Tarot: The Hierophant

The Hierophant

Tarot: The Hierophant

The Hierophant is both the teacher and the lesson. The fifth card of the Major Arcana can be represented by a shaman, guru, mentor, or an ecclesiastical figure. These are figures that illuminate the importance of sharing a common spiritual practice. They are symbols of ancestral wisdom and shared beliefs. When this card appears, it is time to consider the benefit of connecting to your community, rather than identifying with it in name only. The Hierophant reminds you that you are part of a much larger cultural story. Do not discount the wisdom and the lessons that have been learned by those who came before you.

This spiritual guide ask to unify your beliefs and actions. Approach your daily life as you would any sacred practice, with integrity and commitment. Think about how you can responsibly guide others to wisdom. Connecting with the energy of The Hierophant does not require you to be bound to a particular religion. This card is more concerned with how your esoteric knowledge translates to the secular world. It’s time to create meaningful ways to a have an everyday relationship with the divine.

The Hierophant Reversed

The Star card reversed in tarot indicates a period of doubt, pessimism, or a lack of hope. It suggests that you may be feeling disconnected from your dreams and aspirations. It can also signify delays or setbacks in achieving your goals. Reversed, this card urges you to rediscover your optimism and trust in the future. It’s a reminder that, even in challenging times, you can find the inner strength to keep pursuing your dreams and desires.


“I honor tradition and respect the teachings of my ancestors, drawing strength and wisdom from their guidance as walk my own unique path of self-discovery.”

Major Arcana Symbolism

Tarot Card NameThe Hierophant
Traditional Card ImageryA man in religious attire
Traditional SymbolismTradition, cultural wisdom, living according to your beliefs, morals, education, group identity, organized religion, status quo, ethical standards, social mores, orthodoxy, spiritual genealogy, values, spiritual advisor or teacher, theosophy, initiation onto a spiritual path, mentor, social conventions, ancestral knowledge, spiritual translator, structured worship, formal ideology, the old ways
Card NumberV, 5
Classical ElementEarth
Influencing ElementAir
Traditional Upright MeaningSpiritual teachings, Honoring your ancestral knowledge, well-established procedure, actions fueled by spiritual or religious beliefs, manifestation of the sacred in the physical world, conformity, connecting to your past, tradition, adherence to structured rituals of worship, institutions, walking the talk, rites, fundamentalism, conventionality
Traditional Reversed MeaningPersonal beliefs, unconventional lifestyle and beliefs, new methods, repression or exploitation due to an abuse of power, freedom, rebellion, peer pressure, subversiveness, challenging social conventions, cut off from ancestral wisdom, unwanted commitments, misunderstood by others, feeling restricted, misalignment of values, excessive judgment from others, forced conformity, intolerance
Archetype In NatureMasculine (Yang) directed toward order, separated from nature
Astrological CorrespondenceTaurus, Venus
Yes or NoMaybe (Ask a wise mentor)
Crystals and StonesEmerald, Olivine, Moldavite, Fluorite, Peridot, Aventurine, Morganite, Zoisite, Bloodstone, Rose Quartz, Chrysolite, Pink Calcite, Jade, Prehnite, Pink Spinel, Malachite, Unakite, Rhodonite
Tarot: The Hierophant

Tarot Through the Ages

Tarot was originally invented as a card game in the mid 15th century. French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as “Etteilla”, was the first to assign divinatory meanings to the cards in the late 1700s. Many others have followed in his footsteps, bringing their own unique interpretation of the cards. In our exploration of the Tarot, we weave together contemporary insights with the timeless wisdom of the past. This blending of past and present perspectives offers a more holistic view, allowing us to connect with the evolving narrative and lineage of wisdom that has shaped our understanding of each card over time. Let’s dive into some of these historical interpretations…

Allegory of The Hierophant

I saw the great Master in the Temple. He was siting on a golden throne set upon a purple platform, and he wore the robe of a high priest with a golden tiara. He held a golden eight-pointed cross, and lying at his feet were two crossed keys. Two initiates bowed before him and to them he spoke:

“Seek the Path, do not seek attainment, Seek for the Path within yourself.

“Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it, or read it in books. Look for the truth in yourself, not without yourself.

“Aspire only after the impossible and inaccessible. Expect only that which shall not be.

“Do not hope for Me, — do not look for Me,—do not believe—that I am outside yourself.

“Within your soul build a lofty tower by which you may ascend to Heaven. Do not believe in external miracles, expect miracles only within you. Beware of believing in a mystery of the earth, in a mystery guarded by men; for treasuries which must be guarded are empty. Do not search for a mystery that can be hidden by men. Seek the Mystery within yourself.

“Above all, avoid those towers built in order to preserve the mysteries and to make an ascent to Heaven by stone stairways. And remember that as soon as men build such a tower they begin to dispute about the summit.

“The Path is in yourself, and Truth is in yourself and Mystery is in yourself.”

-The Symbolism of the Tarot by P.D. Ouspensky (1913)


The Hierophant (V)

The Hierophant has also been called The High Priest , Spiritual Father, the Abbot, and the Pope. Its correspondence, the High Priestess, is the Abbess or Mother of the Convent. Both are arbitrary names as the insignia of the figures are clearly papal. It stands to reason that the High Priestess is, and can be only be, the Church to whom Pope and priests are married by the spiritual rite of ordination. I think, however, that in its most primitive form this card did not represent the Roman Pontiff.

The Hierophant card has been commonly name 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.

This card has suffered from woefully mixed meanings. Grand Orient accurately says that the Hierophant is the power of the keys, exoteric orthodox doctrine, and the outer side of the life which leads to the doctrine. He is not, however, the prince of occult doctrine. The Hierophant is rather the sum of all known spiritual learning, in it’s most rigid expression. He also symbolizes all manifestations of the righteous and sacred. 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 religious hierarchy, which reflects a greater hierarchic order. There may be times when the pontiff, or bridge-builder, forgets the significance of his symbolic state of being. This will cause him to act as if he contains, within himself, the total sum of divine understanding. The Hierophant does not symbolize philosophy (except theologically). He does not represent inspiration. Most importantly, this figure does not represent religion itself, although, he is a mode of its expression.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The Hierophant Card Imagery

The Hierophant wears a triple crown and is seated between two pillars. These are not the same pillars of the Temple guarded by the High Priestess. In his left hand he holds a scepter, topped with the triple
cross. 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. The High Priestess makes no such sign. At his feet are the crossed keys, and two ministers in priestly vestments kneel before him.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The Hierophant Meaning

The Hierophant Meaning

The Initiate of the mysteries of Isis is seated between the two columns of the sanctuary. He leans upon a triple cross, and makes the sign of Esoterism with his left hand. The triple Cross represents the penetration of the creative power throughout the Divine, the Intellectual, and the Physical Worlds. This is what causes all the manifestations of universal life to appear.

The two columns carry symbolism. The column on the right represents the Law. The column on the left represents the Liberty to obey and to disobey, the essence of Being. The Initiate wears a tiara. Two crowned men kneel at his feet, one clothed in red, the other in black.

-Modern Translation of The Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

Significations of The Hierophant

In The Divine = The reflex of the Will; Intelligence
In The Human = The reflex of Power; Authority, Religion, Faith
In Nature = The reflex of the soul of the world; The Universal Life

-Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

The Hierophant Card

The Hierophant Card

The Meaning of The Hierophant Card Throughout History

The Tarot deck is a beautiful synthesis of esoteric thought and archetypal imagery. The journey of the deck, shaped by the events and values of each era, has continued to evolve and take on new significance as it adapts to a larger cultural story. Often a tarot card will have a variety of names and meanings. Exploring the historical interpretations of each card will create a deeper understanding of this powerful method for divination and self-discovery.

Various Names for The Hierophant Card

Tarot de Marseille (1650)The Pope
Court de Gébelin (1781)The Lead Hierophant / The High Priest
Etteilla (1783)Male Querrent
Paul Christian (1870)Master of the Arcanes
Golden Dawn (1888)The Magus of the Eternal Gods
Papus (1892)The Pope
Rider-Waite (1910)The Hierophant
Thoth (1943)The Hierophant
The Hierophant Reversed

Card V: The Hierophant
(The Pope)

He is crowned with the papal tiara, and seated between the two pillars of Hermes and of Solomon, with his right hand he makes the sign of esoterism, and with his left he leans upon a staff surmounted by a triple cross. (Before him kneel two ministers.) He is the symbol of Mercy and Beneficence.

Upright: Mercy, Beneficence Kindness, Goodness
Reversed: Over-kindness, weakness, Foolish exercise of generosity

-The Tarot by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (1888)

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

Bring the Wisdom of the Tarot Into Your Life

We have put together a collection of some of our favorite Tarot items. The deep symbolism of the Tarot can be used to access a wellspring of inner wisdom and guidance. This method of divination is also an incredible tool for accessing your own powerful intuition.

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

The Hierophant (V) - The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain
The Hierophant (V) – The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain

This guide by Arthur Edward Waite, the designer of the most widely known Tarot deck and distinguished scholar of the Kabbalah, is the essential Tarot reference. The pictorial key contains a detailed description of each card in the celebrated 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot deck, along with regular and reversed meanings. Contents describe symbols and secret tradition, ancient Celtic methods of divination, and wonderful illustrations of each Tarot card. This book is the perfect complement to old-style fortune telling and also serves to make the Tarot entirely accessible to modern-day readers. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is the classic guide to the Rider-Waite deck and to Tarot symbolism in general.

Crystal Tarot

The Hierophant (V) - Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Hierophant (V) – Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

As rich and complex as life itself, the Crystal Tarot blends the look of stained glass with art nouveau style to gracious effect. The use of patterns within patterns gives depth to the traditional pictures of the Tarot. Influenced by both the Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot decks, this modern Tarot is an exquisite blend of the old and the new. The familiar images are all there, while the details–executed in brilliant and unusual colors–invite viewers to linger, to search, to make sure they miss nothing–an effective trait in a tool of self-examination.

Golden Botticelli Tarot

The Hierophant (V) - Golden Botticelli Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2007 Lo Scarabeo srl, All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Hierophant (V) – Golden Botticelli Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2007 Lo Scarabeo srl, All rights reserved, used by permission.

The great work of this Florentine master enlivens this Golden Botticelli Tarot deck with Renaissance flair and grace. Let Botticelli’s timeless art, reproduced here with gold highlights, take you to new dimensions of nature, beauty, and spirituality.

How will you Harness The Transformative Power of The Tarot?

We invite you to walk into a cosmic narrative in which we are all a unique element in each other’s story. Humanity has long used sacred tools for awakening the soul and illuminating our path toward enlightenment. The Tarot is simply an instrument. These cards amplify your inner wisdom and empower your highest truth.

What aspects of The Tarot can serve you as you walk through your own Mystic Doorway?

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What you have read is only the beginning…

Mystic Doorway is always gaining new insight into the rich symbolism of Tarot. We are looking forward to sharing with you as we continue to expand our knowledge of this divinatory tool. Check back with us soon to see what we’ve added to our Library.