I don’t wield power over person, place, or thing. I don’t command armies; I don’t lead labor unions. All I have is the power of thought.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
In this thought-powered time of the Sun in Gemini, with Mercury retrograde forcing us to reflect and review, what better companion could we ask for? Welcome this week to The Hierophant.
With its obvious reference in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck to the Roman Catholic Pope, many people are put off by their perception of the Hierophant as stodgy and inflexible, or by their own experiences of the sometimes stifling differences between religion and spirituality.
Certainly, with his astrological ties to Taurus, the Hierophant can occasionally be stubborn, even hidebound. But, despite its recognizable image, Arthur Waite rejected calling this card The Pope, because he felt it was too narrow an interpretation.
Instead, hierophant was the name given to the priest of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece and it translates to “speaker of mysteries.” Although the secrets of the Mysteries are long lost to us, we do know it was said that whoever participated in the Eleusinian Mysteries no longer feared death.
Thus, The Hierophant offers profound knowledge of life and death. At his feet are the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as two priests kneeling, one wearing the roses of passion, devotion, and the heart; the other cloaked in the white lilies of sacrifice, intellect, and purity. They represent the two paths to eternal reward: love and knowledge.
His throne is between two columns that may remind us of those of the High Priestess. But, according to Tarot experts Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, his columns are connected to Osiris, the Egyptian God whose own death and rebirth embody the process of initiation itself.
Thus The Hierophant is the instructor and guide for the initiate, and the interpreter of secret or esoteric knowledge.
Teacher, Adept, Authority
Because he is such a fresh, dynamic force on the world stage, I would keep an eye on Pope Francis this week. But in today’s world, The Hierophant can represent any formal religious or educational system.
And beyond religion alone, he may also represent other complex professional skills and expertise, particularly those that require years of formal study, like medicine, law, and technology. And of course, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysics!
The Hierophant also symbolizes the power of our social institutions, and the codification of our morality and behavior. What issues around these matters might be coming up for you this week?
While we may chafe at the idea of a hierarchical system that proscribes right and wrong, or that apportions our mystical knowledge, these institutions were created with good intentions, as well as with our permission.
For instance, in Buddhist traditions, spiritual discipline is of utmost importance. It includes many techniques for mental cultivation, either autonomously or under the guidance of a spiritual teacher.
The truth is, most people feel they have neither the time, nor the inclination to engage with the Divine from scratch. Few are prepared to directly undergo the extremes, rigors, even dangers, of personal vision-questing and life-altering transformation.
Yet we hunger for that intimate connection to Source. So perhaps it is time to increase your emphasis on spiritual discipline, structure, or investigate an ancestral lineage of wisdom. What teachings are calling to you?
The Hierophant offers the rewards of group experiences: spiritual gatherings, as well as clubs, teams, and our social institutions. He is the one who supports, preserves, and interprets the lessons of humanity into patterns and systems of behavior that serve the greater good.
So if you are a spiritual or knowledge seeker, you might find more success by following a prescribed program or path. Perhaps a formal initiation lies ahead, wherein you are challenged to surrender in faith to a teacher or guide.
Or perhaps you, yourself, are being called into service as that guide, leader, or teacher.
Trusting or Turning Away?
Also this week, pay attention to the advice offered from experts. We can’t know everything about everything. And trusting random information found on the Internet, not knowing the background or experience of the source can also lead to problems. Such difficulties can be exacerbated by the potential for screw-ups that Mercury retrograde brings.
Who do you rely on, to translate esoteric data into information that you can use? Who do you consider a trusted elder? Upon what criteria do you judge this?
Listen with a careful, but open mind to those whose proficiency you need — the doctors, attorneys, politicians, pundits, technical support, financial experts, and even Tarot readers. That’s what we’re here for.
The Hierophant does not demand blind, mindless obedience. Yet we are in trouble when we ignore the wisdom of our elders. We all need to rely on those whose understanding is greater than our own.
Systems of belief and rules can be powerful, for good or for ill. So how shall we know when to trust our experts and leaders, and when we should turn and find our own way?
By their clarity, knowledge, and devotion to excellence, we will know who offers the guidance we need. Let us choose our teachers, leaders, and counselors, not only for their superb skills, but for their joyful willingness to serve.