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The Durer Tarot’s Hierophant

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on March 18, 2010 | Comments (7)


After all the brain contortions of bending gender and thinking about numbers and animas and animuses (animi?), let’s take a day to reset back to a more traditional image. Besides, the art of this deck is so very lovely, I’m always willing to look at it. (If you like this, you can see more here and here).

Like all the major arcana cards in this deck, this one has a Latin motto, which means: “Wisdom is not easily improvised; virtue cannot be invented.”

I’ve noticed that many Hierophant variations include the idea of time, which goes with tradition. Is wisdom gained over time exclusively? Is virtue measured by a single action or by cumulative actions over time?

At first I thought the animal at his feet was a fox, but the booklet says that it is a dog and that it is the synthesis of The Hierophant’s values, “a noble spirit, understanding, and respect for family traditions.”

While I do like this card, I confess that I’m a bit bothered by that sack he is holding. It bothers me to think that there might be money in there.

Reader Comments

Written By Joanne
on March 18th, 2010 @ 8:18 am

I thought the sack contained his lunch…you know, brown bagging it thus saving money, eating healthier…isn’t there wisdom in that?

Written By Barbara Moore
on March 18th, 2010 @ 8:20 am

Absolutely. LOL. What does that say about me, assuming what I did?

Written By Mark McElroy
on March 18th, 2010 @ 9:31 am

I love, love, love the Durer deck; it’s a long-time favorite.

In the context of the Hierophant, what do you make of that Latin inscription tacked on to his pedestal? Literally: “Virtue is hard to find.”

If that *is* a bag of coins on his lap, the irony is delicious. 🙂

(I hope it’s full of doggie treats, personally.)

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 18th, 2010 @ 11:29 am

If I may…

I think you were right the first time, the small bag of coins, speaking to the church, and collecting the Tithe, that seems totally appropriate for this Bishop,

Honestly I think you were right about the Fox too, look at the Bushy tail of that little guy, no way thats a dog; there seems to have been a miscommunication between the Artist, and the person writing the book; which happens from time to time I believe, but it does raise the Question, what then does the Fox represent.

Cleverness, Agility, Nature… perhaps all three; but foxes were also seen as Vermin in old Europe (and I believe largely so still today) and so we might also see Nature, under the Heel of the Church here. The Church and its message clearly dominant over nature and her ways? Your thoughts BB.

Written By Leigh
on March 20th, 2010 @ 3:16 am

I find myself intimidated by this style of Hierophant. To me he looks quite unapproachable. I would want a spiritual leader/teacher to be ‘there’ for me.
That does look like a fox to me. I think Blackbird BB has a good point, man’s/the organized church’s dominance/superiority over the rest of creation. But then the term ‘wily as a fox’ came to mind, and not in a flattering sort of way.
“Wisdom is not easily improvised; virtue cannot be invented”, this I agree with…but…I don’t really see much virtue or wisdom in this particular Hierophant.

Written By Douglas Gibb
on March 25th, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

Like you, I’m also bothered by wealth. It’s a contradiction in a way. Why would someone who spends their life cultivating Spiritual power also need it reflected in worldly power? I guess that’s just the way its always been – corruption brought on by the desire for power ( wealth being its most obvious symbol ).

Apart from that, he looks right. I could trust this guy. I’d believe him if he told me about Spiritual matters. Yet, I fear, if I looked close I might start to see a shame!

Written By Berthe van Soest
on March 27th, 2010 @ 3:56 am

The small moneybag he holds in his hand bothered me too, seeing it here, and reading your entry. It made me think. Dürer lived during the times of Luther, Swingli and Erasmus. Luther wrote the 95 thesis against indulgences (that bought you a place in heaven) in his lifetime. Such an interesting time to live in, so many debates going on. Changing the church must have occupied him as an artist, and an intellectual. Seeing the bag in this perspective, I can live with. I like these entries about the Hierophant. It is an intriguing card.

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