Wisdom of the ages
All of us have an ancestry. All of us have ancient and modern wisdom within us that has been passed down through many different means. This wisdom is represented by the Hierophant.
This card is often depicted as a Pope-like figure and can be confusing, due to its bizarre name. Its overtly Christian symbology has led to it being associated with religious doctrine, study, teaching and the like. However, this interpretation may only be one. The Hierophant’s meaning is much more broad than that. As we all discover our own heritage and ancestry, the meaning of this symbol will vary from one person to another.
This is about race ancestry. Cultural ancestry. Blood ancestry. The identities we have determine the ancestry that we each have. No matter who we are or what our identities are, there are people who have come before us and created the paths that we follow. We carry their stories and struggles within us. We carry their spirituality, an understanding and appreciation of the symbols they revered, and a recognition of their life’s rhythms. It’s not always easy to see or access this knowledge, but it is there.
Kim Krans illustrated a raven holding a key in the Wild Unknown Tarot. Stephanie Pig-Mun Law shows us an old, bent, wizened tree in the Shadowscapes Tarot. In the Collective Tarot, a woman leads a group of feminists in gynaecological self examination. Wisdom can be passed in many ways.
The Hierophant represents the knowledge within you. You are the holder of this knowledge and you have the potential to pass that knowledge on. This knowledge is accessible to you as a student and you as a teacher who transmit it. It could also be your ancestors and elders who are teaching you.
This card depicts spiritual initiation and often shows a figure that can be seen as a translator or interpreter of mysterious, spiritual, or arcane teachings. It is a conduit between God/s and men, between the otherworld and this one. It is somewhat similar to the High Priestess in this sense. However, unlike the High Priestess’, the knowledge contained within is part of a particular heritage. It has been handed down to you in certain ways.
Advice from the Hierophant
The Hierophant appears to encourage you to learn more about your ancestors. These are the people whose blood runs through your veins and those whom you claim as ancestors (witch, trans woman or Black man). Who was there before you? Who was the one who paved the way for you? These people are worth learning about and honoring.
The Hierophant could be taken to mean that it suggests geneology, or researching your family tree. Consider the identities that you have and those who came before. An Irish-American person researching the Ogham learns about the language that shaped their country. A trans history group for women is helping a woman discover the lineage of oppression and resistance that runs through her life.
Although the Hierophant is a celebration of all wisdom, its main focus is on the spiritual. It is not enough to learn about the lives of your Apache, Celtic, or Yoruba ancestors, but it is also important to find out more about their spiritual practices, rituals, festivals, and symbols. Your history as a queer or trans person should include looking at how your forgoers built spiritual paths, held faith, and how they celebrated and mourned. You may identify yourself as a witch. Learn more about the history and folklore of healers. So on.
All of this wisdom can be really valuable in the unique way that you, as a new person, translate it and communicate it. This card could encourage you to write, facilitate, teach, or blog. To learn and to see how these lessons and teachings play out in your life and the lives of those who share your heritage.
The Hierophant could also be used to signify your initiation on a spiritual path. Converting to Islam. Stepping into Paganism. Being ordained priest. Building an altar or agreeing to follow the Wheel of the Year. The Hierophant is responsible for any significant event in your spiritual journey. It reminds you of the support you have from all those who came before you. You are free to channel the energy of your ancestors, but they have not taught you anything. Now it is up to you to chart your own path.
Key words and concepts
Connecting with your past
Honoring your ancestors
Family history research (where the family can be genetically or selected)
Talking to elders
Initiation to a religious, spiritual, or other path
Spiritually, a new beginning
Spiritual wisdom and teachings
Spiritual or religious study
Mentoring or being a teacher
Achieving a milestone in any type of study
Here are some common symbols
Key (initiation, unlocking secrets wisdom)
Pope-like figure (a conduit between worlds, a translator)
A teacher (passing on wisdom)