Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute.
Let generals secretly despair of triumph: killing will be defamed.
Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.
— Leonard Cohen
We receive another card from the Major Arcana this week, pointing to the fact that we are in momentous times. In many Tarot decks, this fifth card of the Major Arcana is called the High Priest or the Pope. But, despite its recognizable image, Arthur Waite rejected calling this card the Pope, because he felt that it was too narrow an interpretation, specific to only the Roman Catholic faith. An ancient term that refers to the priest of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, the Hierophant is a speaker of mysteries, the interpreter of secret or esoteric knowledge.
In today’s world, he can represent any formal religious or educational system, particularly those whose knowledge is not available to the ordinary layman, such as medicine, the law, or highly technical areas. He also may refer to the power of our social institutions, and the codification of our behavior.
Tarot author and expert Rachel Pollack notes that many in our independent-minded culture would agree with Carl Jung’s warning that religion can easily become a barrier against our direct experience of God. We may chafe at the idea of an institutional system serving us our mystical knowledge second-hand. But these institutions were created with good intentions as well as our permission. The truth is, most people believe they have neither the time, nor the inclination to personally undergo the sometimes terrifying, often life-shattering encounters with Mystery.
I can’t help but think of how this very week Hillary Clinton faces what many are calling her last stand — she must win in Ohio and Texas if her campaign is to remain viable. The Hierophant seems to be exactly how she differs from Barack Obama, for she is relying heavily on her many years of experience and inside knowledge.
With this week’s Hierophant, lessons await. Perhaps you are in need of more discipline, structure, or an ancestral lineage of wisdom. The Hierophant offers the rewards of group experiences: spiritual groups, 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.
You now may find more success by following a prescribed program or by bowing to tradition. We all have to rely on teachers and experts sometimes, and you may encounter someone whose credentials are impressive indeed. This may be the time to find a mentor who can guide you to a new level of expertise. Perhaps you will be given the chance to be taught the inner workings of some field of knowledge that is important to you.
The formality of rituals, groups, and institutions are important and very natural to humans. Choose wisely when to give your trust to the expert or guru, and when to follow your solitary path, finding your own way. In all cases, may your journey be blessed!