As I’ve mentioned before, I am working on creating my own tarot deck. I have finished the artwork for the major arcana and am revising my essays on each card. Today, I share my current draft for the Heirophant card. It is the fifth card in the major arcana (The Fool is zero). I should note that I use an intuitive tarot approach vs. straight divination, and my interpretations are somewhat unconventional.
Traditionally, the Heirophant is often associated with the Church or someone with a body of knowledge to claim moral authority. It can also be a teacher but more in the sense of revered master or priest—a person who has taken on the mantle of authority and the power attached to this concept.
This has always been one of my least favorite cards, as I have issues with authority claimed on the basis of a perceived “right”. However, as I studied and meditated upon the possible interpretations of this card in both a historical and modern context, it finally came alive for me. I was reminded of the value of studying and learning from those who have come before, even if one must always remember to think for one’s self no matter how intelligent or powerful a teacher may seem (and the best teachers will teach their students to do just that!).
The imagery in this card is inspired by an icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent at the Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Egypt. It is a 12th-century depiction based upon the aesthetic treatise of the same name written by John Klimakos circa 600 CE. In it, there are thirty rungs of a ladder that represent the thirty virtues Klimakos recited while serving as an abbot at the monastery. The ladder is a common symbol used in Alchemical, Mystical, and Hermetic writings and art to evoke the ascent to Divine Mysteries.
This card asks us to study what came before us and to find and appreciate what wisdom there may be for us within it. Humanity grows and changes. What was once taboo no longer is. What was once deemed obvious may no longer be seen as so. Someday others will look back on our time and realize the same things about what we write. We engage in a beautiful dance with the past and the future. They are the dichotomies which help us define the present.
Keywords upright: learning from the past, seeking past wisdom, discerning enduring wisdom, study
Keywords reversed: rigid thinking, dogma, blind obedience, lack of insight
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