Archive for the ‘ The Hierophant ’ Category

In defense of The Hierophant

I had a bit of an epiphany about The Hierophant the other day (I love when that happens). As I was looking at the card it suddenly struck me that perhaps many of the traditionally negative attributes associated with The Hierophant are because of our own expectations of spiritual authority figures.

Pearls of Wisdom Hierophant

When one considers the spiritual leader most often associated with this card is The Pope and when one looks at the history of the papacy and its abuses, it’s very easy to get a bad taste in your mouth. It’s not limited to the papacy; it seems to me that powerful high priests in ancient pagan religions created the same kind of negative attitudes. Whenever spiritual leaders acquire power (and mix in politics) we seem to see similar patterns develop. Consider this however, what came first the chicken or the egg? Is it that the types of people drawn to positions of authority (whether spiritual or political) possess character traits that cause them to abuse this power? Or that the demands put upon them by their followers force them to become that way?

I remember reading James Michener’s book The Source and one point he makes is that people get the gods they demand. Perhaps the same is true of spiritual leaders. When one gets passed the hype, at his core Jesus appears to have been a teacher. He used parables and personal examples to get his message through to his followers. He was not trying to force them to submit. He was just showing them a new way of relating to Yahweh and each other. Clearly that has mutated as his spiritual successors have acquired more prominence and power but did it have to be that way? What happened that allowed the papacy to claim such power over people’s lives?

I believe the sad but true fact is that many (of not most) people out there want to be told what to do with their lives. They desire a rule book, a set of instructions telling them what is good and what is bad; how to live their lives so that they will go to heaven. They want a clear map to help them find their way through this confusing, sometimes dark and often chaotic thing we call life. Lest it seem that I am picking on Catholicism (it’s just the Christian religion with which I’m most familiar), I see the same trend in various Pagan sects. How many high priestesses and high priests become de facto parent figures for their coven? How many find themselves besieged by followers (not coven mates) pleading “tell me what to do?” It drains them and in my opinion is the reason that paid clergy has become such a hot topic. If coven leaders are being called upon to service so many different needs among their co-religionists it leaves them with little time for anything else. It makes the idea of being compensated for their efforts seem reasonable. Of course my problem is that if I didn’t want to be told what do as a Catholic I certainly refuse to be told what to do as a Pagan.

Blue Rose Hierophant

In my current favorite TV show Supernatural there is an angel named Castiel. At several points Castiel is asked to lead the other angels. They plead with him to tell them what to do next. He tries to explain the concept of free will to them but they insist that they require his guidance. Each time he tries to guide or lead them things turn into a clusterfuck but is that his fault? He is trying his best to help his fellow angels because they feel unable to make decisions on their own. At the same time, Castiel is clearly not competent to lead them. His intentions are good but the results are not. Is that how abusive spiritual leaders are born? Are they initially teachers seeking to help querents, those lost souls seeking guidance, whose demands eventually push the teacher to make increasingly autocratic decisions?

The truth is that I don’t have the answers. I’m simply pondering this stuff and sharing it with whoever ends up reading this post. I guess at the end of the day all I can hope for is to raise questions in the minds of others; to find teachers rather than spiritual leaders. Maybe if we stop accepting or expecting that leaders (spiritual or political) have the right to ignore our wishes and requirements and tell us how to live, we’ll be able to create a better world. I remain eternally hopeful.

Hierophantic Spirituality

Witches' High Priest

Orthodoxy & fundamentalism scare me. Organized religion sends me running for the front door. There is nothing inherently wrong with believing that your way is the “right” way. In fact I can admire that kind of dedication. The problem arises when you also become convinced that your “right” way is the only way and everyone else should be doing things your way too. I admit to having a bit of an orthodox streak in my nature and I work at trying to avoid imposing my will on anyone else.  I will admit that there have been times I’ve taken an “it’s my ball and if we don’t play my way I’m leaving” approach to things. When it comes to spiritual matters I definitely prefer a more hands-on, less structured and orthodox approach. Unfortunately when humans come together in groups, orthodoxy and fundamentalism tend to erupt.

One of the reasons I avoid most group situations is because I have a cantankerous kink in my personality. The more people tell me the way I “should” be doing things, the more I feel compelled to do it differently. I blame this on my parents. One of the mantras of my childhood was “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to”.  That stuck. I don’t see it as a bad thing but it really makes group membership challenging. I’ve tried several ranging from a small Wiccan coven (in which I lasted all of a month before becoming the catalyst for an implosion) to ADF, the Druid organization. In both situations there were elements I liked about the groups but ultimately their long term goals were not my own. In one case I quickly realized the group was a cult of personality for the high priestess/founder. In the other I realized the group’s mission to serve as ambassadors to the general public with regard to Pagan beliefs and rituals was counter my own nature and preferences. I have no interest in leading or even participating in public rituals.

I also have a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of Pagan “churches” or owning land to build temples etc.  I realize that for many people this is an opportunity to worship among a group of like-minded individuals in safety and privacy. I wish them well in this approach.  For me, this becomes a dramatic shift in priorities that will ultimately cause Pagan spirituality to go the way of Christianity, moving from a more High Priestess approach to a more Hierophantic one.  Once an organized religion owns “stuff” their priorities shift so that maintaining that stuff becomes paramount. It’s often slow but steady. It also tends to be a short step to creating a priesthood and establishing leaders as arbiters of what the right way is to do things. It’s a shift from exploring the hidden mysteries on your own (the realm of the High Priestess) to worshiping in a church or temple led by a priest (the Hierophant’s bailiwick). It doesn’t have to be a negative shift but it often seems to develop into one.

Hidden Realm High Priestess

Look at Christian history. Once the apostles got hold of things and made Peter the first pope, they began codifying what Jesus taught. They left out writings about Jesus that didn’t fit their views such as the Book of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I realize these might not be “regulation” gospels but they certainly could be. They offer a very different and perhaps more honest view of who Jesus was and what he taught.  However these teachings threatened the legitimacy of the early church.  The Jesus of the gospels is open-minded and welcoming of all peoples but the Christian church quickly became codified and orthodox. If I remember correctly there were even arguments in the early church regarding whether Gentiles could be allowed to join.  Things grew increasingly worse once the church grew into the Holy Roman Empire. After acquiring buildings and lands from the collapsing Roman Empire, the Christian church took on a very aggressive approach to converts and trumpeting the “word of God” to any and all who could hear.

Tarot of the Holy Grail Hierophant

We also seem to forget that one of the reasons early Christianity appealed to so many was because the various Pagan traditions in Rome at the time had lost their soul. They became about right acts and public observances. Many Roman citizens paid lip service to the gods by offering sacrifices but they held no true belief in their hearts. It’s as though codifying and establishing orthodox practices sucks the life out of spiritual paths. The idea of Pagan “clergy” also bothers me. I am in no way trying to condemn other people’s choices, but for me clergy sends the message that I need someone to function as an intermediary between me and my gods. It also seems like I’m being told these folks know more or are better trained to do this work than me. That irritates me. It also creates a class system in Paganism, whether intention or unintentional. Humans have a tendency to lend more credence and weight to words stated by someone with a degree of some type. It doesn’t seem to matter if what they say makes sense. The fact that the speaker has a jumble of letters after his/her name makes their pronouncements more valid to others. Down this road always seems to lie dragons of some type.

I realize that many of us seek out groups that share our spiritual beliefs because deep down we want to be sure we’re doing it “right”. We don’t trust our instincts or our connections to the gods. We want a leader, a priest or priestess to show us the “correct” way. I suppose for some folks that is great but to my mind that path leads to the same trajectory that Christianity and various Pagan traditions before it followed. The harder we try to establish ourselves as legitimate in the eyes of others, the quicker we lose our connection to the divine. We find ourselves jumping through hoops created by some external authority with little understanding of who we are or what we do in order to be validated and legitimized. I say fuck it! We do we need to meet some arbitrary guidelines created by outsiders. Instead of pursuing accreditation according to their terms I’d rather see us continue to do things our own way. Unfortunately I don’t think that will last. I may not live to see it but I have no doubt that it’s the end result of trends like paid clergy, tradition neutral training programs and the purchase of “church lands”.

Dark Goddess Sekhmet Deark Goddess Tarot Hag of Air

 

Yesterday, while working on my Dark Goddess labyrinth journey, I drew the Hag of Air/Dhumavati in response to my request to Sekhmet for a message. Looking at these two cards together, I asked: “How can I transform the ugliness of my childhood into something healing and radiant?” Using the Pearls of Wisdom tarot, I drew The Star reversed and The Hierophant reversed. Despite their reversal, the vibrancy and the positive energy I sensed from these cards made it impossible to interpret them in a negative way. So I spent some time with the cards and read their entries in Roxi Sim’s companion book. Looking at the entry for The Star the phrase “unconditional love” jumped out at me. This was it! This was the message of this spread!

Pearls of Wisdom Star Pearls of Wisdom Hierophant

When I look back over some of the blog entries I’ve written, it occurs to me that I still carry a lot of damaged baggage from my dysfunctional childhood. Don’t we all? My family’s dysfunction might have been different than what others experienced, but to a child does it really matter?  What’s more important is how it leaves you feeling –  vulnerable, hurt, damaged, weak and ashamed (among other things). I’ve met many adults who find it difficult to accept that the childhood chaos and dysfunction was out of their control; that it wasn’t their fault and there was nothing they could do to stop or change it. As a result they sometimes convince themselves that they wanted the situation to play out the way it did or they resort to various methods of self-abuse such as addiction or bulimia because it gave them the illusion of control. I remember how awful and terrifying it was as a child to be awash in the craziness and unpredictability of my family’s dysfunction. I couldn’t see it coming and could do nothing to change the events that unfolded. At least if I was drinking too much that was my choice (or so I tried to convince myself).

The one thing that I took away from this dysfunctional and damaging childhood was that I was somehow not good enough. If I were good enough and met expectations then I would not have been punished. Those outer punishments took the form of some viciously malevolent inner demons whose talons still pierce my soul. Seeing The Star shining brightly like a beacon from this card made me realize that the one thing I’ve never received in my childhood, and so found difficult to give to others, was unconditional love. Love with no strings attached; no expectations. Just a pure, healing balm that soothes the shredded soul. The Hierophant reversed is letting me know that I still have some learning to do before I can begin trying to teach others. It’s funny, I resist my Hierophantic nature all the time and yet I consistently get messages that part of my journey is to teach. Perhaps this will ultimately be what guides me down that path.

Rebel

I thought about the unconditional love I’ve experienced in my life. It’s most pure and joyful expression was from my German shepherd Rebel. No matter how angry I might have been with him for some petty reason or other, his excitement and happiness when I got home every day was bliss. He greeted me, jumping and wagging his tail so much his whole body wriggled with it. He was unconditional love personified. Even the cats I’ve owned have been generous with their affection. If they did withhold it for some reason, it was clearly due to their feline nature rather than do to any emotional manipulation towards me. I’m sure anyone sharing their lives with animals has experienced numerous expressions of unconditional love. They model it for us all the time and we are able to return it to them because we trust they will never hurt us. We can be vulnerable and exposed with them because they won’t betray us.

So I have decided that my next experiment/project will be to emulate my German shepherd Rebel and just allow myself to feel the joy at a friend’s return; to offer unconditional love to myself and those around me. I know this won’t be easy – I am by nature a judgmental, occasionally vindictive bitch. However I know I can do this. I have experienced moments of transcendent bliss when I am able to love everything and everyone around me. I just have to try to create or recognize more of those moments in my life.

At the same time, I realize that not everyone out there is deserving of our love, conditional or otherwise. There are many predators who view this kind of attitude as naive, gullible and ripe for targeting. I am not gullible or naive. I’m not interested in embracing the world and teaching it to sing in perfect harmony (although if that every happens I’ll join my voice in too). What I”m talking about is loving those in my life unconditionally, without judgment or restriction. I’m not seeking a plethora of new friends, I simply want to be more loving, understanding and supportive of the ones I’ve got. My love is valuable and should not be wasted on those seeking to take advantage.

So TarotBroad fans, if I am able to give you nothing else today, let me offer you the healing balm of unconditional love and acceptance.  You are perfect.  You are worthy of love.  Your love has value.  You are an amazing being and have a lot to offer this world.  You just need to find that place within yourself where you can embrace and embody these truths.  For that matter so do I.  I have no doubts this journey will prove long, challenging, and very interesting but every journey starts somewhere.

Resentment – that fetid, festering fungus

Have you ever felt such resentment that it almost overwhelmed you?  Had it well up in your throat until it feels swelled like a bullfrog’s? Have you ever felt unable to say no to a situation as then gotten angry with yourself and the person who requested favor?   If you’re like me, then I’m guessing there have been moments you’ve felt this way. Times when you’ve wanted to lash out because you feel taken advantage of or unappreciated. Despite the temporary satisfaction one might feel from lashing out, it tends to make things worse. This made me wonder what would be a better strategy for dealing with resentment?  Here are a few of my theories.

First of all don’t nurse the damned thing. The worst thing I’ve ever dWildwood Sunone is hold onto resentment, fed it and nurtured it until it grew into something uncontrollable like the plant Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. It made the situation worse and blew everything out of proportion. Instead of feeding it in the darkness of our hearts and nurturing it like some malignant mushroom, I should have talked about it with someone – preferably the person I felt resentful towards. In my experience, the key to stopping or healing resentment is bringing it up into the sunlight. Sunlight purifies and removes the toxins. Perhaps sharing how I felt (without trying to shame or blame the other person) might have alleviated this feeling and avoided a lot of problems down the road.

A habit I am still working on breaking is using the resentment generated by this situation to feed other festering resentments I haven’t addressed. The end result is that instead of any possibility for a rational conversation about the issue, I drag up every single time I’ve felt resentful and dump it on that person (usually the hubby). Not the most effective method of conflict resolution or resentment reduction I must say.

Tarot of the Crone 5 of Swords

Another tendency I have that often proves more harmful than beneficial is bitching to friends and family about it. With the best intentions, friends and family tend to unquestionably support your grievance. Often in an effort to be supportive and claim solidarity they will reinforce your resentment. What was already an issue now begins to take on epic proportions and goes from one problem to an entire tapestry of them. Once again, feeding the beast simply makes thing worse. We hope venting will help relieve us of the anger and resentment. However, unless we’re clear about what our goal is and why we’re engaging in this process, we unintentionally strengthen its power over us.

BoS So Below King of Swords

One possible technique that has often helped me when I’m making a professional presentation and might be helpful here too is to make a bullet-point list of my grievances. Take some time to think about things in a calm, clear-headed manner before discussing it with the “offender”. I think creative a calming environment for yourself – maybe a cup of tea and some soothing music, can make this process less anxiety producing. The goal is to stay calm and focused on the specifics of the situation, not let your emotions overwhelm you. We have every right to feel angry and hurt, but sometimes expressing them when we’re trying to resolve a conflict is counter-productive.

Transformational SageI’m sure you find my ramblings fascinating and insightful (how could you not? ;D) However I thought maybe a touch of advice from the Tarot might be in order too. So I asked Arnell Ando’s brilliant Transformational Tarot “What can help us deal with resentment?” I drew The Sage/Hierophant – wonderful! It’s telling us to see wise counsel, seek advice from those who have the knowledge to provide genuine help rather than well-meaning support that merely reinforces the problem. The Sage may represent asking elders, a counselor/therapist for advice. It may be suggesting we seek the wisdom available from the plethora of authors who have written on this subject. It may even point out the support one can find in one’s spiritual tradition. The reality is the solution will be different for each of us just as what triggers resentment is different for each of us.

I hope the next time you feel overwhelmed by resentment towards a loved one you’ll find some useful guidance or insight here.

Blue Rose Hierophant

Blue Rose Tarot
Designed by Paula Gibby
Produced by Soul Guidance

The Book says:  The Hierophant helps us build a bridge between the physical and spiritual planes.  He is the Holy Teacher like Moses, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Lao Tze, and Confucius among others.  “The are our guides, our wisdom teachers.  They are essential.

They are a gift from the Universe.

The High Priestess and Hierophant work in concert to assist us in achieving our spiritual goals.  They provide the foundation for our spiritual journey.  The mysterious and at times unfathomable, nature of the High Priestess is tempered by the orderly assistance of her consort.

In essence, the High Priestess gifts us with the intuition and inner vision to perceive the spiritual plane.  The Hierophant helps us draft our intinerary, draw our roadmap and provides us with teh tools, techniques and rituals to keep us focused enought to keep the goal in sight and complete the journey.”

TarotBroad’s Buzz: I have to admit that I absolutely adore this card. Something about it speaks to me of ancient wisdom being passed on in a somewhat furtive manner. The students both seem female to me (I may be wrong) and the fact that they are seeking the knowledge possessed by this scholar seems both empowering and brave. After all in many of those cultures, even know, women are not permitted to know this secret wisdom. But they are defying the rules to find their path to divine knowledge.There is something rich and wondrous in this card. The scholar seems so focused on his books that he seems almost unaware of the women, but they are obviously enthralled by what he represents.

This card represents ancient wisdom, lore and knowledge that has been passed on for generations; and an almost unquenchable thirst to learn and to absorb. The old scholar seems to exude knowledge, wisdom and secrets. He also seems to be dedicated and might be short with those who aren’t serious in their quest. He will help you find the secrets hidden in the ancient texts but he will not tolerate frivolous pursuits. He is only interested in helping if you are serious about your quest. This card does show some of the patriarchal connection we often see with the Hierophant. But at the same time I get the feeling that he loves this knowledge too much to hoard it. He will share it but only if he is convinced that the seeker will be as dedicated and passionate as he is. He will serve as the guide, but only for the serious seeker.

The Sage – Transformational Tarot

Transformational Sage

Transformation Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396

The Book Says: Having faith in one’s higher consciousness or the power of the universe. Ancient knowledge will guide you. A deeper connection can be experienced through meditation and ritual. The seeker’s compassion, empathy, values, ethics, and insight draws others to him or her. This card can also denote both the need to find a deeper meaning in life and the assistance from a wise person. The Sage can also stand for a spiritual leader, psychologist or a nonconformist acting as a guide or teacher.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card speaks to me of the wisdom and the ancient knowledge to be found in the world around us and the traditions of our ancestors. The African deities remind me of our connection to each other and to our history. They indicate a thread that weaves its way through the rich tapestry that is human history, like the DNA that connects humans to our ancient foremother (“Mitochondrial Eve”). The glorious colored autumn leaves are the reminder that all things change. Life is about change and cycles.

But just as the fall foliage reminds us of life’s ever-changing nature, the green leaves on the branches below remind us that there is an underlying continuity to everything. The Universe has a core, a center, that remains the same no matter what chaos roars around it. The green leaves are that still center, the eye of the hurricane. They symbolize the concept that life goes on – bits and pieces may change but the pattern of the Universe continues to weave its story. To me The Sage is the reminder that we are connected to the Divine in the world. We are all part of the same tapestry, just as all humans are connected by our DNA. And if we can find that still place within ourselves and learn to connect with that divine source, then we will be able to face whatever changes and chaos roar in our own lives too.

Mansions of the Moon Hierophant

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
by ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.com)
Self-Published

Traditional meaning – doctrine & dogma, passing along knowledge & traditions, spiritual guidance,

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card is full of Christian/Catholic imagery indicating its connection to traditional, orthodox religious beliefs. The priests are garbed in full regalia and express the power and authority of their office. The Eucharist and angels symbolize the connection to the divine while the doves represent the Holy Spirit. This card’s message suggests that following the path being offered by the priests is the way to find the keys to heaven – the connection to the divine. The doves are the messengers of the divine. They carry the Universe’s spiritual message to humanity. The angels are another reminder of the spiritual mysteries of the universe. And the priests are the guides through the golden archway to connect with these divine emissaries.

When I first viewed this card I was initially a bit turned off by the Christian symbolism, especially the priests, but upon further reflection it struck me that in the truest sense that is what a priest should be – not the strict, disciplinarian seeking to strike fear in the hearts of those who break the rules. Priests should be the guides and the teachers, gently giving us the knowledge, wisdom and support we need to find our own way through the golden archway to connect with the divine energy in the Universe.

Celtic Wisdom Rememberer

Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999 ISBN 0-89281-720-8

The book says: The Rememberer of Lore transmits the wisdom of traditions by which we all live. The essential lore that we need to keep over before us is sung by the bard. What song is guiding you at this time?
Keywords: Tradition, Meditation, Exposition of ideas, Remembrance, Genius, Performance, Spiritual counsel, Sacred lore, Faithful maintenance.
Reversed: Hidebound or conformist concepts, Muddling, Misinformation, propaganda or conspiracy, Forgetfulness, adherence to narrow views.

TarotBroad’s Buzz:  This card speaks to me of the Bardic tradition in Celtic culture. The Bard was much more than a storyteller and singer. He memorized the genealogy of the kings, the myths and legends of the tribe, tribal law and the wisdom of the people. There are tales of Bards whose curses brought kingdoms crashing down. This card represents the keeper of traditions and lore. The one who passes the knowledge down to the younger generation to ensure it continues.

It is actually one of the more positive Hierophant images I’ve ever seen. When I see this card it reminds me that traditions and ancient legends are the foundations upon which our culture and history is based. It reminds of the saying that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it (or something like that) and that is why the Rememberer is so important. If we don’t learn from the tales of our ancestors then we will continue to make the same mistakes and never advance to the next step in the cycle. The Rememberer serves as our spiritual guide along the path.

At the same time he appears isolated and solitary. The wreath that surrounds him also serves to separate him from others. The Bard may need to be solitary in order to focus his energy and his mind upon his art. But he may also be solitary because those who remind us of the past may often raise issues we prefer not to face. On some level this serves to connect him with the Hermit. He cannot be alone because by its nature his work requires him to go out amongst the people to hear their stories and to share them with others. But his travels may also prevent him from putting down roots in community. So while he can help others learn and remember the tales and traditions of our ancestors, he also serves as the thread connecting different communities to each others; part of the pattern and yet separate. He teaches the lore but does not necessarily participate in the making of the history.

Wheel of Change Hierophant

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997

The Book says: “When this card is part of your reading, look carefully at what part your faith plays in your life. What do you put your faith in: your work, your religion, your children, your self, a particular teacher, or the future? Do you have any faith in your life? . . .

The second part of the interpretation of this card is to examine the possibly negative aspects of one’s faith. We must be aware that the dogma we acquire through various religions and attitudes can be used to justify – without examination – all manner of behaviors. We must look carefully at how our rights and wrongs are determined and whether they arise out of a true sense of the common good or out of a need to require conformity to a narrow dogma.”

TarotBroad’s Buzz:  I admit that the concepts represented by this are ones that I often find difficult to accept. I have a negative knee-jerk reaction to most organized religions and that is what The Hierophant represents to me. However, the longer I consider this card the more I realize that, just as with all the other cards, it has both positive and negative associations.

The positive aspects of the Hierophant are the peace and calm that rituals and spiritual beliefs can bring to followers. In times of crisis people often find refuge and consolation in their religious beliefs. It is that feeling of welcome and belonging one feels in a church or temple. That calming and soul-soothing sense of timeless and eternal spirit. I never remember feeling this during religious services but I do recall feeling this at odd moments when I would enter a church to light a candle or just to sit quietly.

The negative side of the Hierophant can be seen in blind obedience and close-mindedness that can accompany any organized (and many disorganized) religious system. I often see this as the political arm of any church. It is the hierarchical structure that seeks to maintain control over its followers. I find it interest that Jesus would probably be horrified at the atrocities done in his name. Then again I know many Pagans who seem to be heading down the same dogmatic “Paganer than thou” path. Both sides of this coin are what come to mind when I see the Hierophant – both spirituality and dogmatic organization.

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