The Hierophant Summarized
The Hierophant is the keeper and deliverer of indoctrinated beliefs and rules. He preaches adherence and compliance within the parameters of laws, but sometimes it can feel like he’s chastising those who think and act outside of those guidelines. His three-tiered crown identifies him as a supreme minister, teacher, and priest, sitting high above others on his throne. The Hierophant didn’t find that seat available and take it, he was placed there by others, perhaps those who need to be guided and taught. At his feet, we see two patrons. They listen eagerly to what he has to say and are poised to conform as expected. As they both wear ceremonial robes, perhaps they are messengers of the pontiff’s word. All he need do is tip his papal cross.
According to Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot (Katz and Goodwin, 2019), the word “hierophant” means “reveal the sacred.” Like our High Priestess, the Hierophant wears robes, a crown, and perches between two pillars. However, unlike Her Mystical Majesty, who conceals secrets, the Hierophant reveals them, sharing what is known to be irrevocably true (which some might refer to as “religious dogma”) with those who would believe it. He offers the keys to heaven and earth to those who would abide.
On the other side of religious dogma and indoctrination, you can find cancel culture, or the modern ostracizing of a person or group by calling them out and/or expelling them from societal expectations and norms. Cancelling a person or a thing because their beliefs oppose yours is in itself intolerant and oppressive. The solution? Asking questions, educating oneself and preventing feelings and religious or spiritual beliefs from informing how you treat others as human beings. We can coexist quite peacefully alongside one another and not have to agree. Dogs and cats do it all the time. To quote my husband, who loves to remind me of this quite often: “Worrying about myself is a full-time job.”
The Hierophant Reversed: the Shadow
When reversed, the rules are broken and the secrets are revealed in such a way as to allow you to decide for yourself what you believe and how you wish to behave. The reversed Hierophant takes off his papal crown, loosens his robes, and hangs up those keys. He’s the substitute teacher who just wants you to do your work quietly while he reads his book with his feet propped up on your everyday teacher’s desk. In some cases, a reversed Hierophant can be flippant and challenge the very authorities vested when he was upright on his feet.
Notable Symbols for the Emperor
Spirit / Earth
Five lends to change, instability and conflict, which makes sense with regard to this card because so many writers are rebels (like me!) who don’t like conformity and who enjoy bending the rules in their stories... Ahem... Forbidden romance themes, anyone?
The crown, robes, ceremonial throne used to carry popes, and staff are all symbols of the Roman Catholic pontiff.
The Hierophant as a Concept
Rules, religion, conventional expectations, dogma, conformity, seeking guidance.
The Hierophant's effect on You, the Writer
You are the writer of your story, you are the holder of your pen. As the five-star reviews start flowing in, championing your work and gaining you loyal readers, you’ll continue using your voice to share your fictional doctrines. If you are like me, then your goal is to be a Creative Hierophant, someone to whom masses of readers flock for a profound (or simply entertaining) word and not some impractical and oppressive dogma.
On the contrary, you may also be like me and aren’t a fan of being expected to conform. That reversed Hierophant might be more along your speed of writerly practice. If so, when this card comes up representing you in a creative tarot reading, ask yourself which doctrines or beliefs or guidelines you’re subscribing to that are no longer championing your creativity. Which processes and endeavors are snuffing your creative flame because of their stringent guidelines?
I wrote my first novel a couple of years after I finished my Master of Science in Psychology. For several years, I had only written academic research papers, following the American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines and checking and correcting that drat passive voice. The structure and regulations were unwavering, and if I wanted to achieve my goal of graduating summa cum laude, I had to comply. And I did, in both regards!
When I set out to write my first novel, however, I found myself unsteady with the creative freedom allowed in many aspects of fictional writing. I felt like Ariel standing and walking on her new human legs for the first time. Getting used to non-academic writing took getting used to loosening those robes and tossing aside that holy APA scepter. I had to learn to be the Hierophant reversed and today, writing my first non-fiction piece since college, I feel like that stiff ol’ pontiff is hovering over my shoulder, watching for adherence to the writing rules and waiting to ding me over the head at the instance of passive voice.
If you’re every feeling like the Hierophant, maybe it’s time for a change. Consider doing research on writing methods or constructs you once believed unorthodox. If you’ve never written poetry, try a stanza or verse or two. Try haiku! Whatever the new avenue, start simple with a freewriting exercise. Just start jotting or typing your thoughts non-stop and see where they take you on the page.
Who can this person be?
The Hierophant might be the pastor of your church, a priest, a Pope, a church elder, a teacher, a babysitter, your micromanaging boss, a parent, a committee leader, your school’s principal, the Dean, a judge, Congress, anyone who implements rules and expects you to follow them.
Famous character(s), people, books, or movies that embody this card’s energy:
Robert’s Rules of Order, by Henry Martyn Robert, Professor Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and for a more pleasant example, Mary Poppins.
On Writer Wednesday, I am examining tarot, literally... I will share with you a few examples of how the tarot relates to and/or has informed the storytelling practices of other writers.
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.