Friday, October 4, 2013

The Hierophant

Today's Samhain's Sirens post is a fun mix of food, spooky craft ideas, and a giveaway of a 9"x7" lined bag (just right for a Tarot deck, says I!)  Pretty isn't it?

Speaking of Tarot, I've been wanting to get back into a daily (or, being honest, as near daily as I can manage) exploration of Tarot.  How that gets defined depends a lot on whim - a look at a particular cards, an examination of a specific deck, a spread here or there...

Today, I pulled out my Housewives Tarot (a deck that never fails to make me smile), and drew a card asking "What is Tarot?"

I drew the Hierophant, which in this deck shows a television set showing a test pattern (something you young'uns might know nothing about - once upon a time, TV stations went off at night, replacing programming with a test pattern, so we'd know they were still properly broadcasting).

The word Hierophant comes from ancient Greek:  ta hiera, "the holy," and phainein, "to show."  It was the title given to the priest who conducted the Eleusian mysteries - the interpreter of religious mysteries.  As such, the answer to "What is Tarot?" is that it is an interpretation of mystery, and a way to come into the presence of the holy.

The Hierophant in general can be a challenging card for a lot of people - in its aspect as "The Pope" - religious authority, and for many that has some negative connotation, borne of unpleasant memories of being told what to do, and what wasn't allowed, on penalty of spiritual punishment.  While Tarot does have much to offer in the way of spiritual guidance, it does not demand adherence or else.  But it does speak with spiritual authority, and for some (myself included) Tarot - like the Pope - is a way to hear and understand the divine, however the reader interprets that. 

In Tarot the Hierophant is also a teacher - specifically institutional teachings - academic studies, universities, classroom settings, as well as teachings that have an established philosophy and  course of study.  Here again, the idea of authority comes into play - while many of us are happy to learn as we like on our own, or through an individual mentor, at some point nearly all of us will find ourselves striving to learn - and to show our work - according to some previously set standards, and that is the Hierophant at work.  In looking at What is Tarot, the Hierophant tells us it is a system of learning.  While intuition is vital in reading Tarot, the cards do contain set concepts.  The symbols have meanings that are applied on purpose, and learning these symbols and meanings, and  the history behind them deepens and enriches one's literacy in the language of Tarot, and greatly expands what the intuition can comprehend.

For me, the Hierophant is also the Story-Teller.  The keeper of our cultural and historical myths, urban legends, historical truths (and "Truths") that inform us of who we are, what we stand for, what matters to us as a community or society.  "What is Tarot?" - Tarot is the Bard the tells us the story of ourselves.

So back to that TV, and why I think it is a brilliant visual interpretation of the Hierophant.  In modern life, TV (and radio, and the Internet) has become the medium through which we, as a society, interpret and understand our stories, learn what we need to know, and for many, a major way through which we experience, interpret and/or explain our spirituality - you are reading this on a blog about spiritual practices online, after all.  In today's world, we don't so much look to the Pope (or other gurus) as the primary conduit through which our understanding of our spiritual cultural heritage is filtered.... but we sure run it through the mass media filter, for better and worse.

Last thought on "What is Tarot" -  that test pattern.  Incoming programming takes a break, and via Tarot, we're able to 'test' what it means, and what might come of it.  We can use Tarot to forecast what might happen next based on what we have already seen, but we do so in a space set apart from the steady flow of input. We take a break to contemplate the future, via Tarot.


  1. Very nice! I love that you asked what Tarot is...and your interpretation is right on the money! I have the Housewives Tarot,'s a fabulous deck! If you like that, you should check out the Zombie Tarot deck...the artwork is similar and it's just a fun deck to work with!

    1. Thank you, Lina! My daughter gave me the Zombie Tarot a few months back - very fun!