The Hierophant – Revealing the secrets you always wanted to know

The Hierophant - Revealing the secrets you always wanted to know

Have you ever done a reading, for yourself or a client, and had The Hierophant card show up? Did you know what it means, or are you confused about the meaning? Are you stumped as to what it could possibly signaling?

I have been in your shoes. I once did three readings for myself on consecutive days, and this card, always in its reversed meaning, showed up each time. I had no idea what it means, or what secrets it could reveal to me.

So I did some digging. What I found is that this is a powerful card in any deck and knowing how to read it is crucial. Read on to learn the general and more specific meanings behind this card and why Tarot holds this card as extra special.

Details About the Card

This card, which is also known as the High Priest in some decks, is the masculine opposite to the High Priestess card. It is a card ruled by Taurus, and for good reason, which we’ll cover below.

For now, let’s take a look at the card and its details.

The High Priest is pictured on a throne, wearing religious garments. He’s most often depicted wearing a crown, with his left hand holding a triple scepter and his right hand raised in the benediction pose. At his feet lie two keys and two initiates, who are kneeling before him.

What we can glean from this is that he is a man in a position of authority. The three points of his crown and the triple-cross scepter indicates the three realms: heaven, earth, and hell. The keys, which are pointing at him, indicate knowledge and wisdom, which can be derived from his seated position.

You can also see that the initiates are knelt staring up at him, indicating that his blessing is needed in order to join the community. He oversees that community, and so it is he who makes the final decision.

This card represents order, authority, and community. It is one that indicates either the acceptance of the reader or client into a community or the refusal to be initiated. Members who follow orthodox rules are accepted, while others that entertain originality are often cast out.

Story and Evolution of the Card

It is generally thought that this card is representative of the era in which it was created; a time where authority was the absolute ruler of society and dissent was outright mocked.

Today, the card holds similar meaning and it’s conventional symbolism, which is best seen in the Rider-Waite deck. The card continues along the same lines, although recent Tarot artists have played with the symbolism to give credence to individuality.

Interesting Decks in Which it Plays a Special Role

This card is generally depicted as we went over above, but in some decks, like my personal deck, the meaning is unique and interesting.

The Wild Unknown


The Wild Unknown tarot cards are different from other cards because instead of depicting the traditional Rider-Waite symbols, this deck uses mainly animals in its Major Arcana. In this deck, the card holds a raven that carries a key in its claws while a bolt of lightning crackles in the background.

In this deck, the meaning is the same, but for intuitive Tarot readers like myself and Carrie Mallon, the illustration takes on special meaning. The key represents authority and societal structures, while the raven is represented as the gatekeeper of acceptance within a community.

Meaning of the Card (Standing)

According to Biddy Tarot, this is a conventional card that suggests the reader or client has a desire or should be advised to follow the norms and due process of the situation which they have encountered. It is a card that states that following the rules is currently necessary, so don’t rock the boat!

The card, when found in relationship or business spreads, can also indicate that you or your client are faced with someone who is close-minded or rigid in their beliefs. It can be a sign to either follow suit or go your own way. In these spreads, it can indicate that a decision is necessary to move forward.

Additionally, when you are reading with a question of either following a new path, be it in education or elsewhere in life, it may signal a compulsion to join an orthodox way of thinking. Depending on the spread, this can be a positive or negative issue. Only you, as the reader, will be able to decipher the cards.

Finally, if you are currently wondering about wisdom or knowledge, the card can indicate a new teacher is on the way. You may be in store for a new way of thinking, one that will propel you in life. It can also indicate that old thought patterns may fall to the wayside to make room for ones better suited to you.

Reversed Meaning

JoyaEnergy states that the reversed meaning of The Hierophant could indicate you or your client is receptive to original ways of thinking. You are creative and not afraid of new adventures. You are open-minded and enjoy learning new things, even if it destroys old beliefs.

When this shows up amongst other tarot cards in a spread, it can indicate that you or your client may be feeling restricted. You may feel pigeonholed by old beliefs about you and society and it can be holding you back in life. It’s a sign that you might want to think about changing.

This card, in its reversed meaning, indicates a break with authority and orthodox approaches. You may be questioning a lot in your life. There may be a pull towards forging your own path.

In reverse, this card can also be an indication of relationships that are not working. Perhaps your partner, or even yourself, may be too rigid and rule with an iron fist. You may feel the need to either go along or walk away.

The general reverse card meaning, regardless of the spread, may be a push for you or your client to listen to their instincts. It may be time for a great change. It’s a scary thought, but sometimes discomfort can lead to better things.

Interesting or Surprising Fact of the Card

This card was revealed in a reading during the film EDMOND, which is based on a one-act play by David Mamet.

The card can also be seen in the pilot episode of the Showtimes series “Penny Dreadful,” which has the main character, Vanessa Ives, sitting down and doing a reading for another character.

The card generally shows up in its reversed state in films and tv, indicating that the protagonist is about to split with authority to make their own way in the world.


This card correlates to relationships, status in society or in politics, and personal faith.

This card represents authority and the status quo, and either meaning indicates whether you, the reader, should adhere to the norm or break out into individuality. If it shows up in a reading, it is a message that your querent will have to make a decision about their vision of authority. It comes up when discussing career aspirations, faith, or a life situation.

This is my favorite card in a Tarot deck because it symbolizes the choice whether to embrace individuality or if orthodox thinking is the right choice for us. How has it shown up for you? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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