Welcome back to my trip through the Tarot from a LGBTQIA+ perspective! If you're new here, click on these links to check out the story so far on the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor.
And if you're new to Tarot completely, a little back story, as always:
The Tarot is a numbered set of symbols added on to the usual four suits of playing cards, depicting a journey; it's been used, since it first appeared in the middle ages, for both fortune telling and meditation on the inner journey of the soul. It might have been brought about by Romani travellers or by Qabalist mystics, we're not quite sure. It was given a major reboot in the 1800's: Designs were drawn by a biracial and bisexual woman named Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith and the accompanying teaching book written by historian and philosopher A. E. Waite, influenced and inspired by reformers who believed in androgyny as the divine human state.
Despite that, the followers of the spiritual paths that use its imagery today can often be worryingly homophobic and transphobic, believing strictly in the male/masculine and female/feminine binary being the only key to power and wisdom.
So, I set out to find out what the Tarot looked like from LGBTQIA+ viewpoints and perspectives, asking various groups to cast a Queer Eye over the characters.
The next in the sequence is the Hierophant, an old word for High Priest. What follows is made from the answers I was given. Enjoy!
This card comes before the Lovers card and after the Emperor card; resembling the oppressive religious institutions, and the cis-het self-righteous narrative created by the Patriarchy that comes with it - "an evil cardinal with monks kneeling in abasement before power" said one person - a Pope full of himself looking down and judging everyone, said another. Tradition and dogma. Guidance or instruction, but usually in a restrictive way. Once, those with spiritual clarity were revered. Then the love of adulation and power perverted their vision, and they became like all the others. The manifestation of paternal dynamics, just as much, if not more so as the Emperor. "Daddy issues" in the extreme.
But it could also be seen as being a picture of the conservative lens that mainstream society still uses when it teaches about the LGBTQIA+ community, especially when it comes to marriage and gender roles.
The priest is the past of dogma and ritual. The priesthood have been among the most resistant to LGBTQIA+ people and were among those who initially criminalized it. It's the past he represents, that truly is our enemy.
(Which makes it extra ironic that this question, as the last one did, raised up a debate with one person who insisted that words and symbols are what they are, the meanings and messages behind them don't change, and no individual viewpoints change that; universal energy is universal energy, regardless of perspective - as if the symbols, the words, and their meanings, weren't all invented by human beings in the first place!)
On a more positive note, the Hierophant is the Teacher, the Guru, the Guiding Narrative we learn to frame our own personal beliefs in. This includes the examples of living communities surrounding an ideology or philosophy, and how growing up in those surroundings shapes how we see our own LGBTQIA+ identity. We ourselves, as LGBTQIA+ people, have teachers and mentors but they may be very different than those of the mainstream, and thus have a different path.
There were legends of a female pope during the Middle Ages to early Renaissance - Pope Joan. The High Priestess card may originally have been a tribute to that tale. Another example of contrast to the patriarchal character often portrayed in the card. We LGBTQIA+ people have always been here, if not fully revealed in historical texts then buried in subtext, subjects of hidden knowledge.
One person noticed that the character has a lot of clothes on that really fully cover their body, making them appear androgynous, both feminine and masculine. The thought that came to another, from the amount of clothes, is that folks in our community may feel pulled to hide, when in typical religious settings. Folks may also want to hide their true self if they are filling this Hierophant role and are a leader of any sort in a community. Closeted self-hatred. The Hierophant, in one person's eyes, "despises his own true nature, preaching against it in a desperate bid to conform. A card of fear, hypocrisy, and deceit." "I thought," said another, "'that could be me', as a trans female".
We can also see this as not only a symbol of those judging the LGBTQIA+ community but also a warning about judging others and reigning in our own ego. Not just cis het male patriarchy, but also the judging attitude of those within our own community who have taken the stance of being very vocal and critical in their views about gender diverse, trans and non binary people. A very simple warning to step carefully, for one who is judging can soon be judged by their peers and even their own path.
I was intrigued by the fact that my last two answers came from people who were on opposite ends of the sexual attraction spectrum. This from an asexual:
For the Hierophant I've always seen an emblem of masculine energy for the preservation of normalcy. In other words, someone who represents traditional and fundamental values. But, also someone who is knowledgeable enough about tradition to view it in a new and creative way. They may not "throw out the baby with the bathwater" so to say. Rather, they reinvent old things. Breathe new life into it.
A bisexual, hypersexual lady had this to add, which I think we can all relate to!
As someone who grew up in a very Catholic country, I've always found the Hierophant extremely challenging - both to relate to in readings for myself, and to pass on the message in readings for others. I have the very common knee jerk reaction of instantly seeing it as a representative of the patriarchy and the strict traditional values created by people who have historically tried to pressure others into fitting certain standards; but over the years I have also learned to accept the spiritual value of the card just for the card's sake in and of itself. And I understand why a male figure is needed in the Tarot as the representative of the spiritual teacher (if there's a high priestess there's a high priest) so I've worked to break the paradigms that I've had about the card so I can understand its negative connotations and when they come up, work them out in real life, or to understand when it's coming to me with the positive connotations.
So to sum up:
A teacher and educator, policy and by the book, educational knowledge rooted in community - on the surface. Mentor with secret cult knowledge, deep wisdom, below it. In a sexual sense a bit of a dominant person, "do it this way and I give you praise for it". Like a good daddy Dom, said one.
And more than one person enjoyed how much it looked like he was officiating a gay marriage of the two men below him!
If you'd like your own personal online reading, looking into your cards from this kind of perspective, i can be reached by leaving a message Here; and if you'd like to join a LGBTQIA+ Tarot group you'd be most welcome Here