Understanding Tarot: The Hierophant

the hierophant tarot
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck
This article is written by Tarot Reader, Claire Chilvers. You can find out more about her insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

Finding spirituality through instability

The Hierophant’s number is five, which is a number that denotes uncertainty and change within the Tarot.

The Hierophant (or The High Priest or Pope, as he is also referred to in various packs) is the last mentor that The Fool meets as a young man before he embarks on his journey into adulthood.

Do you remember our naive Fool that I spoke about in my first article? How much he has learned from his previous teachers, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, and The Emperor. 

They have all imparted their knowledge and understanding of the Universe to equip him on his own life path. With all the lessons they have taught him regarding the power of his thoughts and intuition, the role he plays in the balance of nature, and how he can control his power and destiny, he must be pretty exhausted as he approaches the church and listens to The Hierophant preach to him a new message about the divine and how his own spirituality can connect with it.

So far, The Fool has learned about the four elements – air, water, fire, and earth. They are easy to learn about as they can be seen, felt, and experienced. The Hierophant now preaches to his pupil about an unseen fifth element – spirit. It is not as tangible as the other four, and if he has doubts about its existence he has to believe the preacher’s words are correct. 

The Hierophant sits at an altar with two keys underneath him, symbolizing he has the power to unlock the fifth element and become the key to others understanding this connection.

Clearly, he has disciples who wholeheartedly believe him and kneel at his feet accepting his words in true faith. However, here we can see the instability of the number five in action.

The fifth element is only strong if people believe in it. If no one listens or believes what is being taught it can lead to conflict, chaos, and upheaval.

How many of us doubt other people’s spiritual beliefs? Or have had to justify our own views to people who have judged us harshly or unfairly because they do not understand what gives us comfort and hope?

How can the enlightenment of believing in a connection with a spiritual guide, in any form or religion, give so many hope, and a feeling of belonging and love, yet, cause so much conflict, tension, and war?

This is the instability in belief. This is the positive and negative combination of The Hierophant.

Throughout my life I have grown up in a family where Tarot reading was perfectly acceptable and normal, however, it was not until the last few years that I have felt brave enough to share my views with the wider world.

I am still met with confused looks and general disbelief when I tell people who do not know me very well, of my belief in connecting with the Universe through my Tarot, crystals, meditation, etc.

I have even been the victim of some online trolling too, where people have taken the trouble to write nasty comments on my Facebook page and ridicule my articles.

I have come to realize, as I write more and more, that I have become a mini version of The Hierophant myself. Preaching to others about how I feel about using intuition with the Tarot can be empowering. I do this with the hope of inspiring others to connect with the Tarot to help them on their own life path.  


I understand why this is met with criticism, and find it ironic that I resonate so much with The Hierophant now – about five years ago, he was the only card in the pack that I actually disliked!

When I was on my own Fool’s Journey, (spending a day with each of the Major Arcana Tarot cards and journaling about the connections I had with them), I couldn’t wait to be rid of him and move on to the next card.

But, five years ago I was in a very different place. Five years ago, The Hierophant felt like yet another preacher who was telling me what I should do, expecting me to bow down and listen to him.

He made me feel like I didn’t have a voice, that this card was showing me I could only listen and not actively take part in my own destiny. Blindly following others without question. It angered me and made me feel uncomfortable. 

The Heirophant is also ruled by Taurus, I felt I was already ruled in my life by one Taurean (my partner!), and could not see the positive elements (strength, determination, and loyalty) that are associated with this sign.

I could only resonate with the negative (the stubbornness, headstrong idea of being right – sorry Taureans!) Yes, The Heirophant and I clashed a great deal back then.

But, regardless of the dislike I showed the card, the uncomfortable feeling he left with me made me face my own reality.

I was in an unhappy marriage where we had argued for so many years, I had given up voicing my opinion or trying to be myself. 

I was also in a job where I was being criticized and bullied by a senior manager with far too much power, which he inflicted cruelly on me and his other subordinates because he believed that he was right in everything he said and did!

The negative aspects that I disliked about The Heirophant were highlighting what I actually disliked about my own life – the things I wanted and needed to change. 

And once I faced up to the message I was given (and saw the light!) I did change my life, within weeks!

Five years on I don’t recognize the angry, frustrated person I was. Now, when I see my ex-partner or we speak to discuss our son, we have a mutual politeness and respect for each other’s ideas (regardless of whether we agree with them!)

And, the Universe stepped in for the other issue at work when the senior manager was very suddenly asked to leave!

I now see there is so much positivity in this card and what it represents. I can see how much freedom and love can be generated by sharing our beliefs with others and listening to others too. The Universe always does it for the higher good, and so should we.

We all have times in our life when we are met by The Heirophant – it can be either a person or intuitive feeling within us. There also times when we are The Hierophant and feel the need to pass on our beliefs to others.  

But at all times, whether sending messages or receiving them, proceed with caution and remember the instability of the five represented with this card.  

Messages given should always be from a place of love and not from the ego – which is easier said than done, and a difficult path to tread for all of us, which we do not always get right. 

Messages received have to be accepted with love too, if there is too much chaos and uncertainty in someone’s life, there is the chance they will not hear the “fifth element” that is being offered by The Hierophant’s presence.

But however he presents himself, be it positively or negatively, the change and uncertainty The Hierophant brings is at the promise of leading to spiritual enlightenment.

Read More:

Understanding Tarot: The Emperor

Understanding Tarot: The Empress

About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com.