The Hierophant Tarot (V)

Key Meanings

Divine wisdom. Teaching. Tradition. Religion. Beliefs.


The Hierophant Tarot (RWS)The Rider-Waite-Smith image is very similar to the earlier Marseilles Tarot.

Meaning of the Hierophant Tarot (V)

The Hierophant is the teacher of the sacred mysteries. He interprets the sacred word of God, and teaches us how to live according to our beliefs.

This can be via organized religion, but it can also come directly from our inner connection with the divine. The Hierophant tarot card (upright or reversed) can indicate listening to the inner guidance of your intuition.

It can also suggest some kind of learning experience is needed.

As the Pope, the Hierophant can represent tradition, and expressing conformity to beliefs. A wedding can be indicated, but the card can also relate to a platonic relationship.

In a reversed position the it can show challenges to the established order, or a breaking with conventions, often suggesting that a different or unconventional approach is needed. Depending on the other cards present, it can show someone being too extreme in their thinking. Unorthodox beliefs can sometimes be suggested, perhaps relating to people with alternative beliefs.

He can also suggest help from authority figures, and the figure can personify people in religious life, teachers in general, doctors, and artists—those concerned with spirit and body.

Moral development can be indicated.

The Hierophant tarot card can also relate to people in the querent’s life; possibly consultations with an expert offering professional advice. Explanation of all kinds might be indicated. 

This card can represent kindness (or sometimes over-kindness), but the Hierophant can also be strict and rigid. Like all tarot cards, the Hierophant tarot card can represent the opposites of the meanings given—especially when reversed, but if no reversed cards are being used, then look for opposite meanings, and intuitively decide on the best interpretation.

The Hierophant tarot card can also represent entry into institutions where there is a shared group identity, including schools, universities, clubs, companies, and all kinds of societies.

Astrologically, the Hierophant is related to Taurus.


The Hierophant—Steampunk TarotOne of my favourite Hierophants. The Steampunk Tarot shows the kindly teacher—one of the aspects of this card.

Images, Symbols, and More

This section relates mostly to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (pictured above).

The Hierophant is the fifth card in the Major Arcana. 

The word hierophant comes from hieros (sacred) + phainein (reveal), and literally means interpreter of sacred mysteries or esoteric principles.

This card is often called the Pontiff or bridge maker between the divine and physical worlds. In the Marseilles decks this card is named Le Pape, or the Pope, and in some decks it’s named the High Priest. Another title is “The Teacher of Wisdom.”

Some see the Hierophant tarot as an interpreter of external (organized) religion; others, equally validly, see the figure as the connection between our experience and our inner wisdom. The High Priest can represent the bridge between ourselves and spirit.

The two priests are listening to the teaching. The Hierophant passes on knowledge to them, but they are also a part of the ceremony, and they can also be seen as different or opposite parts of ourselves (conscious and unconscious, reason and intuition…).

The Hierophant sits between two pillars and holds a triple sceptre or papal cross, and he wears the three tiered crown or papal tiara. 

There are many different interpretations of the meaning of the the three tiered crown. Some have associated it with the threefold role of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King,  or as teacher, lawmaker and judge. 

The two crossed keys represent the keys to knowledge, and are sometimes described as the keys of heaven and hell, or the balance between the conscious and subconscious minds.

The right hand of the figure is raised in blessing or benediction. Two fingers point to heaven, and two point to Earth—the bridge between Heaven and Earth. 

The Wild Unknown Tarot shows a raven (or some dark bird) holding the key to knowledge. From the sky, lightning brings down divine knowledge. 


The Hierophant in Readings

The Hierophant tarot card (Steampunk Tarot) regularly appeared when I was planning and setting up this website.

I once drew the Hierophant (reversed) in a reading for a client unable to sell her house, which suggested clients take an unorthodox or creative approach to selling these businesses.

I’ve also drawn the Hierophant tarot card as a reminder of the commitments of marriage, of wedding vows previously made, and of promises a couple made to each other in the past.

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