Today let’s look at Taurus in the Major Arcana. That means it’s time to look at the Hierophant!
The Hierophant (trimmed):
The word ‘hierophant’ is Greek, meaning ‘he who shows’. This referred to the role of the priest in ancient mystery rites, but could represent any priestly figure whose function is to show the objects that are to be used in any sacred ritual. The Hierophant card has come to be associated with the search for spiritual meaning (often symbolized by a key in the image), as well as with any ‘structure’ or tradition that’s been passed down through family, society, culture, and that influences our thoughts, beliefs, and values. While the High Priestess represents inner awareness, the Hierophant shows us the ‘outer’ forms – the texts, the prayers, the teachings, the rituals.
Such teachings have held together societies and cultures for millennia – the Haindl Tarot’s Hierophant carries the Hebrew letter ‘vav’, meaning ‘nail’, to remind us of this. The Thoth Tarot also uses nails – nine of them – to surround the crown of the Hierophant (although these nails are said to represent the suffering that accompanies change or transformation).
The Ancestor (trimmed):
© Wildwood Tarot
Ritual carries with it a sense of the seasons, the turning of the year. The Hierophant card in the Haindl Tarot carries a reminder of this through the rune ‘radh’, meaning ‘wheel’. The Wildwood’s Ancestor represents the end of hibernation and the coming of warmth and light; the return of abundance – a very Taurean word!
Which brings us to the question - why the link to Taurus? The bull was associated with many ancient religions – both patriarchal and matriarchal. In some Stone Age temples, depictions of bull’s heads were found on the walls of chambers used for giving birth; it’s been postulated that the shape of the bull’s head and horns were representative of the shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes. That aside, Venus – the ruler of Taurus – holds a crescent moon and a sword in the Thoth’s version of the Hierophant, symbolizing the balance between emotion and wisdom. Compassion in conjunction with knowledge – that’s another meaning ascribed to the Hierophant by Hermann Haindl. Some might call that the uniting of the feminine and masculine, another theme of the Hierophant, although others would say the Hierophant and High Priestess, both of which sit between two pillars in many decks, represent the masculine and feminine that need to be balanced.
The Hierophant (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Gerd Ziegler, in his Tarot, Mirror of the Soul (Weiser Books, 1988) talks about the Hierophant as symbolizing spirit being made flesh, the bull representing the flesh. Again, the idea of unity, of bringing things into balance. He also writes about transformation only being able to happen when one is in a receptive state – Taurus being one of the ‘receptive’ signs (along with the other Earth and Water signs).
Remember, Taurus is the fixed Earth sign. Social mores, religious dogma, cultural traditions passed down from one generation to the next (depicted by the grandfather-father-son in the Haindl image) – these all carry the idea of being fixed – perhaps even (talking of fixed Earth!) ‘set in stone’. That’s not to say that such structures, or the institutions associated with them, can’t or won’t change. But it’s not just about conformity to society’s rules, it’s also about changing or transforming. The people associated with those structures – be they teachers, priests, mentors, gurus, advisors, therapists – can help to explore our psyche, our need to find a higher purpose or inner meaning, regardless of creed or doctrine. The Hierophant is about a journey, a search... see the new moon in the Wildwood card? A new beginning – and with Venus there too, as the morning star, offering hope. Such a search will require strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience – all good Taurean qualities!
Thoth Tarot, created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. Published by US Games Systems Inc.
Wildwood Tarot, created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington. Published by Connections.