78 Weeks :The Hierophant

This week : The Hierophant

My Impressions:
Images and Symbolism:
My initial reaction to this card is that whatever it sets out to represent it has done so using the popular (rather than esoteric, more on that later) symbolism of the time: a Papal figure may have automatically said "compassion and mercy" when Waite set about creating the deck (see LWB content below), but to me, and maybe to many others nowadays it is far more an image of hierarchy (haha - I think the etymology of that word just wriggled free of my subconscious ;-) ) of staid, old-fashioned, inflexible aspects of organised religion. So with this deck that is always going to be an element for me, but I recognise that more is intended, so lets look closer.

The next thing that shouts at me is the presence of the followers/accolytes/students: the Hierophant is defined by their presence. Without them he is the one hand trying to clap, because his role is to be the vehicle through which the the divine is communicate to people. there was another Hierophant image from another deck I saw and commented on recently (if I re-find it I will link it here) where the figure was a kindly looking old scholar, a Sufi-like figure, with 2 children actively listening and taking notes as he taught in a much less formal setting - that was the first time I understood the interpretations of wisdom and advice and I now mentally overlay this image to help me.

So from among this I draw out the representation of the structure of authority (rather than the Emperor who was the head of that authority as an individual) The structure needs someone at the top and someone at the bottom in order for it to mean anything and for it to achieve anything - so here we acknowledge the important 2 aspects, perhaps represented by the crossed keys?

Upright: A spiritual authority figure (as opposed to the Emporer's "authority authority" figure), sound advice, wisdom, the connection to the divine.

Reversed: Trapped in tradition, stubborn, immune to good advice.

My take (what I make of it/what I might see in a reading where I drew it): A representation of a trusted advisor, a connection to higher things. (I'll admit I'm struggling with this one just yet - any comments appreciated here or on the 78 weeks thread)

From the LWB:

Upright: Marriage alliance, captivity, servitude, mercy and goodness, inspiration, the man to whom the Querent has recourse.

Reversed: Society, good understanding, concord, over-kindness, weakness.
From The Pictoral Key To the Tarot by A.E. Waite:

"He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power. The proper meanings of this card have suffered woeful admixture from nearly all hands. Grand Orient says truly that the Hierophant is the power of the keys, exoteric orthodox doctrine, and the outer side of the life which leads to the doctrine; but he is certainly not the prince of occult doctrine, as another commentator has suggested."
"He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order; but it may so happen that the pontiff forgets the significance of this his symbolic state and acts as if he contained within his proper measures all that his sign signifies or his symbol seeks to shew forth. He is not, as it has been thought, philosophy-except on the theological side; he is not inspiration; and he is not religion, although he is a mode of its expression."


Kafka's Ghost said...

Crystal clear. I like your analysis of this card. And double-WOAH: Hierophant-->hierarchy?! Something right under my nose and I never connected the dots. Thank you for this today!

Sharyn said...

You've made a great start, enjoy the journey!

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