The Hierophant is a figure with authority and power, like The Emperor, but The Hierophant's power is of a spiritual nature whereas The Emperor's is temporal. Often, he is shown as a religious leader, such as the Pope of Roman Catholicism. Some decks title him The Pope. He is usually seen seated on a throne, dressed in priestly raiment, crowned, and holding a scepter. His implements will vary according to the religious theme of the deck.
His scepter symbolizes the three worlds—the physical, the astral, and the etheric. His free hand is held aloft in a position of blessing. Two or three acolytes may stand before him, either as participants, supplicants, or students, deferring to his wisdom and understanding him as a representative of religious authority.
Like The Emperor, he contains within himself the wisdom of a spiritual calling, and like The High Priestess, The Hierophant frequently sits or stands between two pillars, which signify the duality of matter and spirit.
In this role, The Hierophant can be seen as a teacher to those who seek the keys to the sacred Mysteries. The Waite deck shows two crossed keys below him, representing the intellect and intuition and the need to use them in tandem. He is responsible for making spiritual decisions for others and for blessing them. Unlike The High Priestess, whose world is primarily internal and ephemeral, The Hierophant's influence is of this world, and his spirituality can be achieved through conscious choices made on an intellectual basis.
The Hierophant suggests that the person has chosen a religion or philosophy with which to guide his or her life. In such a case, there is usually a great deal of loyalty to it, whatever the person's concept of god may be. Sometimes the card indicates disentangling yourself from such an association.
In some organized religions, the supreme deity does not speak to the individual directly, or to the general populace. Therefore, institutionalized religion makes use of human interpreters who convey the word of god (the Divine Will) to their followers.
The Hierophant symbolizes any organized institution—be it religious, philosophical, educational, spiritual, or temporal—that exerts authority over its followers or participants, a kind of mind control. In such groups, there is always a person, or a group of people, who insist that their way is the only way, that theirs is the ultimate truth.
Therefore, when The Hierophant appears, the idea of choice is being presented. At this stage of your spiritual development, you are challenged to remain a follower or to break out and find your own individual truth. This card suggests that you have the opportunity—and often the desire—to choose your own road to salvation, to interpret the word of god in your own way. The Hierophant asks, will you continue to depend on an outside authority, or will you learn to think for yourself? The answer is yours alone, and there may be considerable conflict concerning the issue, but what you decide will affect the rest of your life.
As a spiritual teacher whose task it is to connect the world of humans with that of the gods, to forge a link between the material and spiritual worlds, The Hierophant is a pontifex, an ancient word that meant maker of bridges, and that is used to designate a priest.
The Hierophant is linked in myth to the Centaur, or Chiron, teacher of Apollo, the sun god and healer. Half man, half horse, the Centaur represents the quest for meaning in life. Related to the sign of Sagittarius, which represents higher learning and the dissemination of knowledge, the Centaur is a teacher figure who guides the spiritual seeker to find a connection or bridge between the two worlds—the inner and outer, the material and immaterial. The Hierophant's understanding goes beyond organized religion and is not based on any rigid dogma but on the truth of the unconscious inner world of the psyche.
Also known as “Le Pape,” or “The Pope,” The Hierophant corresponds to the number five and to the Hebrew letter He.
A traditional factor is active in your life, whether it is a religion, a philosophy, a social organization, or another authoritative group. You feel a great deal of loyalty to this tradition or group and find it supportive. You choose to live in accordance with the beliefs you share with the group or organization. You may aspire to become a leader, or you may have a close relationship with the leader. This group or tradition serves you in many ways, inspirationally, as a teacher, as emotional support. There may also be a judgmental quality involved. You are expected to follow a certain set of beliefs, and if you fail, you are called to account.
You may wish to overthrow an old tradition—religious, ideological, intellectual, or cultural—that you feel is suffocating you or simply no longer serves your needs. You want to live by whatever philosophy or belief structure resonates with your true nature. You want to direct your actions your own way, even if this puts you into conflict with some established tradition. Perhaps your faith is being challenged in some way and you must re-evaluate tenets heretofore taken for granted. You want to be accountable to yourself alone.