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The Hierophant offers knowledge, wisdom and spiritual teachings. He represents the rites of passage and forms of knowledge that we gain from one-to-one instruct, institutions or challenges that lead to our growth. It’s back to school we go! Discover The Hierophant tarot card meaning. 

Missed a few? Check out the other Major Arcana cards.

 “As you teach so will you learn.” If that is true, and it is true indeed, do not forget that what you teach is teaching you.

A Course in Miracles 

Key phrases of The Hierophant

  • The High Priest 
  • Rituals, rites of passage, ceremonies, fundamental conventions
  • Teaching and wisdom
  • An establishment, an institution
  • The interpreter of sacred mysteries
  • Learning the ropes, the rules and
  • Discovering traditions and processes
  • Counsel, advice and mentorship

The Hierophant Tarot card upright keywords

  • Education
  • Institutions
  • Rites of passage
  • Tradition
  • Religion
  • Learning
  • Spiritual guidance and wisdom
  • Marriage

The Hierophant Tarot card reversed keywords

  • Breakdown
  • Rejecting values
  • Lack of ethics
  • Abuse of position
  • Negative counsel
  • Information not shared

The Hierophant Tarot card description

The Hierophant card depicts an older man as an authoritative, almost religious figure. He sits atop a chair or throne, before two identical pillars. 

The Hierophant wears ornate attire, a layering of robes. Sometimes these robes are decorated with flower or leaf designs. The Hierophant wears an elaborate crown. Extremely large, the crown is bejewelled and often depicted as having three layers, sometimes called a papal tiara or papal crown.

In most interpretations of the card, two figures are bowing their head in prayer at the foot of The Hierophant. In almost all decks, a visual of two crossed keys is seen. 

The Hierophant holds a staff in his left hand, a sceptre with a cross on top, also called the Papal Cross. He raises his right hand and points two fingers upwards, offering a benediction or blessing.

Rider Waite Tarot The Hierophant
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Key Points of The Hierophant tarot card 

  • Astrological: Taurus
  • Element: Earth 
  • Number: 5

Symbolism and mythology of The Hierophant

The Hierophant welcomes you to learn the ways of the land. He’ll teach you the rites of passage and lessons learned from institutions, establishments and so on. 

Read more to understand the meaning of The Hierophant Tarot card, and it’s associated mythology and symbolism.

Religious symbolism

The Hierophant tarot card is emblazoned with religious, often Catholic, elements to convey a spiritual meaning. Despite these graphics, the card does not represent strict Christian, Catholic or church-related messages.

Instead, The Hierophant represents the figure of a spiritual leader or shaman. He is a prominent leader in the community who can create a bridge between the earth and the spiritual planes for rituals, rites of passage and ceremony. 

The word ‘hierophant’ comes from ancient Greek diction and represents a person who can initiate others and interpret sacred mysteries. Sometimes, The Hierophant is called The Pontiff, which translates to the bishop.


The Hierophant is pictured in a sacred temple, sitting before two pillars. This setting is slightly similar to that of The High Priestess card, to which The Hierophant is related. 

Using a sacred space for ritual or ceremony, one that is well kept and beautifully decorated, is a universal principle, be it for magic or religious ceremonies. 

Attire and accessories

It is said that the three layers of The Hierophant’s crown represent the three worlds that he presides over. These worlds are the conscious, the subconscious and superconscious

The Papal Cross held in his left hand signifies his religious status and position in the institution, his right hand denotes a benediction or blessing. While this is certainly a religious visual, the concept of the blessing itself is not steeped in Catholic dogma. It is a general blessing of a spiritual sense, not strictly a religious one. 

Robin Wood Tarot The Hierophant
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The two figures kneeling before him are students, successors or supplicants. In prayer, they honour The Hierophant, learning from him during a process of their initiation into the church. 

This visual doesn’t necessarily speak strictly of religious ceremonies or doctrine, but of processes of initiation or rites of passage which we may have to go through at certain times in our lives. There may be strict rules, protocols and procedures to follow during our initiation, that take us to a path where we can step into a new role. 


The two keys are said to represent the relationship between the conscious and subconscious, a cosmic riddle that The Hierophant can help one unravel.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. 

William Blake

The Hierophant Tarot card meaning

The Hierophant offers knowledge, wisdom and spiritual teachings. These teachings can come in the form of one-to-one instruct, institutions or challenges that test our faith for our growth.

The Hierophant links to The High Priestess, sometimes called The High Priest. Where the High Priestess holds a gateway to ancient secrets and hidden knowledge, the High Priest or The Hierophant also keeps a gateway, but a more conventional one.

Rites of passage and ceremony

The Hierophant is the sacred connection between the earth and the other worlds. He has the power to hold space and perform ceremonies. 

A key figure in groups and communities, The Hierophant relates to a priest, a shaman, a medicine man or similar. Even though strong Christian and Catholic visuals are used in the card, the card does not represent strict theological meaning. 

The Hierophant represents a rite of passage or initiation. The Hierophant, as the pope, priest or shaman, can teach and impart spiritual wisdom to assist others along their ceremonious journey. 

In life, this card represents fundamental teachings gained either from individuals but also from institutions and establishments. The learning that takes place gives a person enough understanding of formal doctrine to learn the lay of the land to live in it. 

Outside of ritual, religion and ceremony, the card can also suggest everyday challenges and tests that come our way. These are little journeys that help us grow, also rites of passage, albeit less formal or process-driven ones. 

These challenges will help us develop as human beings. Every initiation we go through will assist in the development of our spiritual selves. Sometimes, these challenges on the path will test our beliefs to the point that they alter our identities and help us become more of who we are. 

Barbara Walker Tarot The Hierophant
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Teaching, learning, knowledge 

If you pull The Hierophant, it may indicate that you are either in the space of learning or teaching another. Perhaps you may enter this teaching and learning phase, or you may be in a situation where you will gain knowledge through experience. 

  • You may already master a subject or field, and are now in the process of sharing your expertise with another person. You may be a mentor, consultant, teacher or guide, imparting your wisdom to others in a formal and structured manner, wherein you respect and honour the rite of passage that you went through yourself. 
  • Or, you may be receiving spiritual teachings, mentorship, professional advice or instruct from a more experienced figure. This trusted person may open a mental door for you, revealing what lies beneath. 
  • You also may be in school or university or may have entered into a process where you will receive formal instruct in a subject or subjects. 
  • The Hierophant can also signal a close friend or family member that gives trustworthy and solid advice
  • In terms of a personality type or behaviours, The Hierophant may represent a desire for learning. It could represent an application of rules or structure, a strong attention to detail, and a dislike for anything that seems to disrupt or upset a routine.

The mystical path

In a metaphorical sense, The Hierophant represents our ability to learn to walk on the mystical path with practical feet.

At points in our lives, we need to learn a few processes and systems to see where we can innovate and how our intuition can further guide these processes. In this sense, The Hierophant represents the part of us that starts to apply inner sacred wisdom to the outside world. 

On some level, The Hierophant represents conventions. If relevant to your question, the card’s arrival in your reading may suggest you stick to a tried and tested method. You may be in a situation where thinking outside of the box or going against the grain is not the best course of action, and sticking to what you know will be the best way forward. 

In a more literal sense, the card can represent actual ceremonies such as marriages, coming of age ceremonies, divorces, graduations, christenings or other important rituals in societies.

Other names of The Hierophant

  • La Pape
  • El Papa
  • Il Papa
  • The Pontiff
  • Der Papst

The Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana

After The Fool has discovered the feminine and masculine principles of The Empress and The Emperor, he is met by The Hierophant. A teacher concerned with rites of passage, The Hierophant encourages The Fool to learn the laws that govern the universe and the rules of the Earth from the various schools, institutions and establishments.

Featured image available from Viva Luna Studios.

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