Mystical wanderers,,,,hello. I, Troy Parrott, Tarot Pro, am continuing our journey through and exploration of the Tarot. In this series, we are examining each card of the major arcana, using a special North London themed deck of my own design. What do the cards hold in store for your future?
Today, we move on to Card V: The Hierophant. All kneel.
V – The Hierophant
Spirituality, wisdom, conformity, religious beliefs
Prudishness, dogma, false prophets, challenge, freedom
The Hierophant is also known in some tarot circles as The Pope, and easy to see why. Dressed in the wrappings of a high religious order, he holds a papal scepter and like the Emperor sits proudly on another throne, surveying his dominion. But where the Emperor is secular leadership through power, the Hierophant’s rule comes from spirituality, and the power of worship. He presides over the devout, the reverent.
The card may depict the pope, but the Hierophant’s power isn’t necessarily outright religious. It can be a system or a process. Perhaps something as general as “universal energy.” But what it does require is devotion. The Hierophant demands not just obedience, but true belief. It’s more than just following instruction — to be one of the Hierophant’s followers requires you to go all-in — total immersion in the project.
You might even say he’s a cult leader.
He sits in front of two pillars similar to those of the High Priestess, to which he is the male analogue, but without the implication of hidden knowledge waiting to be discovered. The Hierophant is less about discovery and more about instruction. On his lap sits a bowl of lemons, placed between him and his flock, allowing it to absorb bad energy that emanates from the negatively-attuned people who come into his presence. The crossed keys at his feet are a symbol of balance, but also more — there are the keys to the kingdom for all who will simply believe. In front of his raised dais are two supplicants, ready to learn at the feet of the master, and then go forth and spread the good news. Only they must walk on hot coals and break arrows on their chests first to prove their faith. Hallelujah!
Invert the Hierophant, and things begin to crumble. What happens to cults when the faithful start to doubt? Chaos. Schism. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. The card can even be seen to reverse itself with time and multiple readings, expressing the moment cracks begin to appear in the structure. The inverted Hierophant signifies when the status quo is challenged — it the moment when a player starts thinking “Perhaps I should form a cabal.”
A more generous reading of the inverted Hierophant is to suggest that it represents a positive structure for change. It is the fracturing of dogma, yes, but perhaps for the better, if the Hierophant will only listen and see reason coming from a trusted member of his flock. It is a call to take another look at how things have been done, and to innovate in order to improve.
The subtle implication is that what the Hierophant represents can work, but not forever. Change is inevitable, and dogmatic practice leads to dogmatic thinking. Calcified and in its most negative light, it can lead to ruin. But expressed well and accepted with an open heart, it can be a force for immense and positive change.
Come back tomorrow and we shall discuss the next card in the Tottenham Hotspur Tarot.