Featured Deck: Tarot of the Dead, by Monica Knighton
Original Writing by Kathryn Ravenwood
In the Tarot, card #5, or The Hierophant, is the high priest, the Pope, or, as Marie White of the Mary-El Tarot, says, the “revealer of the sacred.” You get the idea. He is the Grand Pooh-bah, the guy who is supposedly the know-all of the mysteries, protocol, dogma, rituals, and other serious religious stuff. He is the representation of what society and religion expect of us. On her Journey, The Fool of the Tarot experiences the Mother (#3, Empress) then Father (#4, Emperor) and then moves out into the world where she meets this dude and the expectations and corresponding conforming of behavior begin. If we don’t do as The Hierophant demands we are met with adversity, seen as the “black sheep,” the rebel or non-conformist and often suffer penalties because of it; penalties inflicted upon us, of course by the very Hierophant who is supposedly high priest and teacher of the great mysteries.
Society rules do have their place and we all have lessons to learn. I am not an anarchist by any means, but I do not advocate blind faith of those in charge, either. We need to abide by certain rules but then discern if those rules are necessary to define, regulate, protect, or hold us hostage. Sometimes the teacher has no new information to share and just regurgitates the same old litany of outdated doctrine. But sometimes the teacher is fresh, exciting and full of ideas and view-points that lead us to new discoveries. I know which teacher I prefer.
I love this rendition of The Hierophant! He is a cool looking guy hanging out in tropical Florida or some other vacation spot. He is holding the staff of Osiris, claiming his authority as “god on earth.” All we have to do is get his approval and we can pass on into paradise, right? But what exactly is that behind him? Doesn’t look very defined, does it? In fact, it is non-descript and vague looking. For a guy who is supposed to stand for all knowledge, he doesn’t offer much of a promise.
The fives in the Tarot are a half-way point. In the minor arcana it is half-way between the beginning and the end of each suit. In the major arcana it is half-way between the Magician and the Wheel of Fortune, the first of the two great cycles in the Fool’s Journey. Have you ever been on a trip and encountered terrible weather and didn’t know whether to go forward or turn around and go back? The fives are like that – full of fear. We don’t want to go back but we are afraid of what is ahead. And sitting at the middle of that road is the Hierophant… “listen to me… I know the way…I will guide you… trust me…”
The lesson of the Hierophant is to seek within to examine the mysteries and how we are able to live in whatever truth we can define for ourselves. I am a staunch believer in Cosmic Law; but I don’t need a Guru to be the know-all of my life. As a friend told me one time, spell Guru: Gee-U-Are-U. Yup. Just because someone holds a title and a degree doesn’t mean they deserve to live on a pedestal over everyone else.
We have to be the truth of our own lives. How we accomplish that takes a life-time, an eternal becoming. The Hierophant can be helpful in exploring various flavors of Cosmic Truth whether they be religion, higher education, rituals, traditions, legal systems, or other organizations. We will always question leadership, overthrow leadership, and go through it all over again. As The Who sang in the 60’s, “Meet the new boss –it’s the same as the old boss.”
As you pursue your search of the sacred, the Divine, the truth, remember that the real Hierophant is within you, calling you to own and be responsible to the truth that you know. We are each unique, but we all must someday answer to Cosmic Truth. How we find that is a huge part of how our individual lives evolve and form into wiser and more beautiful beings. We can each be a Hierophant, a “revealer of the sacred,” by how we carry ourselves, share our experiences and wisdom, and how we learn to respect others for their paths as well.
And then, perhaps, we have truly found paradise.