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Stop Hating on the Hierophant

Hierophant card Tarot
hierophant tarot

Eeek! It’s the patriarchy!


n one week, I had two people make faces when the Hierophant card came up in conversation. Two. In one week.

Steps had to be taken.

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The Hierophant is one of “those” Tarot cards. For many readers, it represents tradition, the patriarchy, the power, the MAN. And if you’re a free-spirit type, those aren’t  exactly attributes to rock your world.

And by Buddha, based on the question or layout or alignment of the stars, the Hierophant could mean any or all of those things.

We can throw the bones, interpret the symbols, and come up with all sorts of interpretations for this card. But the word “Hierophant” is printed on the base of that card on possibly our most famous deck, the Rider-Waite-(Smith). And it’s there for a reason.

It means something.

Look the word up, and you’ll find it’s derived from the Greek, and means a person who reveals and/or interprets the sacred. That’s it. A hierophant could be anyone, a friend, a priest, a shaman, even a child who quite by accident reveals a moment of sacred time. In ancient Greece, the hierophant was the high priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries.


Mircea Eliade, that great explorer of symbols and the sacred, liked the word so much he coined a new version of it: hierophany, meaning a manifestation of the sacred.

Looked at this way, the Hierophant makes a nice pairing with the High Priestess. If she teases us with the mystery of the sacred, the Hierophant shows us the way. If she’s the sacred mystery, he’s the sacred manifestation. Both have their place for the spiritual seeker.

Of course, other decks give the card other names. The Pope. The High Priest. The Spiritual Father. And yes, it’s tough to get away from Papal patriarchal imagery with a Pope card. But that’s why “Hierophant” is such a great name. It goes beyond religion and social structures and straight to the sacred meaning of things.

About the Author

Kirsten Weiss is the author of The Hoodoo Detective, book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels.

Other books in the Riga Hayworth series of urban fantasies include: The Metaphysical DetectiveThe Alchemical DetectiveThe Shamanic DetectiveThe Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. Kirsten is also the author of Steam and Sensibility and Of Mice and Mechanicals, steampunk novels of magick and suspense.


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