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Join Date: 29 Jun 2002
Location: Scottish hills
Posts: 83
Cool high priest

this is my bogeyman card-the high priest. it means absolutely nothing to me and i always have problems interpreting it. fortunately i dont get it coming up very often. I'm probably a different kind of reader from most of you in here--in that I'm older, I learned the tarot from my grandmother who was irish traveller, & its probably a very different style from most of you Id love your thoughts on this card....You can never stop learning the tarot !
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #1
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Join Date: 19 Apr 2002
Location: Portland, OR
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Well I like that you refer to him as the High priest. I have trouble with the word Heirophant, and the imagery that is most comonly following it. I have an issue with him always looking like a Catholic priest. If I could see him more as a wise equal to the High Priestess it would be far easier to reconcile my opinion of what the card should mean. Which is this.

A wise male elder of a community or religious group. Of course, as always, it is not always a person so much as the idea that that sort of person would embody. Learned wisdom through time, through trials and passages, more than book learning. The male equal to the crone.

It's so hard to put into words now I realize, it seems to much deeper in my heart. So unfortunate that I revolt against the standard imagery of the card.

~*~ Sorceress Jade ~*~
"If you look at your work of a year ago and don't think it sux, you haven't learned anything." - Samboursky
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #2
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Join Date: 17 May 2002
Location: DE, USA
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It really is a shame that the Catholic church has gotten such a bad rap due to the misguided actions of a few individuals. Something like that is hard to fight though. Not to mention the nice witch and Protestant roastings they had too. In all seriousness, I know many Catholics who have a deeply fulfilling spirituality. I think the difference is that these people took the time to learn exactly why they're engaging in these rituals and to give them a personal meaning. Overall, I think Catholicism as a social institution produces relatively few of these sorts of people due to various flaws in the system or teachings. Hence the large amount of "recovering Catholics" you'll find, especially in the US.

But I digress. I would also like to point out (as the dork historian that I am) that the term Heirophant does not have a specific Catholic heritage. In fact, High Priest strikes me as more structured than Heirophant. The term Heirophant is most often used in conjunction with an ancient religious group who engaged in the Eleusian (sp?) mysteries dedicated to the goddess Demeter, who is the Greek goddess of grain and fertility. Unfortunately, the group was very good at keeping their secrets so nobody knows with any real depth what they did. But we do know that the Heirophant initiated people into the mysteries, and there was some sort of secret knowledge revealed that was supposed to save the initiate.

Perhaps it will make it easier for those who do not like Catholicism to think of the Heirophant in those terms? As far as interpreting the card goes, I think of him as the ancient heirophant of the mysteries. He is someone who passes down the collected knowledge of the ages. He also teaches the societal rules of how to interact with others. Some see this as a restrictive function, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Knowledge of the ways of societies and religions is only as restrictive as you let it be, and let's face it, knowing the social rules of a society can stop you from a lot of embarassment.

Just a few (okay, a lot) of thoughts.


"You should be careful what you wish for 'cause every one of us has the devil inside" -Incubus
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #3
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Join Date: 18 Jun 2002
Location: Turtle Island
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I myself have no problem with Catholicism. It can be a very fulfilling path for those whom it suits.

Mind you, these are just my thoughts, but I think that many people who follow a Pagan path have chosen to do so through a profound dislike for the patriarchy the Church has enforced in the past and in some ways continues to enforce. For these people, a Hierophant who looks like a Catholic priest can be challenging to deal with in an open manner. Some churches are quite exclusive and do not tolerate diversity well, so this may be another factor.

I said some -- not all by any means, but enough to negatively color some people's views.

I like the idea of balancing the High Priestess with a High Priest or a teacher-themed card. It's easier to think of all the possibilities for the meaning of this card if the imagery isn't so strongly Church-based.

Yes, there are positive meanings to the Hierophant. It may take a little practice and hard thinking to come up with them, but they are there!

-- Kyrielle
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #4
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Join Date: 19 Apr 2002
Location: Portland, OR
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Keslynn are you saying that you see in this card a feeling of initiation? Or just giving us the background to the word. Because.... I can see how it may fit in the scheme of things.

Ah yes, i really can though. If you look in terms of the archetypal hero's quest. He has the 'teacher' who must leave him once he is ready, yes? The Fool is on his quest, the Heirophant has already accomplished his own, stood the test of his passages and now he aids in the fools initiation into new wisdom. A sort of wise teacher, leader. It does seem to piece together. I will look into the 'heirophant' as a word myself, though I enjoyed the history that you proveded. However I doubt I still wish different imagery on the card. I can deal with some, but not the majority, with that imagery.

~*~ Sorceress Jade ~*~
"If you look at your work of a year ago and don't think it sux, you haven't learned anything." - Samboursky

Last edited by Sorceress_Jade; 02-08-2002 at 05:09.
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #5
Rhiannon's Avatar
Join Date: 07 Aug 2001
Location: VA, USA
Posts: 1,834's definition of Hierophant:
1. An ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries.
2. An interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge.
3. One who explains or makes a commentary.

To me he is a spiritual teacher, one who gives you lessons in morality and tells you the difference between right and wrong. He can also tell you when it is appropriate to break the rules, as well.


Do you want an absolute prediction? Then you want only today, and you reject tomorrow. You are the ultimate conservative. You are trying to hold back movement in an infinitely changing universe. The verb "to be" does make idiots of us all. - Frank Herbert
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #6
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Join Date: 20 Mar 2002
Location: Upper Left-Coast, USA
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I have never seen this card relating to religion. I think in terms of groups and group identity. ‘Fitting in’ is a better meaning. The Hierophant/Pope is simply the group leader.
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #7
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Last edited by Diana; 26-03-2006 at 06:55.
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #8
Major Tom 
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Join Date: 06 Aug 2001
Location: Texas, USA
Posts: 8,916

I also prefer the title High Priest for this card. It is also my soul/personality card so I'm a bit sensitive to the negative reactions people have.

To my mind the best way to view the High Priest is as a 'bridge-maker' who provides a connecting link between outer experience and inner illumination.

Another good title of this card could therefore be the Pontifex but again you run into the Catholic associations...

"We are all free to do whatever we want to do...Isn't that a great way to run a Universe?" from 'Illusions' by Richard Bach

"Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility." Eleanor Roosevelt
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #9
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Join Date: 17 Jul 2002
Location: Vienna Austria Europe
Posts: 287
another interpretation

there was a time when I got the magician rather frequently as a card symbolising my own person. when I managed to learn that lesson then, it changed to the high priest. that was mere personal.

in general you could as well say that the high priest is an advancement of the magician, combining his power with wisdom.

o fortuna velut luna
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Old 02-08-2002     Top   #10
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