Last time we talked about identifying how we feel about individual cards so that we can eliminate biases. One card that is almost always “not liked” is the Hierophant. Maybe Kim Huggens’ exploration of and exercises for this important card will help you not just make peace with the card but really value it.

V The Hierophant

Often depicted as a priest or person of religious authority, the Hierophant is not al- ways a well-received card by modern Tarot readers. Sadly, some people’s bad experiences of religious authority have tainted their view of this card, so it is wise to be aware of one’s own views when studying it.

If the Magician is the Word of Power that causes the process of creation to begin—the breath of God hovering over the waters in the Old Testament—then the Hierophant is that Word made Flesh—Jesus in the New Testament. He is the manifestation upon Earth of the Divine and the spiritual realm (the title Hierophant is from the Greek hierophany, meaning “manifestation of the sacred”), and as such he speaks wisdom with the authority of a higher power. The Hierophant is the quintessential teacher and wisdom giver, though his knowledge comes from received and accepted tradition as opposed to the inner wisdom and inspired knowledge of the Hermit who treads his own path. He is the messenger and the mediator between man and God, but also the mouthpiece of the Divine, and thus a means through which the Divine can interact with the mundane world.

Common Symbols

Bulls: The astrological sign of Taurus.
Elephants: Memory and age, bringing wisdom.
Pentagram: Symbol of man and the five senses and therefore manifestation of spirit in man.
Priestly garb: An outward sign of the Hierophant’s spiritual authority.
Acolytes: Students or helpers indicate that the Hierophant is a teacher and that his wisdom and knowledge is given to others instead of kept for his own use. Acolytes also accept the fact that he has authority over others because of his wisdom.

Keys: Usually crossed, these keys are those that the Hierophant holds and can give others, which unlock gateways and doors into higher understanding. The Hierophant shows the way.
Pillars: Two pillars on either side of the Hierophant link him to the High Priestess (in some decks he is called High Priest). Together, they represent different yet mutual approaches to learning.
Book: A book signifies learning and knowledge, specifically traditional, accepted knowledge, and the basis of tradition upon which the Hierophant’s authority and wisdom rests.
Checkered floor: Sometimes the Hierophant views life as black-and-white, one- or-the-other. Too much tradition and not enough initiative make for a closed mind.

Keywords: Authority, teaching, tradition, rules, reason, manifestation of God’s word, learning from tradition, faith, trust, belief, memory, conformity, dogma, wisdom, mediation, religion, advice

In Literature and Film: Jesus has already been mentioned; but Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars would be equally appropriate for the Hierophant’s role. Both figures are paternal wisdom-givers for the protagonist, revealing mysteries and teaching them about the ancient traditions they have found themselves immersed in. They offer advice and show them the way without forcing their choice.

As a Person: The Hierophant in your life is a blessing: this person is an excellent teacher, full of wisdom and knowledge and the desire to convey it to others. They appear to others as wise beyond their years and ready to give advice when needed. They may also have the knack of saying just the right thing at the right time to fill in the gaps in a puzzle or give people moments of realization. Sometimes the Hierophant can be an actual priest, priestess, or other person in spiritual/religious authority. They are often a figure in whom you have recourse and trust.


    • Take the Hierophant card from your deck. Examine the card and highlight any symbols or images in it. Are they different from those listed above? What do they suggest to you? How does the card im- age make you feel?
    • On a blank Tarot journal page, write down all the places, books, people, and traditions that have given you wisdom and knowledge in the past. From where do you receive your wisdom? How much trust do you place in this received understanding?

Questions for Journaling

    • What rules are there in my life that I have to adhere to?
    • What traditions have I learned or currently practice?
    • How do I respond to authority and those in power over me or those more knowledgeable than myself?
    • What aspects of the sacred manifest in my life?
    • How do I view religion as opposed to spirituality? Is it a positive or negative force?
    • Does my deck change the card’s title, image, or associations? If so, why?
    • Choose a religion of the world that has a sacred book upon which its morality and lifestyle are based. Read that book. Reflect in your journal upon how these spiritual teachings affect our lives, their purpose, and both their positive and negative effects.
Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...