It is one of the gifts of great spiritual teachers to make things simple. It is one of the gifts of their followers to complicate them again. Often we need to scrape away the accumulated complications of a master’s message in order to hear the kernel of what they said.
It’s going to be an incredibly power-charged week, my friends. Featuring a New Moon, the start of a particularly spacey Mercury retrograde, Uranus changing signs, and even more, it’s no surprise we are joined by one of the heavy-weights of the Tarot. 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 judgmental, 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 and the name used in older decks, 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. It translates to “speaker of mysteries.”
This priest was the translator and representative that offered the word of the Gods in ways the populace would obey and understand.
Although the secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries are long lost to us, many ancient records and historians have agreed that whoever participated in them no longer feared death.
One of the most noticeable features of the Waite-Smith Hierophant is his crown. In their book The Secret Language of the Tarot (a must-have, in my opinion, for all serious Tarot people), Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone note that this papal tiara consists of three gold diadems, “signifying divinely sanctioned rule over three kingdoms…” and which may also be a reference to the three initiatory degrees of Masonry. His three-tiered cross is similarly symbolic.
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. You may recall from week before last’s Ace, the lily and rose motif is one that crops up frequently in the R-W-S deck. Here, 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 the Amberstones, 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 keeper and dispenser of the most profound secrets of life and death. He is an instructor and guide for the initiate, and the interpreter of non-ordinary knowledge.
Teacher. Authority. Adept.
In today’s world, the Hierophant can represent any formal religious or educational system.
His counterpart, the Emperor, represents the highest authority of temporal power, while the Hierophant betokens the utmost spiritual leader. And, because this has been the way of the world in most places for over 3,000 years, both are traditionally masculine forms.
By the way, “hierarchy,” (which comes from the same root as Hierophant and is why I prefer the “high‘-roh-font” pronunciation over “heer‘-oh-font”), is not an interchangeable term with “patriarchy.”
Hierarchies are a top-down, graded or ranked kind of power structure. A patriarchy is a top-down power structure that is male dominated, and rigged to stay that way, with men holding the most influential positions. As it happens, in our culture most hierarchies are patriarchal.
We may chafe at the idea of the “power-over” hierarchical system that determines right and wrong, or that apportions our mystical knowledge. But these institutions were created with some wisdom about human nature, and, up until recently at least, 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.
And, as mentioned, the same is true for many ceremonial and magickal traditions, particularly those that require initiatory degrees that certify one’s skills, in stages from novice to adept.
Having a traditional path is helpful because 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 at the same time, we all hunger for that intimate connection to Source.
The Hierophant is the go-between that acts as a spiritual liaison. Whether he is a bishop, a sensei, a shaman, or a guru, his power is based on a traditional lineage that precedes him, and that is expected to continue beyond any one individual lifetime. He stands on ceremony, which can be conservative, yes, but also a deep comfort in times of stress.
He may also represent other complex professional skills and expertise, particularly those that come with special lingo and years of formal study, like medicine, science, law, or technology.
The Hierophant also symbolizes the power of our social institutions, and the codification of our behavior. He builds the social structures that establish moral behavior. Thus, he also may represent professionals specializing in education, counseling, philosophy, and sociology.
Mercury—which in the language of astrology refers to mindset, travel and communication—will appear to move backward through the sky between March 5th and March 28th. It’s not really moving backward, but that is how it looks from our perspective here on Spaceship Earth. Mercury goes retrograde 3-4 times each year, for a period of 22 days.
On the first of its three retrogrades of 2019, Mercury starts at 29 degrees of Pisces. Avid Readers will instantly recall that 29 Pisces is closerthanthis to 0 degrees Aries, a.k.a. the Aries Point. Instantly — because you have been reading this forecast long enough to retain Certain Important Things — you will recall that a planet near the Aries Point demands attention.
In the case of Mercury, we thus anticipate that anything symbolized by Mercury (mindset, communication, travel, commerce) is more likely to be prominent at this time (watch the headlines).
But what kind of communication, ideas, etc? In Pisces, Mercury is not interested in thinking as much as it is interested in believing. That is the Pisces mantra: I BELIEVE. Who cares if it defies logic and reason?
Pisces feels it — and believes it. And feelings can’t be argued. They are as valid as any hardcore fact. In the realm of feelings, truth is subjective.
Our beliefs, especially what is or is not to be believed and then adhered to, is vital to the Hierophant’s job description.
Meantime, on Wednesday, just hours before the New Moon of Pisces arrives, Uranus changes signs, leaving Aries for Taurus. This shift is where we may most clearly see our Hierophant pull focus, especially since it’s big news when the giant, outer planets move into a new sign. Uranus changes signs every seven years or so (depending on its occasional retrograde forays).
As astrologer Judy Joyce tells us:
Uranus is the planet of change and instability, Uranus shakes us up and wakes us up.
Taurus is a practical down-to-earth sign that values stability, security and resists change by digging in and refusing to budge.
This suggests that over the next seven years, some things we thought were secure and solid will become unstable and go through surprising, sudden and disrupting changes. The changes will occur in the areas ruled by Taurus: the economy, banks, investments, material possessions, natural resources, the land, food production and nature in general.
Taurus is the “earthiest” earth sign and has a deep connection to Mother Earth.
Uranus moved briefly into Taurus from May 15 to November 6 last year, but then retrograded back to individualistic Aries. With Wednesday’s ingress, it will stay in the sign of the bull until 2025, when it leaves for Gemini (although it will return for a Taurean retrograde encore from Nov. 2025-April 2026).
As mentioned, the Hierophant is ruled by the sign of Taurus. Thus, the Hierophant is not fond of revolution and change, because he represents the stability of generations of knowledge and tradition. But the challenges by Uranus will reveal that fundamental changes to our social institutions, mainstream religions, and cultural customs are already here.
Meantime, this New Moon in beautiful, dreamy Pisces offers a new beginning at the tail end of the astrological year. Annie Heese explains:
This New Moon is especially creative and imaginative with its conjunction to Neptune, square to Jupiter, and sextile to Mars. We are likely to feel very inspired, and this New Moon can motivate us to take a leap of faith, but we also check in with reality with Saturn’s sextile to the lunation.
It also occurs shortly after Mercury stationed and turned retrograde and Uranus entered Taurus, and some instability or lack of clear judgment is likely now.
With the heightened potential for confusion, disruption, and Uranus revolutions, take a hint from the Hierophant, and keep your feet firmly on Mother Earth.
It is also notable that the Hierophant’s visit occurs at the outset of Lent. This is the most solemn season of the Christian liturgical year. It is when, after the revelries of Carnival, devout Christians practice approximately six weeks of renunciation, penitence, and purification. Starting with this Ash Wednesday’s rites, this period leads to the observance of the death and resurrection of their Messiah.
As if by divine timing, the Hierophant gives his blessing.
Teacher and Leader
For others of us, a month has passed since our dedications at Imbolc. How might the Hierophant offer you guidance to strengthen or deepen your intentions?
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 so that patterns and systems of behavior will serve the greater good.
Thus, you could make new discoveries by joining a group of like-minded souls, or 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.
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 mentors, leaders, and counselors, not only for their superb skills, but for their joyful willingness to serve.