The Hierophant


The Hierophant’s triregnum represents three different levels of papal coronation: supreme pastor, supreme teacher, and supreme priest. His ferula, or Papal Cross, represents mind, body, and spirit; this triple scepter affirms his primary relationship between the celestial world and the earthly one. The crossed keys of St. Peter are the Keys of Heaven. The two priests with their backs to us signify that divine authority requires service. The Hierophant is the great truth revealer: his hand gesture reveals the divine glory of the Lord that’s in plain sight all around us.

The Hierophant is about tradition and hierarchy, structure and obstinance, conformity and instruction.

This card is not about radicalism or innovation or any change, really, it’s about adhering to the tradition of doing things exactly as they’ve always been done. It’s about conforming. Joining an organization that stamps out individuation and absorbs you into a community of ironclad values. 

Some consider him to be the masculine counterpart to the High Priestess.

In this way he is Rafiki from The Lion King. He is the one to present Simba to Pride Rock, to his future subjects: behold, your prince and future king, bow before him.. As bridge from celestial world to the laity on earth, the Hierophant supports the king, he anoints him, ordains him. These are peace times, Rafiki will not support Scar this way. Then later, like a witch, Rafiki picks up some essence of Simba in the air. If true, if alive, Rafiki understands that the true king is lost, and as representative of the greater good, it is his job to go out and find him.

Friar Tuck is a Hierophant. As is Charles Xavier, child queen Padmé Amidala, and the World’s Oldest Fraggle, who serves as the Fraggle elder and officiates over ceremonial events or emergency meetings.

Dumbledore slips into the role too. He is the keeper of a great tradition.

The Hierophant is supposed to tell us that whatever we do, we should do for the greater good.

That’s great but who says what the greater good is?

Divinity means never having to be questioned or criticized. 

The priest wishes to make it an understood thing, that he is the highest type of man, that he rules,– even over those who wield the power, – that he is indispensable and unassailable, – that he is the strongest power in the community, not by any means to be replaced or undervalued.

He alone is, in a certain sense, God, and ultimately goes back to the Godhead; he alone is the middleman between God and others; the Godhead administers punishment to everyone who puts the priest at a disadvantage, or who thinks in opposition to him.” (Nietzsche)

That’s fucking terrifying.

Interestingly enough, the fives are all bad, except, traditionally, for this one.

Because the Hierophant comes with a promise of absolution. if you go with God your sins will be forgiven.

Priests depicted in fiction characteristically come armored with a pre-existence of “truth,” then, because writers are fallible, they run this “truth” through their deflavorizer and regurgitate it back to you like an original insight. They often only speak in these truth terms: blah the fundamental essence of fundamental things all the time blah. The High Sparrow from Game of Thrones, is the only character to get the better of Lady Olenna (because everyone’s beholden to dogma), he bests her snark with such eternal truths. He hit her guilt button.

Faith is only a word, embroidered.” (Margaret Atwood) 

The Handmaid’s Tale :: Atwood pulled her dystopia from the Bible. In Offred’s room there is a pillow with Faith embroidered on it. There used to be two others, Hope and Love, but they’re gone now. Apropos. “The woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11: 6-9) Women are their wombs: therefore, it is a woman’s duty and obligation to propagate the species: therefore, their wombs are the property of the church.

Let a woman learn in silence and full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

To act on behalf of the greater good is a very important archetype, but as a feminist witch, I’ll forever be uncomfortable with the pope as that representative. Popes work for the church’s greater interests, not the people’s, and certainly not women’s. But this is the tarot and it’s what we’ve got so here we go! 

The Devil is his negative, all ego and libido. The Devil goes it alone, but the Pontifex, why, he’s the “maker of bridges.”

You can consider this the social justice warrior card. The guru card. Any spiritual leader will do. Think of the magical negro trope :: Jim from Huckleberry Finn, John Coffey from the Green Mile, Dick Hallorann in The Shining, Baggar Vance, Morgan Freeman. I’ve also seen plenty of transangels too. Any outsider to the dominant paradigm who helps the protagonist with their problem will work for our purposes. 

Chiron is a nice Hierophant character too. As Zeus’s half-brother, he’s the eldest and wisest of the centaurs. He was the half-brother of Zeus. When Cronos’ tryst with the nymph Philyra was interrupted by Rhea, he transformed himself into a horse to escape notice and thus the half horseman, Chiron, was born. Chiron taught Jason, Achilles, and Hercules. He taught them fighting skills, but also spiritual values and respect for divine law. One day Hercules accidentally wounded him with a hydra-venomed tipped arrow, and though Chiron was an experimental healer whose herbs and poultices cured many, the wound was in his horsey parts, so his medicines had no effect on him. His last act was one of compassion. Poor Prometheus, the god who gave the humans fire. As punishment, he’d been damned to have a giant bird eat his liver every day (every night it would grow back). His fate could only be altered if another god agreed to take his place in the underworld (not the grusome liver part, just dead), and after years of suffering, on both their parts, Chiron offered up himself. Zeus then placed him among the stars as the constellation Sagittarius. 

Traditionally, this card is about the institution behind tradition, and the good of humanity. Selfless characters that are larger than life, laying down some truisms, and instructing warriors on how to fight the good fight on behalf of us all.


The Book of Symbols; Reflections on Archetypal Images. ✨The Will To Power. Friedrich Nietzsche. ✨ The Bible. ✨The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood. ✨

Writing Exercises

Bible Dip :: Open your Bible at random, close your eyes and point your finger to a passage, that is your prompt, do with it what you will.

The Hierophant is about tradition. Look to the canon, it could be the canon in your heart, but I’m talking about the classics. Read a classic piece of literature, if it doesn’t inspire you at least you’ll have read it.

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