Tuesday 19 August 2014

That Hierophant Chap

The Hierophant can be a tricksy fellow. He often comes up when people talk about a card they dislike or find hard to relate to. I've had an issue with this card myself (particularly this depiction) so wanted to look deeper. Even spellchecker isn't keen. In many decks Arcanum Five is The Pope, which can invite all kinds of associations depending on where you stand in a religious sense, and in the Rider Waite Smith, he still looks all stiff and proper.

We see him raised above a couple of acolytes, bestowing a blessing of sorts. He wears the fancy crown while they are bareheaded. I think it's this appearance of control that people don't like. As someone who has forever questioned authority, that's where my own hackles rise. Do I want to learn the lessons this person has for me? He doesn't look as though he'd listen to me, he'd just spout doctrine.

However, Waite and others did away with the stronger aspects of someone who is the conduit between the populace and God, and renamed him as one who interprets secret knowledge. Now that's more accessible....to a point. In this image though, he still looks rather aloof and in charge of those secrets. Many meanings tell of him standing for conformity, education, rules, society and belief systems. Sounds dull, doesn't he? Even when various meanings go on to speak of the learning of more spiritual things, I can't imagine this fellow and I having much in common. I once read that he could be thought of as the diligent deputy head master working hard behind the scenes, while the headmaster himself (The Emperor?) claims all the glory. Necessary but still dull.

Recently I was studying every little detail in this card and was drawn to his neat feet. Immediately he and I connected in a way we hadn't before. I thought his rather delicate looking slippers would be perfect for a little after service soft shoe shuffle with a glass of sherry. I was musing on these nifty tootsies the other night, when I was reminded of Hercule Poirot's 'mincing, rapid gait'. That's it! That's my Hierophant! Agatha Christie's little Belgian detective.

There are times when we need to turn to someone who knows more than us in a given area. Poirot certainly (and not without vanity) leaves us in no doubt of his knowledge.....but.....he is always hungry for more, and encourages us to share that hunger and enthusiasm. To me the crossed keys beneath The Hierophant signify what is locked as well as what can be opened with the right tools (Poirot's 'little grey cells'). 

We can't expect to know everything, or trust implicitly what a teacher tells us. We can though, use the keys to find out for ourselves. We can open up the past and take what we need from tradition; or open a new door and choose to take (and make) a fresh path.

Perhaps The Hierophant isn't as controlling as first thought? Things can only control us if we give them the power to do so. I often see the number Five as containing both a challenge and the solution for dealing with it. Here then, when I see The Hierophant and begin to tense, I can grab the keys of choice and make my own decisions.

.....and maybe enjoy a soft shoe shuffle with a glass of sherry ...

'Til next time,


The Original Rider Waite Tarot Deck, A E Waite, Pamela Coleman Smith

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