5 The Hierophant


The Heirophant divinatory meanings

Dogma, tradition and patriarchal society comes to mind when the Hierophant appears. At its best, he is a benevolent teacher, kindly and understanding. The Papal tradition is the model – and we know they still have not really forgiven Galileo for suggesting that the Earth revolves around the Sun. If you like orderly society, the family unit, the mother at home baking cleaning and nesting while her perfect husband is out earning an honest crust for the school fees, he is perfect. Unfortunately, life ain’t like that. Behind that perfect exterior many sins are hidden. Innovation and experimentation is stifled, for the powers that be know what is best for their flock. When the Hierophant hits the rocks, there is a lack of respect of for authority and tradition. People live in sin rather than tying the knot in church. People seek alternative lifestyles, children accumulate a bewildering number of ‘uncles’, and have no respect for teachers, parents or the police. Hmm, sounds like modern society. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, and that society has always been like this, and these days we are more likely to see the warts.

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An example of an individual Hierophant would be one of those preachers who extols the virtues of the perfect family, screaming abuse at prostitutes and other sinners, for they are destined for Hell… and the money rolls in. Later, he is found in a seedy hotel smoking crack with several hookers, one of whom with apparent transgender issues. Suitably chastened, tears rolling down his cheek, he implores his flock to forgive him for his singular indiscretion.

So, should we see him as the projection of perfection in society when in fact it is rotten underneath the façade?


Image of Hierophant Major tarot card in the Rider-Waite deck
Hierophant – Rider-Waite

He wears the triple crown and is seated between two pillars, but they are not those of the Temple which is guarded by the High Priestess. In his left hand he holds a sceptre terminating in the triple cross, and with his right hand he gives the well-known ecclesiastical sign which is called that of esotericism, distinguishing between the manifest and concealed part of doctrine. It is noticeable in this connexion that the High Priestess makes no sign. At his feet are the crossed keys, and two priestly ministers in albs kneel before him. He has been usually called the Pope, which is a particular application of the more general office that he symbolizes. He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power. The proper meanings of this card have suffered woeful admixture from nearly all hands. Grand Orient says truly that the Hierophant is the power of the keys, exoteric orthodox doctrine, and the outer side of the life which leads to the doctrine; but he is certainly not the prince of occult doctrine, as another commentator has suggested.

He is rather the summa totius theologiæ, when it has passed into the utmost rigidity of expression; but he symbolizes also all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side. As such, he is the channel of grace belonging to the world of institution as distinct from that of Nature, and he is the leader of salvation for the human race at large. He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order; but it may so happen that the pontiff forgets the significance of this his symbolic state and acts as if he contained within his proper measures all that his sign signifies or his symbol seeks to shew forth. He is not, as it has been thought, philosophy-except on the theological side; he is not inspiration; and he is not religion, although he is a mode of its expression.


Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude; by another account, mercy and goodness; inspiration; the man to whom the Querent has recourse.

Reversed meanings

Society, good understanding, concord, over-kindness, weakness.

Book of Thoth: Hierophant

Image of Hierophant in The Book of Thoth

Offer thyself Virgin to the Knowledge and Conversation of thine Holy Guardian Angel.
All else is a snare.

Be thou athlete with the eight limbs of Yoga: for without these thou are not disciplined for any fight.

Stubborn strength, toil, endurance, placidity, manifestation, explanation, teaching, goodness of heart, help from superiors, patience, organization, peace.

Benediction and orthodoxy, for Aleister Crowley this represents the Holy Guardian Angel. All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.

More information

Golden Dawn – Magus of the Eternal Gods

Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.

Mathers: Pope

Mercy, Beneficence, Kindness, Goodness.

Reversed meanings

Over-kindness, Weakness, Foolish exercise of generosity.

Etteilla: Marriage

Union, Joining, Assembling, Bond, Alliance, Chain, Slavery, Financial Straits, Captivity, Servitude.

Marriage reversed meanings

Society, Contacts, Alloy, Blending, Compounding. Peace, Concord, Accord, Harmony, Correct Understanding.

Thierens: V. The Hierophant. Leo.

The sanctifying of the profane (man) by the holy (man) in general, and this fact gave the reason for the other nomination of this card: the pope. Of course it may equally well be called the patriarch. In the masonic lodge it is the R.W.M., the sun in the solar system and the heart in every living body, as also the solar plexus in the etheric body. And as the teaching of St. Paul — and others — has it: from the heart are the issues into life. It is the dynamic centre of every living existence.

5. Le Pape – Paul Foster Case

This card corresponds to the letter Vau, and to the sign Taurus, the attribution being that given in the Book of Formation. In this connection it may {be} of interest to note that the name of the first Pope was Simon, or Simeon, which in Hebrew is “hearing.” Hearing is also attributed to the letter Vau in Qabalah, and Taurus, according to astrology, rules the neck, throat and ears, so that this sign is directly connected with those parts of the human body which establish communication by means of speech. “LE PAPE” means literally “The Father,” and in the technical language of the Qabalah the name “Father” is particularly associated with the idea of Wisdom.

Le Pape meanings

Thus the divinatory meanings of this Key correspond to these fundamental notions: Divine Wisdom; intuition; explanation, teaching. It is also a symbol of occult force voluntarily invoked. Of this the symbol of the pentagram is a reminder.


Mysticism. Theosophy. Esoteric side of all religions.

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Article Name
Hierophant Tarot meanings - teaching, dogma
The Hierophant is a benevolent teacher, kindly and understanding. Dogma, tradition and patriarchal society when the Hierophant appears.

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