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
As 2021 at last gets well and truly underway, for better or worse, we find ourselves navigating through profound change that is, without a doubt, a turning point of history.
And stepping up into these tumultuous, revolutionary times comes a Tarot card that invokes our higher wisdom, our steadfast faith, and our “better angels.”
Every year has a “personality” that corresponds to the Tarot’s Major Arcana (the trumps). By adding 2+0+2+1, you get 5, which is the number of The Hierophant Major Arcana card.
(Of course, there are many cultures who number their years differently, but for our purposes, we will stick with the generally accepted Western dates.)
So as the influence of the 2020 Emperor Year ends, we now enter the realm of The Hierophant.
While he is the powerful authority figure at work in the physical world, one of The Hierophant’s gifts is to integrate, codify, and create structures of service within the context of community.
The Hierophant represents the High Priest, the most exalted human go-between and intermediary between the Divine and society.
The Turning of the Age
If you follow astrology, you may be aware that we have taken a dramatic step from the Piscean to Aquarian age.
As you may know, the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction on the Winter Solstice last month was recognized as a Great Mutation, since the two planets are the Great Chronocrators – cosmic timekeepers according to traditional astrology. This rare event heralds a modern day Renaissance, according to this fascinating in-depth article by my friend, astrologer Elisabeth Grace.
Meantime, we are undergoing a revolutionary meltdown of our old institutional forms of government, religion, and finance, thanks to the ongoing Pluto in Capricorn influence, as well as the stirrings of America’s Pluto return.
The exact conjunction will take place on February 20, 2022, according to the Sibly chart that recognizes America’s “birth” as July 4, 1776, at 5:10pm, in Philadelphia, PA.
(Obviously, the First Nations had been living here long before this “birth,” but most astrologers use this because it was when the founding document was signed that decreed this as a sovereign nation, naming the country we live in today).
With only a little over a year to go, we are already feeling the rolling waves of Plutonic transformation. As astrologer Fredrick Woodruff writes, “a Pluto return .. demands exorbitant repayment, especially when configured, as the planet is, in the United State’s second house of accrued wealth, power and ownership.”
At the Crossroads
As conscious Earth stewards, it is obvious to everyone reading this that business as usual is not sustainable and has imperiled us at an existential level. Even more than the horrors of the pandemic, global climate change, population stress, wildlife extinction, dubious food safety, and habitat loss for all species are reaching a point of no return, the results of which will shape the reality of life on our planet for generations to come.
After what (one hopes!) was the failed, final effort to preserve the centuries-old systems of oligarchy and patriarchy, ready or not, the turning of the aeon is upon us.
Those who study the holistic interweaving between politics, economics, and the environment can clearly see that if the human species is to survive, the old Age of Empire we have endured in one form or another for the past 5,000 years must give way to a cooperative “Age of Earth Community,” as visionary David Korten calls it.
For decades, experts have sounded the alarms, but as you know, science, reason, and logical, analytical decision-making has been out of vogue lately, and even sabotaged at the highest levels. Scholarship and credentialed knowledge have been doggedly dismissed and even ridiculed.
Thus, we now face what President Joe Biden has named the six most important issues ahead:
- The COVID-19 Pandemic
- Climate Change
- Growing inequality
- America’s Global Standing
- Attack on Truth and Democracy
Other than the fifth issue, which is naturally confined to the United States, there is a vast and diverse group of people who would agree with this assessment.
From religious and esoteric practitioners, to indigenous leaders, to scholarly scientific groups, there is no doubt we are at a profoundly challenging crossroads.
There is a growing consensus that humanity and much of the biosphere on Mother Earth have reached, or even moved beyond, the tipping point of irrevocable, cataclysmic change. There are those who are warning that the “Sixth Mass Extinction” is underway.
And, it turns out, those very practitioners, elders, experts, and scientists are precisely the Hierophants of our world, for it is the Hierophant who acts as the expert, and is the highest authority, acting on behalf of the good of humanity.
But… The Pope?
In many older Tarot decks, the fifth trump card (I am learning to use that word again) is named and illustrated explicitly as “The Pope,” head of the Roman Catholic Church.
We must remember that at the time that the Tarot was first created, about a century before the Reformation began, the Pope was not just the highest spiritual authority in Christendom, he was also a temporal commander of armies and land. He was, in fact, the most powerful man in Europe. Every Emperor bowed to him, and only by his leave were they crowned and recognized. His word was absolute, beyond question or reproach, upon pain of death.
But, Popes have not been the only translators and messengers between the Gods and humanity. So, thanks to the late 18th century essays of Antoine Court de Gébelin, who was the first to ascribe esoteric meanings to the Tarot, this card was dubbed The Hierophant, in reference to a priesthood far older than the Bishops of Rome.
The word hierophant comes from Ancient Greece, where it was constructed from the combination of ta hiera, “the holy,” and phainein, ” to show.” It was the title given to the high priests of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the ancient festival renowned for its many days of secret rites and mysteries.
It was the hierophantes who granted initiation to the postulants, hence The Hierophant is one who bestows upon the seeker the most sacred mysteries and arcane principles.
Guardian of Tradition and Knowledge
Beyond the obvious importance of the Pope to the world’s millions of Roman Catholics, to whom else is this sort of figure actually relevant? And what does it mean for this archetypal energy to infuse this crucial year of change?
Like de Gébelin, Arthur Waite, mastermind of the Waite-Smith Tarot, also rejected calling this card the Pope, because he felt that it was too narrow an interpretation, specific to only the Roman Catholic faith.
Thus, Pamela Colman Smith’s illustration notwithstanding, The Hierophant of the Waite-Smith Tarot extends well past Christian beliefs, and is a guardian energy that is accessible to all.
In fact, it is my belief that his lessons are exactly right for what our new President Biden has characterized in his inaugural speech as our time of testing.
The Hierophant offers expertise, wisdom, and leadership that can only come from a structured lineage of tradition and knowledge handed down.
In tomorrow’s post, we’ll take a closer look at what this means.