V, the Hierophant.
One of my stalker cards.
XIII has three additional names printed on each card in addition to English. the German is ‘der Hierophant’ — not very different. French, ‘le Pape’, the Pope, a carryover from the older deck traditions. But the Spanish is ‘el Sumo Sacerdote’, which my Latin tells me means something along the lines of ‘the Supreme Priest’ or ‘the High Priest’. (Just checked: I was right.)
I personally really like the High Priest as a title for this card. It’s two nice, straight-English words of Germanic origin, which every English-speaker knows, and which convey the sense of the card more easily to the layperson. ‘Hierophant’ is a little inscrutable to the newbie. According to my etymology dictionary, the word is originally from the Greek ‘heirophantēs’, which referred to a person — it’s unclear if they had to be a priest or not — who brought other people into the presence of the holy or sacred. the word seems to have been mostly used for priests, though. ‘Hierophantēs’ itself further originated from a combination of hieros ‘sacred’ and phainein ‘show, reveal’. So, a revealing of the sacred at its most basic.
When the word was adopted into English, it seems to have been switched around to someone who merely interprets esoteric or sacred mysteries, rather than reveals them to the benefit of others. Ultimately, this means the Hierophant may be either inscrutable and hidden, or open and sharing. I don’t think you have to pick one or the other — I think the card is more than capable of conveying either meaning.
XIII’s hierophant looks more closed off and inscrutable at first glance. Ey wears thick, elaborate robes which cover most of eir skin, and some kind of cowl, scarf, or neck protector covers eir face even up to the nose, completely concealing eir mouth as though ey refuses to speak. Eir hands are clasped together before eir breast in self-centering, and ey stands still in a field of fog or mist where nothing else but eir figure can be seen, as though guarding something. Dispassionately and with heavily eyeshadowed eyes ey regards the viewer, most likely the Fool who has ventured into this strange, misty place — or maybe eir eyes are entirely closed in contemplation.
Two skulls protrude from just behind eir shoulders — it’s unclear if they are somehow a part of eir attire or not. From the mouths of these skulls dangle long chains with keys at the ends. Butterflies flitter around the Hierophant’s head and shoulders, one even alighting on a skull. the Hierophant wears a headdress with four lit sticks of incense on it, their red burn the only color on the card, and from either side of this headdress thickets of branches grow out towards the top of the card, leaving sight at either corner and showing no sign of stopping. Perhaps the Hierophant is no longer merely the guardian of some sacred knowledge or secret, but the actual embodiment of it, its means of grounding in the real world.
I have literally only just noticed the vast moon, framing the Hierophant’s head, haloing em. so, the Hierophant knows things of mystery, dark things, things which you may shy away from at first instinct. This card is ominous, making you afraid to approach, but it draws you in nevertheless.
5 is the number of destabilization, a catalyst of change, and the changing midpoint where you question all your assumptions. What the hierophant reveals — if ey reveals it — is meant to destabilize, to make you uncomfortable, to make you think hard and question your presuppositions. the keys to that revelation dangle easily in reach, but you cannot see the keyhole, and the hierophant feels unapproachable and ominous despite eir stillness. the fog makes you uneasy, the way that you cannot see anything else, leaving you with the option: do you, or do you not approach? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the Hierophant intends to give you this catalyst, whether you wish it or not.
the Hierophant is Taurus, earthy, stubborn, rooted. XIII’s Hierophant is certainly rooted, and seems almost immovable. the branches from eir headdress even give em the overall silhouette of some great tree. Taurus is an earth sign, giving the Hierophant an Earth affiliation.
Symbols I Note
Keys: something to be unlocked, reparation of a blockage, entering a new phase or a new place, opening something unknown. But the keys are on chains, and guarded, perhaps. What must you do in order to receive even one?
Skulls: mortality, danger, transformation. the skulls hold the keys — to reach for the keys to your uplifting is to move into danger. This fits with the meaning of five as a catalyst of change, and my own association of skulls with death, and therefore Death, and therefore transformation.
Butterflies: the delicate, light-winged insects normally don’t mean much symbolic to me, but here seem to speak of communion, and of memory, and of esotericism. I think of Monarch butterflies, somehow knowing the exact course they need to fly to migrate south each winter, somehow remembering a mountain that is no longer there and flying around it. They remind me also of spirits and souls, and the way one perches on a skull associated it with Death to me: the Death card in the Morgan-Greer Tarot, owned by one of my friends, shows a butterfly, and Death holding an empty chrysalis.
Branches: the growth from the Hierophant’s headdress, and the way it makes em look more like a tree, all speak to groundedness. the branches themselves are reminiscent of the forest spirit from the film Princess Mononoke, and that makes me think of the way that spirit was such an authority, giving life and healing, and then when deprived of its head, and hurt and angry, all that it touched withered and died.
In any case… this is what I call one of my stalker cards, in that it seems to constantly draw my attention to it whether I like to or not. I wonder about the way this card’s Hierophant figure stands before the moon, and it haloed by it, and the way that I associate both the High Priestess and the Moon with spirituality. The other names of this card in German and Spanish: ‘el Sumo Sacerdote’, ‘der Hohepriester’, both mean ‘the High Priest’ in translation to Spanish. This aligns the card with the spiritual side of things more than the religious side of things for me, if that makes any sense. The apparent free availability of the keys reminds me of the way I’ve been struggling with my spirituality recently, trying to figure out what it even is, and what it means to me. The skulls and butterflies floating around the Hierophant’s shoulders speak to me of seeking a transformation in the intuitive realm, but possibly a painful one. I am unsure if I should step forwards.
Ceremonies, kindness, inspiration, ritualism, guidance, knowledge, revelation, belief, spirituality, wisdom, morality, getting an education, pursuing knowledge, becoming informed, increasing understanding, studying and learning, seeking a deeper meaning, having a belief system, sharing a cultural heritage, learning a religious tradition, identifying a world view, following a discipline, knowing where to put your faith, teaching or guiding others, searching for the truth, asking for guidance, acknowledging the wisdom and experience of others, engaging in ritual, volunteering.
Shadow: conformism, orthodoxy, persecution, servitude, inactivity, lack of conviction, timidity, reservation, captivity to one’s own ideas,following the rules, staying within conventional bounds, adapting to the system, going along with the program, doing what’s Expected, being part of the establishment, using experience as a means of manipulating or misguiding others, being dogmatic, favoring tradition over what is expedient or necessary, going through the motions of empty rituals, concealing or restricting access to wisdom and spirituality.
Rx, according to LWB: coddling, impotence, vulnerability, heterodoxy, renunciation, frailty.
- the Fool: being ‘crazy’ and unorthodox
- the Lovers: personal beliefs
- 2 of Wands: diverging from the crowd, being a pioneer
- 7 of Swords: being a lone wolf
- 2 of Pentacles: being flexible, changing with the times
- the Emperor: following rules
- 8 of Pentacles: learning, studying
- 10 of Pentacles: conforming, following rules, conservative