of the society. You may be led to believe n false truths. This is not a good time for new ventures. Be careful of people who give you wrong advice.
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Interpreting The Hierophant
The Hierophant is the sixth card in the tarot deck, as well as the third and final part of the body-mind-spirit triad. As the Emperor and Empress represent body and mind respectively, so the Hierophant represents the eternal realm of the spirit. The number traditionally associated with him is five. Many tarot readers feel this represents the four elements plus one more to represent spirit itself.
The Hierophant stands for belief systems - especially religions. In some versions of the tarot, the Hierophant (or Holy Man) is actually replaced by a High Priest or Pope figure for this reason. However it's important to note that the Hierophant himself is truly any personage who possesses sacred, secret, or profound knowledge. While this can certainly apply to a member of the clergy, the card's true meaning actually stretches far beyond that. In fact, he can represent entire assemblies of people, as in a religious sect, institution, or community. As such, he teaches the lesson that the needs of the many should always outweigh the needs of the one. Under the Hierophant, we come together as separate entities to work as one toward a common goal.
The Hierophant tarot figure is typically portrayed as a great Holy Man seated between two temple pillars. (Although this set-up is similar to that seen in the High Priestess card, it is important to note that these are not the same pillars, nor is it the same temple.) His left hand holds the triple cross while his left hand forms the established sign of esotericism. At his feet are two keys positioned in such a way that they cross over each other, a representation of the role religion and belief play in the grand scheme of things. In many depictions, two priests also kneel at the Hierophant's feet. The image as a whole not only stands for religion and spirituality itself, but the important role a religious leader fills for the members of his congregation.
Like his predecessor the Emperor, the Hierophant is also very much a teacher. However, the lessons he teaches are not the same in essence. Instead of instructing us to seize control of our lives and take the throne as the Emperor does, the Hierophant shows us the importance of conformity, tradition, and learning from others. While this may sound counterproductive on some levels, it truly is an important lesson to learn. Only by knowing the objectives of a particular group or belief system can we really know whether or not it's ultimately for us.
When the Hierophant shows up in a tarot reading in representation of someone else, he is often standing in for a mentor or some sort - one who is the head of one organization or another and who hopes to induct you into his fold. This person doesn't necessarily have to be a religious personage or clergyman though. It could be anyone who holds the keys to a body of knowledge or traditions such as an employer. He can also be someone like a therapist, a professor, or a sponsor.
Like most of the cards in the Major Arcana, the Hierophant can also represent the querent himself. In that instance, he may be seen as a reminder of all it means to be a good leader and teacher. He is saying that the solution to your problem is already within your grasp. It may not be a simple solution, but he does let us know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel that can be reached by using the peace, level-headedness, and practicality he himself embodies.