Mentorship Program: The Hierophant

We've already met the tarot's Mom and Dad… the next phase of life, if we consider the 22 cards of the Major Arcana involves branching out of your nuclear family and learning from people outside your first social circle. The Hierophant initiates you into the world of knowledge as the tarot's main Mentor and Teacher.

Deck used:  Small Spells Tarot  (Rachel Howe)

Deck used: Small Spells Tarot (Rachel Howe)

The Hierophant, to me, is a guide that connects us with the world around us. He's the first teacher we meet in school, the person who's there for us when our eyes are first opened to the ways in which the world works. When we experience things that our home life could have never prepared us for, we're lucky if we've got a Hierophant figure to guide us along and give us the answers we seek. On the flip side, the Hierophant can also represent authority. When that guidance becomes overly stern, too restrictive, too inflexible and we feel bound to his rules and his rules alone, there can be resistance to the answers he provides.

When I first got my feet wet with the tarot, the Hierophant was one of the most important cards to me. It was a time in my life when I felt like I had been exposed to too many teachers—too many shoulds, too many "right ways" of doing things. I was in search of a deep connection with a real mentor… someone who had my back, watched out for me, answered my questions before I even had the courage to ask them. I had to go through that feeling of helplessness and loss to realize what I was looking for. And the first teacher I deeply connected with during that time told me that the teacher for you naturally appears when you are ready. That is exactly how I feel about this card.

Decks used:  Light Grey Tarot  (Light Grey Art Lab);  Wooden Tarot  (Skullgarden);  Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot  (Nicoletta Ceccoli, Lo Scarabeo);  Metro Tarot Cards  (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Decks used: Light Grey Tarot (Light Grey Art Lab); Wooden Tarot (Skullgarden); Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot (Nicoletta Ceccoli, Lo Scarabeo); Metro Tarot Cards (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Pretty Standard Stuff About The Hierophant (check out the Light Grey Tarot and Ceccoli Tarot depictions pictured above):

  • Just like the Emperor before him, the Hierophant sits on a throne, a symbol of power and authority. Traditionally, the Hierophant is pictured as the Pope—while the Emperor exercises government authority, this leader has to do with religion (hence all its ties to "rules" and "tradition.")
  • The headgear sitting atop the Hierophant's head usually looks like the miters traditionally worn by bishops and other figureheads of the Catholic church.
  • In the Ceccoli Tarot, you see the subjects praying at the feet of our Hierophant. Thing is, he's a giant monkey and not a serious Pope, which I find to be a cheeky callout to people who blindly follow the rules without a clear understanding of their history or intention. 

But what about cards that go off the beaten path?

  • The stag of the Wooden Tarot is intimidating with its grandiose antlers and direct gaze. He's softened, though, by the roses that lay in front of him, crossed by the keys that represent his knowledge.
  • The Metro Tarot's Hierophant looks like a jolly old grandfather… someone who's lived a full life and has a lot of stories to share.

And if you're not used to reading cards that stray from the classics, here are prompts to ask yourself: 

  • What does the Hierophant's facial expression tell you? Does he remind you of a teacher you've had in your own life?
  • If religion makes you feel uncomfortable or queasy, it helps to put the Hierophant in a more appropriate setting for you: maybe school, the workplace, or even government can help you come up with a few associations.
  • Are there people surrounding the Hierophant? Observe their stance and see how they're positioned in relation to the main character.

If you've got any other inputs about the Major Arcana, send me a message or hit me up on Instagram @practical_magical so we can have a conversation. Next week, we're tackling one of the more popular cards of the tarot, The Lovers.