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The Hierophant Meaning – Smith-Waite Centennial

The Major Arcana are back today! The Hierophant has come up as our daily tarot card, suggesting an outcome of order and discipline if you stick to your principles and follow wise teachings.

In more traditional tarot decks, this card is called The Pope. And it's the counterpart of the High Priestess card, which is traditionally known as The Papess. Together, their meaning is often interpreted as two different approaches to wisdom—masculine and feminine (which I don't read much into), intuitive secrets and orderly teachings, self-guided introspection and institutional study. 

The Hierophant major arcana tarot card from the RWS deck. Pictured in an Etruscan ceramic dish with a dark blue background. Detailed card image description in body text.

The Hierophant card in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

In our trusty Smith-Waite Centennial deck, The Hierophant is depicted with all the trappings of Papal authority. We see the Papal tiara with its three tiers of crowns, echoing the three-barred crucifix in The Hierophant's left hand and the three crosses hanging down the centre of the figure's vivid red robes. This triple imagery evokes the Trinity at the heart of Catholic faith, the holy mystery represented by the one God's triple nature as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost or Spirit.

But there is also dual imagery at play in this tarot card. We see The Hierophant's two fingers upraised, perhaps a symbol of an oath to a greater cause or perhaps a pontifical metaphor of the bridge between the material and spiritual worlds. Similarly, the figure is seated between two pillars (exactly like The High Priestess). The meaning of these two pillars is usually interpreted by tarot readers as some variation of law and chaos, discipleship and freedom.

Then there are the two crossed keys in the foreground, forming a fourth cross and underscoring The Hierophant's power to unlock knowledge. There are two more crosses on the figure's white-slippered feet. And finally, there are the two monks or worshippers at the foot of the card. They emphasize that this card is about institutional wisdom and a cause that's much bigger than one individual soul. 

You don't have to figure everything out yourself!

As we saw with The Hanged Man, the Major Arcana or trump suit is all about spirit and matters of the soul. When these cards come up, they represent serious philosophical matters, and they often speak to intensely personal and solitary work.

The Hierophant is a welcome exception. In fortune-telling terms, let it serve as your reminder today that you don't have to have all the answers. Personal development and spiritual journeys aren't always about closing your eyes and connecting with your intuition. Sometimes they're about self-care and letting go, but sometimes they're about learning from existing traditions and communities!

The Hierophant invites you to turn to other people's teachings

Today's Hierophant card isn't telling you to go out and convert to a religion today. (Unless that's something you really want to do, in which case, by all means.) But it is a gentle prompt to look for some guidance outside of your own intuition. From self-help books to academia, from places of worship to a local coven, there's no shortage of opportunities to connect with some insights that resonate with you.

I come from a philosophy background, and I'm a giant book nerd, so books are my go-to for learning from other people's teachings. My all-time favourite is Søren Kierkegaard's Works of Love, but I'll also recommend Bregman Rutger's Utopia for Realists as a more contemporary thought provoker.

Those are just my suggestions, but as always in tarot, the choice is yours. How can you enrich your mind with philosophical teachings today? And what traditions appeal to you?

S.M. signature — Savanna Margaret's initials

Tarot readings are, of course, a tradition of their own! If you'd like to see if cartomancy resonates with you, you can always book a one-on-one reading with yours truly. But remember: the main thing to take from today's Card of the Day reading is to seek out wisdom in existing traditions—whatever that looks like for you!