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The Gaian Tarot Hierophant

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on March 11, 2010 | Comments (7)

The other day I mentioned that I often thought of the Hierophant as the Teacher. Perhaps one of the many reasons I love The Gaian Tarot so much is that it names and depicts Arcana V as The Teacher.


The creator, Joanna Powell Colbert, says that this card is the Humble Teacher, as in a Holy Fool or Crazy Saint. The emphasis here is (as it was in the Fey Tarot’s Hierophant) less about tradition or formal education and more about wisdom, teaching, and learning.

Taking The Hierophant in this direction raises questions about the importance of tradition (is it important?), about the role tradition should or shouldn’t play in teaching or education.

Is Arcana V still Arcana V as The Teacher versus The Hierophant? What does this card gain as The Teacher? What does it lose by not being The Hierophant?

Reader Comments

Written By Catherine
on March 11th, 2010 @ 8:30 am

I prefer to think of the Hierophant as a teacher, a wise old one, preferrably a little ‘out there’, adds to the mystery and intrigue. The Hierophant seems more understandable like that to me, however, we also loose the definitions of structure and authority, religion and solidity if we think that way.

Fortunately we have the Emperor to provide authority, the High Priestess could provide the religious/spiritual aspect and particularly for me with the Thoth deck, the Four of Disks (Pentacles) increasingly represents structure(s), corporate power and their sheer size – something I’ve previously accepted as the realm of the Hierophant.

A combination of the above cards could perhaps provide us with ‘a hierophant’, but what about readers who don’t read in combinations? If you are relying on single cards in single positions, I feel the Hierophant, in all his guises, would be difficult to replace. Again, it’s a situation of intuition and reader interpretation, though it seems the Hierophant has many, many guises. Ironic (or not?) that the Thoth Hierophant actually has masks on the card…

I don’t feel I’ve brought any clarity here, but I certainly enjoyed thinking this one out – thank you for the brain training today Barbara. Fab series, I’m really enjoying it 🙂

Written By Shari
on March 11th, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

I have always thought of the Hierophant as a teacher. I did have the Mytic and that deck the Hierophant is Chiron. Whether formal or informal this person has wisdom you are seeking. The formality comes if that is what the seeker needs. For many it’s not. I think this is especially true for those seeking wisdom from the Tarot. The Tarot itself is a Hierophant.

Written By Barbara Moore
on March 12th, 2010 @ 11:34 am

“The Tarot itself is a Hierophant.” I love that!

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 13th, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

Hi All,

I thought a good while about making this post before deciding I should, and even so, I expect there is a good chance this post will be dropped by the moderator; or I might just come off like a jerk; but I honestly have a really Visceral reaction to this card, and I think this card speaks directly to why Tarot and other New Age interests draw so few men, like myself, to the table.

when we look at this card what do we see …

On the one had we see this lovely Older Gentleman cradling Dandelions in his hands, inviting us to come sit beside him, hear his wisdom. He is not the Emperor, he is not enthroned, he is seated right on the earth, which we perceive he is deeply connected too. Everything about him is soft, his smile, his clothing (which might be pajama’s) his placement in the frame, like he floated down into his seat. If we could see his Aura, and we almost can, he positively exudes softness.

That softness seems to extend to the Wolf (Coyote) looking over his shoulder. The lush vegetation around him, the misty background. Its a lovely image, beautifully executed.

Problem is …

There is nothing Masculine about it at all.

whatever a man is … he is not soft, he does not strive to be soft … Our friend may be a teacher, but no man approaching him is going to say to himself; Hey I want to be more like this guy.

We don’t Cradle weeds, we uproot them, plow them under, clear the Garden so the Empress can bless it and hopefully bring forth something good here. We like dogs because every Dog knows deep down inside he is a wolf, Even my little Beagle thinks of himself as a wolf; especially if he’s on a scent, and a Wolf is Fierce a wolf is powerful.

If we think about the Hierophant …

He represents Law, Tradition, The Structure and form of a Spiritual Tradition, the Trials of a Shamanic Path … As such he is deeply Tied to Saturn, the Greater Malefic; and while Saturn’s Trials, may educate us, push us, force us to grow; they are not meant as challenges, they are trials; if we are found wanting, there is no relief for us; ask any homeless person, if Saturn relaxed the great trial of their life simply because they failed.

I think this is a powerful difference between the Older, Patriarchal Masculine Esoteric Traditions, and the Newer evolving predominantly feminine one. In the Older Tradition Mars was the Lesser Malefic, Saturn the Greater Malefic, and Pluto (we might project) the Greatest Malefic.

In the New vision…
Which this card is so many ways a portrait of; This Unholy trinity are Malefics no more, their Trials are now Challenges, and Expressions of Divine Love; and wolves are loving Doggies.

but it simply is not so …
there is a “Dark Side of the Force” the Egyptians knew it, the Sumerian Ereshkigal personified it, the Hindu’s called it Kali; it is not a Christian nor Abrahamic Construct, it exists hand in glove with the Empress Mother in the Most Ancient of Pagan Traditions, and we turn our back on that Darkness and ignore what lurks their at our own Pearl. As Liz green notes, “Everyone has Saturn in their chart” and Saturn will not give us a pass whether we paint smilies on him or not.

Nuff Said, by Me.
Brightest Blessings Truely, BB.

Written By Liz
on March 16th, 2010 @ 9:43 am

I too view the heirophant much like a teacher and often consider the need to understand the self better when I see this card. It’s almost certainly a call to dig deeper.

What does it lose by not being the Heirophant? Possibly, and only possibly, the element of discipline. Learning is often a sacrifice, an investment of your time for future benefit. The Teacher card has a feel of readiness and openness. Something we are not always ready to offer! I like to see the heirophant as wagging its finger and telling you to get cracking. They don’t really contrast one another but more offer slightly different slants on the same thing.

Written By Douglas Gibb
on March 25th, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

Great question!

I can’t honestly say I have a clear opinion on it.

Tradition to me is very important. It reminds us of who we are, where we’ve come from etc.

If done wrong, tradition can be damaging ( especially when tradition is essentially concerned with explaining “human nature” in some form or another ). But what isn’t damaging if done wrongly?

As for the teacher, I love it! I really like the idea of that. There’s something so natural about this Hierophant. The others are always so ridged – and life to me is never ridged.


  1. uberVU - social comments  on March 11th, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

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