The Hierophant

The Hierophant

:"For the album by Will Haven, see "The Hierophant (album)".

The Hierophant (V), in some decks named The Pope, is the fifth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.

Description and Symbolism

A. E. Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations. [Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15–24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)] However, not all interpretations follow his theology. Please remember that all Tarot decks used for divination and oracular inquiry, "et cetera," are crafted and interpreted through personal experience: stated differently, they ford and furnish different faces or aspects of Truth.

Some frequent keywords are:

*"Education ----- Knowledge ----- Status quo ----- Institution"
*"Conservatism ----- Discipline ----- Maturity ----- Formality"
*"Deception ----- Power ----- Respect ----- Duality"
*"Social convention ----- Belief system ----- Group identification"
*"Experience ----- Tradition ----- Naïve"

In many modern packs, the Hierophant is iconographically represented with right hand raised in what is known esoterically as the blessing or benediction, with two fingers pointing skyward and two pointing down, thus forming a bridge between Heaven and Earth reminiscent of that formed by the body of The Hanged Man. The Hierophant is thus a true “pontiff”, in that he is the builder of the bridge between deity and humanity.

In most iconographic depictions, the Hierophant is seen seated on a throne between two pillars symbolizing Law and Liberty or obedience and disobedience, according to different interpretations. He wears a triple crown, and the keys to Heaven are at his feet.


Often referred to in older decks as "The Pope", and occasionally as "Jupiter". The papacy was not just a religious force, but was a political and military force as well. When the tarot was invented, the Pope controlled a large portion of central Italy. Renaissance culture did not question the abstract ideal of the Pope as God's human representative on Earth. In Tarot of Marseilles, he wears a red cape and a blue robe, in contrast to The Papess, who wears a blue cape and blue robe.

The more commonly encountered modern name "Hierophant" is due to Antoine Court de Gébelin, and was the title of a chief priest in the Eleusinian mysteries (an ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries), and is usually regarded as the spiritual counterpart of the temporal Emperor card.


The card stands for religion and orthodox theology, as well as representing traditional education, the “Man of high social standing”. These interpretations merely scratch the surface of the card, however. The Pope card also represents the Biblical story of God’s creation of man and woman. Likewise, he is frequently most associated with the Deceiver and Power over others.

Some interpretations also suggest a link between the card and the myth of Isis and Osiris—a claim made about many cards. Some say the card corresponds to the astrological sign of Taurus; others Sagittarius or Leo. Yet another association is with the sign Cancer. In many primitive cultures (Native American, Siberian) the Hierophant retains the role as spiritual guide, wearing here the mask of a shaman who is the teacher of holy things. The mythological association is with the Coyote or Trickster God, one who is a teacher, a benefactor for the spiritual student, but who is often playful or mischievous. Cancer has an astrological connection with the Moon, night, and the occult, and as a water sign Cancerians have the reputation of being emotional, empathic, compassionate which translates to caring nurturer, good parent and teacher.

The Hierophant is the card representing organized religion—any religion. Its positive aspects are about the positive aspects of the relevant religion. Its negative aspects are the over crystallization of rituals, formulas and mind strangling beliefs. For example—many religions state: no drugs. No treatment for cancer, no antibiotics for disease, no painkillers for an operation. This can be life denying.

“Hierophant” literally means “the one who teaches the holy things.” Ideally, the Hierophant prepares the Querant spiritually for the adventure of life. It also represents individuation; the point where the child starts to understand the boundaries between the self and the other; family and the community, me and thee. And the point where the individual starts constructing their own identity—consciously, unconsciously, or as shaped by exterior forces. Works of Sigmund Freud and Michel Foucault explores these forces.

The Hierophant is Key 5 of the Major Arcana. Five represents the essence of things as they are—consider the word “quintessence” from the Latin words for five and nature. It is also the number of the senses; sight, hearing, taste, feeling, smell. The Hierophant stands athwart the world of the senses and the world of meaning.

It is related through cross sums (the sum of the digits) with Key 14: Temperance. The Hierophant presents the lessons of heaven to earth; Temperance guides the soul from this world to the underworld.

Some authorities say that the Hierophant generally represents assistance, friendship, good advice, alliances (including marriages), and religious interests. Reversed; it often refers to bad advice, lies, and persecution.

Others say that it represents the first level of understanding. When it appears in a tarot spread, it is a warning to the Querant to reexamine his or her understanding of the meaning of things; of the structure of the world; of the powers that be. Watch out for hypocrisy.

The negative aspect of The Hierophant is well illustrated by the myth of Procrustes. Procrustes was a man (or a monster) living in the mountains of Greece back in mythic times. He would invite weary travelers to come into his home, wash the dust off their feet, have a meal, and allow them to lie down on his bed. If they were too big for his bed, he’d cut them to size; if they were too small; he’d stretch them to fit. At last, Theseus came through those mountains and accepted Procrustes’s seemingly kind offer. When Procrustes tried to cut him to fit, Theseus at last slew him, making the road safe. Fact|date=November 2007In this way, the Hierophant is like Freud’s superconscious. It shapes us, sometimes brutally. Sometimes, this shaping is necessary for us to become who we are. Sometimes, it’s merely the replication of historic cruelties. Freud opined that the superconscious is the internalization of the parents. The Hierophant may represent the parents, living in the Querant. Fact|date=November 2007

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck explicitly connects the Hierophant with the Ten of Swords. The dead man lying face down on the beach, penetrated by ten swords, has his hand in the same position of blessing as the Hierophant, perhaps hinting that the artist believed that the path of the Hierophant leads ultimately to death; a sanctified death, but death nonetheless.

Alternative decks

In the Vikings Tarot the Hierophant is Odin with his two ravens, Hugin and Munin, and his two wolves, Geri and Freki.

In the X/1999 Tarot version made by CLAMP, The Hierophant is Aoki Seiichirou.

In the Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck, Saruman the White is the Hierophant.

In Pop Culture

*The Hierophant is the name of the second boss in "The House of the Dead 2", but it doesn't seem to be based off of a priest at all. Instead, the game's Hierophant is a large merman with an opening and closing ribplate, attacking the players with a trident and an army of killer fish. It can only be injured by shooting it in the chest when its ribcage is open, and it also defends itself with bizarre dancing motions in the hopes of deflecting the player's gunshots or throwing off their aim. after the player defeats the boss in chapter two it reappears to challenge the player again in the 6th chapter (It should be mentioned that all of the bosses in the "House of the Dead" series are named for the Major Arcana.

* In the video game Persona 3 the character of Shinjiro "Shinji" Aragaki is associated with the Hierophant arcana.

*In the third series of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure one of the main Characters Noriaki Kakyoin possesses a Stand called Hierophant Green.

*American hardcore band Will Haven released an album entitled "The Hierophant" in 2008.


* A. E. Waite's 1910 "Pictorial Key to the Tarot"
* Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000)
* Most works by Joseph Campbell
* G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., The Owl, The Raven, and The Dove: Religious Meaning of the Grimm’s Magic Fairy Tales (2000)
* Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1987)
* Mary Greer, The Women of the Golden Dawn (1994)
* Merlin Stone, When God Was A Woman (1976)
* Robert Graves, Greek Mythology (1955)
* Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (1939)
* Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, V. I (1978)
* Harold Bloom, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (2005)
* P.D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the tarot; Philosophy and Occultism in Pictures and Numbers (1976)

External links

* [ "Pope" cards from many decks and articles to "Pope" iconography]
* [ The History of the Hierophant (Pope) Card] from The Hermitage.

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