V - The Hierophant

V - The Hierophant - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

The Hierophant represents ritual and ceremony, hegemony and dogma, by extension, the concept of the Establishment. Ritual and Ceremony whilst often conjuring images of a religious nature can be interpreted in much more benign terms as the recognition of repetition and routine in our lives. Hegemony by definition is the combination of dominion and power coupled with Dogma which represents authority beyond question, taken together these elements all combine to focus our attention on the question of blind faith.

Just as the Maternal Nature is divided between the High Priestess and the Empress, the Paternal Nature is divided between the Hierophant and the Emperor; whilst this division can be hard at first to divide for beginners, it’s best to think of this dividing line in terms of the opposing sides of the nature versus nurture debate with each division attributed to one position; the establishment represented by the High Priestess and the Hierophant deal with overcoming Human Nature, whereas the Empress and Emperor focus on the act of Nurturing desirable behaviour.

The Hierophant is the masculine equivalent of the High Priestess card, whilst the High Priestess was was originally known as the Popess or La Papesse in French, the Hierophant was originally known as the Pope, the name of the card was changed by A. E. Waite in the Rider-Waite deck from Pope to Hierophant to abandon the link to the religious establishment, this is in part due to Theurgy focusing on deference to God as an authority rather than a religious institution and the pursuit of communion with God directly rather than by proxy.

Theurgy is the pursuit of magick and its use not in opposition to divinity but by its ordination - Theurgists believe it is possible to practice magick with divine blessing, with some holding that blessing in itself as the entire source of that power, others hold that there is a symbiosis established that combines innate human magical ability with powers of spirits and divine beings.

In the upright position the Hierophant calls upon the querent to consider whose authority they have submitted to, and how far they are willing to go in service of that authority. This is the querent’s opportunity to question their faith in that authority and consider whether it is merited.

In the inverted state the Hierophant serves to ask us to identify where these elements are absent from our lives. We are not capable of learning everything on our own through experience, we cannot gain new knowledge without external stimuli and whilst we may think ourselves capable, we are limited to one lifetime to achieve our goals. Our own self directed experimentation and scientific ingress is inherently limited, at some point we must rely upon the prior experience of others. This may be in a personal context, or through papers, journals, articles, books, podcasts, movies, or other forms of media to name a few, in other words any creative output or documentation of prior experience of another and its outcome.

To dismiss the life experiences and progress of others entirely is a disservice to them and to ourselves, and will ultimately work against us. We must be capable of recognising whose leadership and collaboration we can depend upon. We must also recognise that even when we believe ourselves independent, engaging in self-study as for instance, in the absence of a teacher or mentor, we still defer to external authority by using reference materials compiled by others, consuming their experience in the process – to put it more bluntly we will always rely on others to some extent and recognising this relationship helps us to identify influences and audit those influences in the process; it can also help us overcome pride and reticence to accept help from others by realising that we do not exist in a vacuum and such desires are counter-productive.

In the Rider-Waite deck, at the foot of the Hierophant stand two cardinals, one adorned on the left in a robe with red roses representing blood and fertility, life embodied. On the right stands a cardinal adorned in a robe with white lilies, the flower of Easter representing the crucifixion, death and sacrifice embodied. Between the cardinals there are two crossed keys representing the Office of Saint Peter who stands in judgement of each soul upon death, but in life Peter was the rock upon which the Christian church was built.

The Hierophant sits upon a throne that is barely visible, with the Papal Ferula in his left hand, in this instance the Ferula takes the form of a six-armed cross; in Papal Heraldry a single tier cross represents the crucifix and is worn by Priests, with a two-tiered cross representing the authority of a Bishop, and a three-tiered cross such as this representing a rank of authority above that of a Bishop, traditionally the Pope.

Finally, the Hierophant is crowned with a Papal Tiara in this case it takes the form of the Triregnum, or Triple Crown with the three layers representing dominion in life, dominion in death, and dominion in eternal union with the Lord mirroring the three plains of existence of occult beliefs.

In self-reflection where there are minimal external influences this card can also be used as a prompt to examine your routine, to identify repetition in your life and whether that routine is having an overall positive or negative impact on your life. The Hierophant can serve as a motivation to change elements of your routine to introduce variety and novelty into your life to escape monotony, and can also be a prompt for you to question whether that routine is motivated by your own desires or whether it is the result of the expectations of others. Ask yourself “Am I doing this because I want to, or because I am expected to do it?”

The expectations of others can either be justified or unjustified but regardless of this metric, whether or not you aim to meet others’ expectations is a choice. There should be a particular emphasis here on recognising dogma, defined as beliefs beyond question, it is important to recognise when our rituals are motivated by reason or if they are motivated by their repetition without substance underpinning them.

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