The Hierophant

The world is a fascinating place. The teacher introduces the young lady and her curious cat to the wonders around her, approaching all life with with love and respect.
Tarot of the Sweet Twilight LWB.

The world really is a fascinating place and, in this modern age, when we are born it is generally our parents who introduce us to some of the wonders around us. Unfortunately this is not always done with love and respect and the results can be crippling. Of course, copious texts have been put together documenting the impact of our environment, the culture we are born into and the influence of the ‘introductions’ we have been provided with. This is not the place to dredge over these.

Perhaps not surprisingly there comes a point in many lives when individuals seeks more wisdom and they set out to meet a teacher and mentor to guide them, to help them reframe some of the beliefs that have been embedded into them. In his groundbreaking ‘It Didn’t Start With You’ Mark Wolynn shares his story and describes a lengthy period of soul searching after vision in his left eye began to disappear. He read books, studied with teacher who had written them, joined training programs, chanted with gurus, meditated for hours, brewed herbs and battled fierce toxins that he imagined had invaded his tissues and spent “seventy-two-hours, three days and nights blindfolded and ear plugged, meditating on a small cushion”.

Rather than going to these lengths an alternative is to seek counsel and mentorship with a Hierophant in one of your tarot decks. Of course, given that Tarot artists do have the freedom to depict the archetypes as they see them, the choice of Hierophants can be bewildering.

Arguably one of the most controversial Hierophant representations, by Mary White in the original Mary El Tarot. Indeed, the controversy led Mary White to present a different view in her 2nd Edition. Both can be seen here!

Perhaps one of the most controversial representations of the Hierophant was presented in the original Mary El Tarot. It takes great courage to take the key hanging around her neck and pass through the portal to face “the subconscious; where the grotesque becomes the sublime and we put away childish things, illusions and ideas” and discover the limits of ourselves.

Debate still rages over the original Mary El Hierophant (seen on the left) and her replacement. As one of my followers on Instagram pointed out, one Hierophant seems overwhelmed with the responsibility of feeding children while the other is overwhelmed with devotion. In her mind neither showed much light or sweetness. But then Mary White was making it clear that it is not easy to go within.

If you want to learn more about Mary White’s Hierophants, Sanskrit Blue has an  in-depth video examination of the first and second edition cards from the Mary-el tarot. This, for fans of Marie White, is part of a longer series in which she examines the Mary-el Tarot. Her intention is to make the deck more accessible, while deepening the connection to it.

Personally, at least for now, I am not inclined to seek counsel with either of these Hierophants. I am happy to meet with the less confronting teachers like those presented in the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight, The Mythic Tarot and the Shadowlands Tarot. I’ll save the Mary El Hierophants for when I am feeling a bit stronger.

Divinatory Meanings: Ritualism, Mercy, Humility, Kindness, Patience, Inspiration, Teacher, Mentor

In the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight the first thing the Fool and I have to come to terms with is that we appear to have entered a subterranean world, finding ourselves on an ocean floor with fish shoaling above the Hierophant. The Hierophant is sitting on a rock, communing with a young lady and her cat who has all the appearance of a character you would find in an Alice in Wonderland production.

Untrimmed strands of the Hierophants vast beard float in the water around him and he is dressed in simple apparel. He is not wearing any of the regalia so many Hierophants wear to signify their religious affiliation.

I notice the star on his left cheek and wonder about its significance. Stars are often regarded as protective symbols and can represent distant divine force or energy. As a general rule Star symbols most commonly represent something good and positive. In contemporary art, design and the modern world in general,  the star is widely used as a symbol of something beautiful, good and positive

The Fool and I stand back while the young lady listens to the Hierophant telling stories about the wonders of this world. It makes me think of storytellers in Indigenous cultures. Their storytelling is firmly grounded in oral tradition and history.

Indigenous storytelling is a way to instill a knowledge of the mind, body, and soul in connection to the earth through experienced and trusted “knowledge keepers.” In fact, in many Indigenous cultures storytellers must be trained, apprenticed, and given the right to share knowledge through these stories.  The life lessons brought about are essential for these peoples to make sense of the world and to teach about values, history, significant events, relationships, cultural beliefs, and sacred stories.

Oral storytelling is a valuable form of human expression probably as old as humankind itself. A common theme in Indigenous storytelling is the importance of land and animal preservation so it is not surprising that we find this Hierophant in an ocean setting surrounded by schools of fish and other sea life. I perceive him to be like a performance artist who works to keep traditions alive. His stories provide much more than mere entertainment – they are used as lessons and provide a moral that will help guide people through their lives.

We are happy to wait to have an audience with the Hierophant. I feel safe in his presence!

Consider these possible activities

  • Seek out the Hierophant in each of the decks you own and compare and contrast the messages that the artists provide in their companion texts.
  • Engage in active imagination and dialogue with your favourite Hierophant. Ask those hard questions! Who knows what may emerge?
  • Many communities had “memorisers” whose role was to memorise history, witness and memorise current events (including what happened, who attended, even what key figures wore), and identify and train up young people to become memoriser. In your journal carefully memorise the events of 2020 making sure to include as much detail as possible.
  • Certain stories are much more than mere entertainment – they are used as lessons and provide a moral, through the form of a traditional belief, that will help guide people through their lives. Create a story which you believe needs to be passed on.