Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States just as the Sun is entering Taurus provides a perfect backdrop to discuss the meaning of The Hierophant, the fifth card of the Tarot and one that often elicits a negative response.
With a couple of exceptions, each of the 78 cards in the Tarot deck has an astrological correspondence. The Hierophant, called The Pope in older decks, is associated with Taurus. (How’s that for synchronicity?)
The creators of modern decks, in an attempt to avoid association with the Catholic Church, changed the name to Hierophant or High Priest, but retained much of the symbolism of the papacy, most notably the crossed keys. It’s no wonder, then, that many people have uncomfortable feelings about this card, which seems oppressive, intolerant, moralizing, and hypocritical – just as the Church has been for most of the past millennium.
Among the many ways the Church controlled the populace was to attach guilt to sex and to require intercession by a priest to talk to God. In other words, you couldn’t converse directly with the divine, but had to go through someone with more authority. The Pope had the highest authority on Earth and was seen as a “bridge” to God; thus the alternative name, “pontiff” (from the Latin root “pont”).
This wouldn’t have been such a bad concept if it hadn’t been enforced the way it was. In ancient cultures such as Sumer and Babylon, it was the job of the high priests and priestesses to interpret the signs in the heavens and offer divine guidance. It’s interesting to note that some of the early styles of papal headgear mirrored the hats worn by the high priests of Sumer.
The true meaning of this card lies in the ability to communicate with the divine. It’s about intuition, especially through hearing the messages that come to us seemingly out of nowhere, but that we know are true and have come to us at the right time. Often, these messages help us decide what course of action to take, or they are the inner voice that stops us from doing something we’ll regret later.
Listening to your intuition can be tricky, because it’s easy to confuse with wishful thinking. Knowing that the higher voice you’re hearing is authentic requires a heavy dose of self-honesty and discipline. In that regard, this card does contain an element of a higher authority.
But we needn’t think of this as negative. Like any form of power, it’s only bad when abused.
Love and blessings,