Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery.
~ Joseph Campbell
In a bit of truly exquisite timing, our Card of the Week ushering us across the threshold from 2011 to 2012 is also the Card of the Year for 2012. This week, the unusual emphasis on the Majors continues, as we welcome The Hierophant.
If you have been reading my blog (or my newsletter) for a while, you know that one of my favorite aspects of the Tarot is working with the Soul and Personality cards, based on our date of birth.
Just as people have a Soul or Birth Card, every year has a numerology connection to a corresponding card of the Major Arcana (the trumps). Since 2012 is 2+0+1+2=5, 2012 will be the Five – The Hierophant. (Of course, there are many cultures who number their years differently, but for our purposes, we will stick with the generally accepted Western dates.)
I will be writing more next week about this upcoming Hierophant Year, so for now, let’s take a look at how it may impact this week, during which many of us continue with our holiday festivities, vacations, and “time out of time.”
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.
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.
In today’s world, he can represent any formal religious or educational system. He also may represent professional skills and expertise, particularly those that require years of formal study, like medicine, law, and technology.
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 resent 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. The truth is, most people feel they have neither the time, nor the inclination to directly undergo the rigors of personal encounters with Mystery.
Yet we hunger for that connection to the Divine. 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, as you prepare for the coming year?
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.
If you are a spiritual or knowledge seeker, you might find more success by following a prescribed program or by bowing to tradition. Perhaps a formal initiation lies ahead, wherein you are challenged to surrender in faith to a teacher or guide.
Also this week, pay attention to the advice offered from experts. Consider those you rely on, to translate esoteric data into information that you can use: doctors, attorneys, politicians, pundits, technical support, financial experts, and even Tarot readers.
Do you simply take their word on faith? Why or why not? Whose counsel can you seek, especially if you are dealing with complex challenges?
The Hierophant does not demand blind, mindless obedience. But 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 radiance, we may know those who would guide us.