“There are many paths, but only one journey.”
In Greek, Hierophant translates as “expounder of sacred mysteries” and “one who teaches the rites of sacrifice and worship.” The Hierophant wears a red robe, a 3-tiered papal crown and holds a bishop’s staff with three crosses all signifying his religious standing. He sits on his throne set between two grey pillars, Severity and Mercy. At his feet are two priests who appear eager to learn from this religious leader who The keys at the Hierophant’s feet, silver and gold represent masculine and feminine — this along with the pillars speak to acknowledging the balance of opposing forces. The keys also represent our choice: obey or disobey? Liberty and freedom or ordained law? (Fiebig & Burger)
In her description, Rachel Pollack refers to the meaning of this card as the “inner way” and the “outer way “of seeking spiritual growth. Both lead its’ followers to higher learning though the “outer way” can be interpreted more as a religious doctrine, a set of organized beliefs that we live by and receive comfort from. It is similar in theory to the divine order established by the Emperor in the previous card. The “inner way” refers to more of an inner awareness that urges us toward our individual search for God and connection with Universal energy. Crowley states that this inner path does not tell us what to do but instead leads us towards our own path.
The Mythic Tarot’s Hierophant also represents our search to gain a better understanding of our own spiritual quest and relationship with God, though unlike other decks this Hierophant is represented by the centaur named Chiron, a wounded healer, who through his own pain understands and appreciates the pain of others. He represents a wounded part of ourselves that leads us to question and search for answers, opening the way to a greater understanding of the “higher laws of life.” This search may lead us to spiritual teachers for guidance. According to Buddhist philosophy, when we become enlightened it opens new pathways for us to help others. The Hierophant represents our own search and at a certain stage in our path, it can also eventually represent our readiness and desire to be of service to others.
Though I haven’t always thought of myself as a wounded healer, my own wounds have led me toward my spiritual search for inner peace. Having come from an observant Jewish background, for me the religion has only been a set of rules to follow you can’t eat this nor can you do that. You have to say it this way – Does God only understand Hebrew? Following the rules made me feel obedient. Was that all there was to religion? When I became a teen and more aware of Eastern philosophy, thanks to the Beatles, I was interested in finding another path to peace. Following rules has never been my forte.
I like Rachel Pollack’s description of the Hierophant’s message — the inner way or the outer way but I am also reminded of the quest for balance between opposing forces that so many tarot cards point out. Balance is an important reminder here because for some seekers, a spiritual quest can sometimes result in idolizing religious leaders and their lessons with unquestionable faith. Sadly, there have been too many occasions when our spiritual leaders are put on a pedestal only to have them fall from grace because of their very human shortcomings. I have seen this with priests, rabbis and gurus which makes me acknowledge how vulnerable so many of us are in our spiritual search. Finding the right path can take a lifetime — for many of us it is part of our life purpose.
I remember reading somewhere that New Age religion has become like a Chinese menu — picking a few choices from several different categories. The article was speaking negatively about this, preferring a linear path with more commitment. I am never quite sure how I feel about this because on the one hand I admire the sense of belonging that I see in different religious groups. It seems like a straightforward path to God while I feel like a bumblebee landing on one flower enjoying the nectar before moving onto another.
I see myself as culturally Jewish, but not observant. My spiritual path has taken me to the Ethical Culture Society, The Edgar Cayce Center, The Universalist Church, Buddhism, Meditation, channeling, past lives, Tarot Cards, and more recently the Akashic Records. Naomi Judd’s quote about many paths but one journey resonates with me because no matter which path I follow it is all for the same reason, to feel connected with Universal Energy. I appreciate all that I have learned, each path enriching my life in immeasurable ways.
I realize that my path is more of the inner way, which is, at times, a more challenging path to follow due to its’ ebbs and flows. I see myself as a seeker, but I also wonder how a seeker will know when they find something to land on. I’m not sure but I do know that I learn, evolve, and blossom a little more with each venture regardless of the particular path I am following. There are gifts and opportunities everywhere. Being of service to others has always been a fulfilling experience for me whether it be through social work or reaching out and connecting with others. This is also my way of expressing the Hierophant within.