The Hierophant Tarot Card Meaning
Keywords: Education – Tradition – Order
The Hierophant is the fourth Major Arcana card in the tarot. He holds a papal cross in one hand and gives the sign of benediction in the other. In historical tarot decks, the Hierophant card was called the Pope. Two students kneel below him. Between the two pupils are golden keys symbolizing the knowledge held by the Hierophant. Like the High Priestess card, the Hierophant sits between two pillars, suggesting that he is a gatekeeper —an intermediary between us and the divine. His red robes represent passion.
The Hierophant is connected to enduring institutions and the status quo. The Hierophant represents the structure and discipline needed for training and education.
Upright Meanings for the Hierophant Tarot Card
When the Hierophant shows up in a reading, it often represents the conventional and the status quo. The Hierophant is closely tied to religious institutions and their influence on your life. Some readers bristle at the appearance of the Hierophant. It can be a controversial tarot card due to its association with organized religions, hierarchy, and (at worst) dogma. Many seekers are trying to find their own spiritual truth through tarot. Some have already had less than ideal experiences with organized religion. Despite the traditional depiction of a Pope, this card doesn’t exclusively apply to Christianity’s impact. It represents any religious denomination, cultural, or long-standing institutional influence on your life. If the Hierophant shows up in your reading, examine how these entities are conflicting with, or supporting, the situation.
Similarly, the Hierophant can indicate that you need to unpack how maintaining the status quo is affecting your life. You might be feeling disillusioned. Either you or others are projecting your own expectations onto the issue. If this card is appearing as a negative trait, be aware of how you may be holding others to rules that don’t apply to them. Not everyone has to follow the same path.
When it comes to problem-solving, this card can be asking you to take a traditional approach. While there are many ways to reach your destination, the Hierophant can indicate that a conventional approach would work best right now. For example, in a career related reading, the Hierophant is a positive indicator for going back to school, starting an apprenticeship, or for any traditional routes in your industry. Go for the tried-and-true method rather than reinventing the wheel. It can also be a sign to consult a mentor or expert for advice.
Sometimes the Hierophant card is a warning to lay low in a situation. Don’t stick out too much. This can be especially true at work. Of course, being true to yourself is important. Still, be aware of the traditions and conventions of your environment. You might find yourself in a situation where nonconformity will hurt your chances to succeed. In the case of family dynamics, defying the status quo can cause friction. As always, it’s entirely up to you whether you decide to conform or not (always catering to the expectations of others is no way to live!). On that note, if there are there unequal power dynamics at play, don’t be taken advantage of.
Love and Relationships
This card is traditionally associated with marriage. It represents a conventional relationship within your cultural norms. Relationships represented by this card may be heavily influenced by societal and religious expectations.
Don’t expect an intense, whirlwind romance. This is a card of slow and steady progress. If you are looking for a romantic or platonic relationship, this can indicate finding a potential partner in your spiritual community.
At their best, relationships represented by the Hierophant have the potential to foster incredible personal growth. In platonic relationships, this can be a friendship with a mentor or mentee. There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained from both individuals.
Career and Work
Workplaces and careers represented by the Hierophant card have clear rules and hierarchies. This card often symbolizes traditional institutions and spiritual organizations. Workplaces and careers represented by this card tend to lean towards the conservative in ideas, employee conduct, and dress code. This is not your card of the causal co-working space!
This is a great card to appear if you’ve been thinking of going back to school or pursuing professional development. The Hierophant can indicate a need for a mentor figure. Look for someone who has already succeeded at the path you are considering. This is a great card for teachers, spiritual leaders, yoga instructors, traditional craftsmen, and anything that involves spirituality and or traditional organizations.
People and Personalities
Individuals represented by the Hierophant card are steady, devoted, reliable, and sometimes a bit conventional. At their best, they make great teachers and spiritual leaders.
The Hierophant is associated with Taurus (born approximately April 21st-May-21st), so you might find this card represents one in the reading. Individuals represented by this can be stubborn at times. Expect them to be hard to sway from what they already know.
The Hierophant Reversed Tarot Card Meaning
Reversed Keywords: Unorthodox – Rebellion – Controlling
Reversed Meanings for the Hierophant Tarot Card
The Hierophant in reverse can indicate an unorthodox approach should be taken. Never mind the traditional path —carve out your own way of doing things. When reversed, the Hierophant bucks the system and uses the path less traveled to reach their destination.
The Hierophant reversed can bring disillusionment. You’re in a time of questioning the “shoulds’ in your life. There can be a disconnect between how you want to live your life and what your family, friends, and society think it should look like. Sometimes this disillusionment can come from seeing someone you once saw as a leader fall from grace. The discrepancy between your idea of someone or something, versus what it really is, has left you questioning your beliefs. It’s up to you to decide whether you can move past these revelations or not.
Along with disillusionment, this card reversed can bring with it rebellion. This can be against the status quo or any perceived authority in your life. If you’re experiencing friction between another person, examine whether you are trying to assert your authority onto them. Conversely, ask yourself whether another person’s authority in a situation is triggering you.
Along with rebelliousness, watch out for controlling behaviors with this card. Resist the urge to be dogmatic in your beliefs. If this card represents someone else, you may find yourself unable to break through their stubborn, long-held beliefs.
Reversed Love and Relationships
A partnership represented by the Hierophant reversed could be unconventional. This isn’t a necessarily a bad thing if both parties are on the same page. If it’s appearing in a reading regarding relationship conflicts, it’s a warning to seek out a neutral third party for advice. Look for a counselor or therapist that’s unbiased and respectful of the beliefs of both parties. Often this card can appear if one person is questioning the influence of society or religion on their marriage. This can be a time to reevaluate your values. Because of this disruption to the status quo, the Hierophant reversed can be associated with divorce.
If you’re looking for a relationship, this card can be an indication to look in unconventional places. Be open to finding partners and friends in unexpected places.
Reversed Career and Work
Workplaces represented by the Hierophant reversed can be unusual and cutting edge. At worst, the organization could be chaotic and lack structure. There might be an unclear hierarchy that’s confusing to navigate. For better or worse, it can be a culture where the skills and education of the workers are not well matched with their positions. You might be on your own figuring out procedures. If you’re dealing with a company represented by this card, it can indicate disorganization. You may be the one who needs to step in to create rules.
This card in reverse can signal that the unorthodox approach is what’s needed to overcome a problem. Look for fresh ideas to implement. Be ready for potential pushback from the old guard. If what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years isn’t working anymore, it’s time to change things up. Be open to individuals who aren’t classically trained in your area of expertise. This can be a great opportunity for collaborations with other departments so that you get a fresh pair of eyes on the project.
Reversed People and Personalities
Individuals represented by the Hierophant reversed can be controlling and dogmatic. They may need time and patience to begin to see another person’s point of view. At worst, they might be so stuck in their ways that they refuse to budge on their firmly held opinions. If this card is you, be open to different perspectives. Not everyone has to follow the same path.
On the other hand, this card can indicate someone who is unconventional. People represented by this card in a reading will approach issues from an unusual perspective. They can be fun and a little rebellious. If this card is you, embrace your weirdness! Your originality is important to share with the world. It draws others to you like a magnet.
Sometimes this card reversed is a warning to watch out for an abuse of power. Be careful that you are not being misled. This is especially true when dealing with authority figures and traditional institutions. Let’s face it, some people love the perceived power that authority gives them. Positions in a society that are powerful and influential also attract narcissists and sociopaths. While there are so many good people trying to help the world, but take into account that not everyone has the same intentions. The Hierophant reversed can indicate you’re dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
My wisdom and knowledge are valuable to this world
Some of My Favorite Examples
I love that the Nomad Tarot renames its Hierophant card the High Priest, emphasizing its spiritual connection to the High Priestess card. Whereas the High Priestess card is spiritual knowledge and wisdom originating from the individual, the High Priest is spiritual knowledge disseminated to society. In the Nomad Tarot, the High Priest acts as a leader and guardian standing over a village. He faces upward toward the heavens, ready to receive its messages.
The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot uses a cunning man figure as its Hierophant. The name Hierophant itself refers to the priests of the Greek Eleusinian mysteries. Priests, priestesses, wise-men figures have evolved over the millennia into the clergy we recognize today. This deck goes back to the wild, powerful roots of the tarot’s archetypes.
The Wild Unknown Tarot personifies the Hierophant as a crow, or raven, holding a key. I’m always intrigued by this card not only for the beautiful pen and ink illustration, but also for the folkloric symbolism of ravens and crows. In the American South, crows were tied to trickster spirits. In some Native American beliefs, ravens are seen as wisdom keepers (which makes sense considering how incredibly smart corvids are!). The image of a crow/raven captures the dichotomy of the Hierophant as a powerful teacher and mentor, but potentially prone to trickery and deception. The Hierophant is also seen as a gate-keeper between the divine and humans -much in the same way that the Norse god Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn, sometimes acted as intermediaries between Odin and earth.
In one of my favorite tarot decks, Mystic Mondays, the Hierophant is a pyramid with steep steps leading up to an eye symbolizing enlightenment. We see the meaning of this card narratively as you visualize the difficult climb to the top discover this sacred knowledge. But it also hints at the complicated past of the Great Pyramids. Ancient Egyptian society used a caste system with a very clear hierarchy of who were the workers, slaves, priests, and rulers. Beyond our modern-day experiences with social hierarchies, I believe the echoes of the effects of caste systems still linger in our collective unconscious. Depictions of the Hierophant card as the Pope or the Hierophant touch on these old memories.
The lovely Ostara Tarot speaks to the heart of one of my favorite interpretations of the Hierophant: the pursuit of knowledge and education. The old institutions represented by this card are often the keepers of important knowledge and history. Many of us have complicated relationships with organized religions and the old guard (unless, of course, we’re the ones upholding it). In all of those competing agendas, some of these organizations fund the preservation of important historical objects, the arts, cutting-edge hospitals, and scientific discoveries. At their best, they are facilitators of growth and discovery.