The Wild Unknown Tarot - The Hierophant V


I usually don't connect well with The Hierophant, especially when he's a priest or bishop just sitting there, maybe preaching to a couple of acolytes at his feet... Having said that, I do love The Pope in the Tarot de Marseilles but I think that's because he looks friendly and chatty, he's imparting his wisdom but he looks like the sort of person you'd go to if you needed some help or advice..

Anyway, back to this Hierophant card...
This is such a striking image: As usual with this deck there is very little colour and the card is dominated by a crow or a raven, he is holding a large, old looking key in his talons and he is also calling out (as they do ;)). He isn't flying, his wings are tucked in so he's just sitting on the key rather than taking it somewhere and the key is being struck by what looks like a flash or rainbow coloured lightning..

As I've said, I have trouble with this particular arcana; it's supposed to mean tradition, traditional wisdom, marriage etc yet I very rarely see it as that.
I see The Hierophant as someone who is very wise and has learned in a traditional way but he's mainly someone who you go to in times of crisis, someone who has a direct line to 'the divine', whatever that is, someone who can help.
He often represents 'the status quo' so in a reading I often see this card as meaning that outside help is needed from a counsellor, doctor, teacher etc or that things are not really going to change that much from how they are now or that we should look to how things traditionally are in the situation we're reading about.

Five, as well as being a very spiritual number and often being about the self (the human body has 4 limbs and a head, there are 4 traditional elements held together with the 5th; Spirit, a pentagram has 5 points etc) is often about change and difficult change at that so there's my dilemma; on the one hand this card is about tradition and status quo and on the other hand it seems to be about difficult times. I think this card is one of those archetypes that has a big range of meanings and in a reading it really does depend on context.

I've been doing a bit of reading about crows and ravens - they're both of the same family, the raven really just being a big crow and interestingly, there are 5 species of crow, which I think is very appropriate for this card ;).
Ravens have long been seen as omens, either good or bad. In mythology the are messengers as are most birds - going between the earthly realms and heaven. Odin had 2 ravens and he used them as messengers so that links in with my feeling that The Hierophant has a direct line to God, Goddess, The Universe, The Divine and his wisdom comes straight from a higher source.

So the crow or raven brings with it a key and it's an important key, it's the thing that's going to help you with the problem you have, it's got a lightning flash going directly to it and the raven holding it is calling out and telling you just what you need to hear.

I like this card, it hasn't come up a lot in my readings but I think it tells you to listen and also to get help if you need to get help as help is out there for you.
It also says (as all of the 5s do) that there is a lesson for you in whatever experience you're going through or reading about.. Some things in life are difficult but they're necessary for us to grow, they're the blessing in disguise or the cloud that has a silver lining. The sort of things that aren't very nice at the time but that we look back on and say 'hey, I'm glad that happened, it taught me so much and has made me a better / stronger / wiser etc... person'...


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when i see this card, i think of all the traditional interpretations to the heirophant but also, with the key being struck by lightning, i think of Benjamin Franklin! so discovery, enlightenment, and catalyst to progress/improvement. he holds the key, quite literally, to divine knowledge. and it doesn't look like he's being quiet, does it? i can hear him CAWCAWING over loud claps of thunder, interpreting/preachin'

i would note, though, that the lightning, is direct to the key, not the crow itself.


i would note, though, that the lightning, is direct to the key, not the crow itself.

Yes, the key is the important thing, the crow is just the messenger..
So The Hierophant is the one who delivers the message, he's the one who helps you see what you need to see, he's the link to 'higher knowledge' (whatever that is ;)).

I like to see The Hierophant as someone you go to when you need help - I'm sure that's what priests traditionally do / did as well as spreading the word.. I've often seen this guy as a doctor, a marriage guidance counsellor, a teacher etc... Someone in authority who has learned wisdom that can help others.

I've seen this card representing institutions too; schools, colleges, places of learning and I've also had it come up in readings to represent times of change and 'traditional' difficulty, like puberty...


ah yes that is how i'd interpret V. in my RWS readings- church, the government, authority, schools, institutions of all kinds and those who run them

with the WU the focus has to be more on the figurehead and the message, as you've described.


The crow is the nagging teacher. The one that tells you the things you don't want to hear in a preaching sort of way. The "Cawww, cawww, cawww" often seems to nag. I thought the animal was very appropriate for the Hierophant.

Crows are also known as the shapeshifters in symbolism. Very good choice.


It's funny, because I love the OP here, it explains a lot, but I don't like the Hierophant at all. I like this card, because it's interesting, I mean I don't like the concept.

It's tradition, and church, and order and the status quo.
Ick, I'm getting the shakes just thinking about it. I'm allergic.

I think the person that made this deck is forward thinking and put a very positive spin on this card. What I have to do to reconcile the original meaning with this art is to think of Edgar Allen Poe, who is classic lit, yet kind of cool, still.

I recoil at the idea that the Heirophant card is some kind of sage or someone with any sort of important message. Bah. ha ha ha. Don't mind me, it's not a knock on you, it's my own stuff.

It can represent employment, the company, in a spread so I don't get all these woo hoo vibes you guys are getting, but it's a great looking card. Almost better than what the necessary evil of the Hierophant deserves.

Crows are really really smart. It's amazing. So again, the author of this deck has stepped this card up to new levels. I like to think the crow is cawing "the status quo sucks! the status quo sucks! nevermore!"

Being that people generally feel guilty due to outside apparitions, maybe this card could mean that crow that makes us feel guilty like in the Poe story. That matches with the conservative nature of the Hierophant, but in this case, the crow probably gets it more right than any hubris floating around from some church or corporate culture.

Very thought provoking.



Look what I found!

There's a whole talk on these two cards and how we can negatively respond to them.

I feel the author of the Wild Unknown also was not wanting the old fashioned Hierophant hints of oppression. It's nice to hear a conversation where experts talk about how adverse they were to certain archetypes and how to get over it.


To me this card goes back to the fundementals of the 5th major card..

We have a flash of inspiration, a flash of divinity, of knowledge, of Truth that goes beyond right/wrong etc.
This flash of something special (the lightening) is great, and throughout history humans have tried to find ways to harness, to hone, to get closer and closer.
For example, we may have moments of deep spiritual revelation, of closeness and intimacy with the Divine. Humanity in its various ways has tried to harness that feeling, to recreate it, to deepen it, to interact with it in a purposeful way rather than in a hap-hazard random way we may experience it once or twice in our life times.

And these ways, these traditions, philosophies, like the beginning church of christ had this idea, that take part in that organisation and structure so we can go deeper, feel more, experience more. The organisation gives us the key to take it that bit deeper, and in return we help support that organisation to help others.

This is the same for schools i.e. the childs ability to learn, and they go to school to encourage, support and improve that child's ability to learn and grow so they can unlock their own potential. We have to give back to that process by being a good student, by supporting the school, supporting the child etc.

And the Raven, as a keeper of Lore, of Law and of teaching is a great wild guardian of all these mysteries. But also that he reminds us that sometimes we unlock things that we may have wished we had kept locked up!


Many thanks to Sulis and all of you for your wisdom about this card. I, too, have struggled with the Hierophant, as he/she never really spoke to me, and the traditional religious symbology has always been a turnoff. This Hierophant, however, speaks in a universal language -- one that I understand, or would like to understand. (Of course, I love crows and ravens, and I'm always interested in hearing what they have to say.)

I wonder whether the lightning is going behind the raven to the key, or passing through the raven to the key. Is the raven cawing in response to the pain of the lightning strike, or in response to the pain of the message it is passing on?

Excellent observation about the key, inanna_tarot. Perhaps it's not only about what we would like ourselves to keep locked up but what we wish others (or the messenger) would keep locked up. Maybe there's a message being sent that we don't want to hear (but that we need to).


I have to agree with those of you who said you don't typically connect well with the Hierophant. This version is by far my favorite depiction of trump 5! I'll paste my thoughts below. :)

This Hierophant is a crow, or perhaps a raven, perched upon a key. His beak is open as if he is preaching to us. He seems to have a lot to say! His wings and feathers are ruffled, giving him an air of restlessness. He is unable to relax until he has delivered answers and implemented systems.

To me, the key symbolizes the systems, structures and answers that the Hierophant values so highly. He believes he has THE key – the one thing that will unlock what we all need. But will this key really unlock the universal answers? The Hierophant seems to be convinced that it will. He may not have considered the possibility that we each have our own individual ‘keys’ to our own truth.

A jagged stream of red and yellow descends from the sky, culminating at a point as it enters the key. These are the colors of vitality and knowledge. This symbolizes the power bestowed upon the key. It is charged with energy from a higher plane. The Hierophant wants to teach us things, and he has faith that his teachings are infused with ultimate knowledge.

The background of the card is filled with vertical, evenly spaced lines. This stands out as a contrast to the horizontal lines we saw in the Fool, and the spiraling lines of the Magician. The vertical lines convey a heavier energy, there is a sense of rigidity and weight. This is a card of tradition and order.

The Hierophant can symbolize not only organized religion, but schools, businesses, and any kind of societal structure. At his best, the Hierophant brings forth passion-infused teachings and order. At his worst, he becomes convinced that he has the one and only answer, refusing to see other possibilities.