Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Celebrating the Year of the Hierophant with Caitlín Matthews

Every January for the last 12 years or so, I have written an essay discussing the Tarot Year, which is based on the Major Arcana card that corresponds to the one- or two-digit number that we get when we add up (and sometimes reduce) the digits of the year.

If you recall from my series of posts or my booklet I wrote, last year (2011, which reduces to 4 from 2+0+1+1 ) was the Year of the Emperor.  In 2012, we come to what Mary K. Greer calls the second part of the power and authority cycle – the Year of the Hierophant (2+0+1+2=5).

I have written lots about him in the past, and of course, he was the actual Card of the Week last week, as if personally shepherding us to New Year’s Day.

But this year, I would like to offer you the majestic insights of author, bardic scholar, and seer, Caitlín Matthews regarding this complex figure of the Tarot. I can’t imagine writing (or finding!) a better guide to him than what she wrote last Summer.

Caitlín has given me her kind permission to re-post this from her blog, Soundings. While she refers to the physical appearance of the Hierophant as he is found in her powerful Arthurian Tarot, I believe you can relate her wisdom to any deck you may prefer. Please note that I’ve done a little cosmetic (only!) tweaking so that her post is a bit easier to read in my site’s format.

This is Part One, with Part Two coming Thursday (after Wordless Wednesday).  The second part includes a wonderful spread for working with The Hierophant’s guidance as we enter 2012.  With heart-felt gratitude to Caitlín. Blessed be! ~  Beth

SHOWING FORTH THE STORY: Belief, Tradition, Prophecy and the Hierophant
Part One

by Caitlín Matthews

The Hierophant is one who shows forth what is holy. He is primarily associated with the flow and transmission of tradition, a concept that troubles a few in our free-thinking times. Let’s remember that ‘tradition’ derives from the latin traditio or ‘I hand over.’ Tradition is not fixed, but is an ever-flowing wisdom in every generation.

The ancient Tarots make this card a Pope, while the more recent ones return to an older tradition of the hierophants of the Greek Mysteries.  Both Pope and Hierophant draw upon earlier traditions and represent important concepts. Drawing upon pre-Christian Roman religion, the Pope is called the pontiff or bridge who, in his own person, bridges this world and the other.

The ancient Mystery Religions were largely about the revelation of myth through dramatic representation or sacred ritual.  This is still an important part of our divinatory profession whereby the Tarot-reader bridges the everyday and the deep worlds for the client, through the medium of the cards’ story.

The stories that we tell and the ones we believe in, guide our souls.

This is why, when I created the Arthurian Tarot, the Hierophant card depicts the Welsh poet, Taliesin, relating his own story of intitiation and transformation to the two children hearing him.  Over the back of his bardic chair and falling through his fingers is the golden chain of the story that helps hearers make and keep their own links with the holy and mythic.

For me, this concept of sacred connection has been central to my life. I would argue that, rather than representing a fixed and inflexible dogma (which I would associate more with its reversed meaning), the Hierophant stands for those traditional life-guiding myths and stories that uphold our life.

When the Hierophant speaks ex cathedra, in him are met both the authority of experience and the authenticity of living from that deep knowing.

We live in times where the river of tradition has flowed out from religion into spirituality. Tradition finds its own level in every generation, flowing wherever we can catch its precious drops. We learn from its stories and myths and we make them bridges that enable us to live effectively: our belief in them captures our imagination, so that we can enact all the gifts we’ve been given in this life.

But there are some who cannot feel safe unless their religion or belief becomes a perimeter fence that separates them from the world: the fundamentalist mentality is fearful, clinging to known constructs and fending off any changes.

This is where tradition becomes rigid concrete rather than a river that flows and finds new channels. Traditional and holy precepts can become mandatory and imprisoning under such a régime. The original sacred sayings freeze-dry into dogmas. This is where the Hierophant becomes dictator and spiritual tyrant.

There are also those who have little or no purchase on any tradition.  Rather than finding the tree of tradition, they cling to the wind-blown twigs and leaves of the –isms, -ologies, and self-help theories, the very tattered remnants of tradition that bear little relationship to the tree on which they once grew.

For them, every little movement is a sacred omen and anyone who sounds authoritative is someone to follow, as we saw when the US preacher Harold Camping’s belief that the world would end on 21 May 2011 (now ‘postponed’ till 21 October 2011!) [and having also missed that deadline.. – B.], caused believers to imagine they would ‘enter the rapture.’

Many believed implicitly in Camping, selling their goods or sending their children’s education money to his campaign funds. False prophets and those voices that whisper ignorant stories into our ears are also part of the reversed Hierophant who undercut our primal, sacred belonging and replace it with fear.

In our own field of operations, we should be aware of how much 2012 mania is severely affecting people, making them panicky as Mayan Prophecies and the progress of a long star-cycle comes to its end and starting point again.When Christian millennial prophecies join up with esoteric prophecy and the astrological observations of an ancient people, we have an explosive mix.

This came home to us recently when my husband, John Matthews, who has just sold The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus, overheard one of his publishers remark: ‘Didn’t Nostradamus prophecy the end of the world in 2012? We should aim to get it published as early as we can!!!!’

This kind of consciousness, based on fear-mongering is not what we want to foster, we assure you! John immediately pointed out that his new Tarot wasn’t about doomsday scenarios but how to live wisely and with insight all the years of our life.

Such literal-mindedness is a real fact of our times, as many lose their links with the holy bridge that connects us with the other side of reality. We really need the wise voice of the upright Hierophant, reminding us of the life-guiding myths and telling us once more the saving stories that uphold and affirm our life-purpose.

The myths and stories that guide our souls enable us to have flexible imaginations, helping us find our way out of the unhappy corners that the loss of resourceful stories pastes us into, and showing us the wider wholeness in which we live.

[ To be continued Thursday, Jan. 5…]

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  • January 3, 2012, 2:36 pm Aphrodisiastes Le Fay

    Beth Owl´s Daughter is fabulous.

    Caitlín Matthews is brilliant.

    Beth Owl´s Daughter + Caitlín Matthews + Tarot = Bliss, bliss, bliss.

  • January 4, 2012, 9:05 am Maria

    This is great, Beth! Thanks for sharing it! I look forward to reading Part 2.