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.

Taort of the Mastesr Wheel Tarot of the Masters King of Swords

I love this answer!  Things change, there are cycles to life and I’ll eventually be able to connect with my inner King of Wands – master of my own creativity and energy.  Sometimes I draw very smart ass responses from the Tarot and others I get a kind kiss.

The Wheel of Fortune reminds me that life is full of changes and cycles.  I’m often very clear about my resistance to change but in this instance I’ll make an exception.  I think I’ve been viewing the bottom of this wheel for several years now.  It would be nice to finally get a view from the top again.

The King of Wands seems a victorious and confident figure; one who attracts other with his charm and energy.  He can also be a bit pompous and full of himself but is willing to laugh at these foibles.  I think these are traits I possess too and this card suggests that as the cycle represented by the Wheel of Fortune changes perhaps I’ll find myself reconnecting to this energy once again.

I see the King of Wands as a externally focused figure.  His power is in his ability to interact with the world around him; to charm, persuade and lead those around him.  I’ve been so inwardly focused over the last few years, honing my skills as a nurturer and caregiver.  I think the King of Wands may be reminding me that I will eventually re-enter his realm so keeping those skills alive will prove beneficial.

Fairy Lights Tarot Hierophant Fairy Lights Tarot Emperor

 

{-QOTD – What message do you have for me today?-} The Hierophant R (Fairy Lights Tarot)
{-QOTD – What factors might block or modify this message?-} The Emperor R (Fairy Lights Tarot)

Again! Two Major Arcana cards although this time they’re in reverse sequence. The Hierophant (which happens to be my birth card) and The Emperor (my nemesis for many years). Both are reversed so I don’t think I’m dealing with energies that are being expressed currently or that are developed fully in my life.

For me, The Hierophant has always symbolized tradition, cultural memory and history. At it’s finest I see The Hierophant as the teacher and mentor who helps us learn about the past and remember our history and traditions. In a high speed internet, quick fix, move across country kind of world, The Hierophant is a dying breed. I have grown to understand The Hierophant’s value and appreciate his talents. For many years I identified this card with The Pope and all the negative aspects of organized, orthodox religion. Now I am able to see beyond this limitations and expand The Hierophant’s meaning.

The Hierophant reversed may be trying to remind me that I need to work on developing my own traditions, my own lore and appreciating my own history. The truth is that I come from a long line of women (on mom’s side) who have been willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to care for an ailing loved one. I never got a sense of heroic, sacrificial martyr in these actions. They were viewed as the right thing to do. And I suppose I’m carrying on that family tradition by caring for my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. This is something of a shock for me because for many, many years I had convinced myself that I did not possess these traits. Perhaps The Hierophant reversed is reminding me what lies beneath that mask I’m so fearful of lifting.

The Emperor and I have had a contentious relationship for many years. Many of the authority figures I’ve dealt with in my life have proven to be narcissistic, abusive jackasses. They wanted to enjoy the benefits of leadership without addressing the responsibilities and obligations that accompany them. It’s one of the biggest problems with many authority figures – they believe they deserve the tributes paid by the “peasants” but fail to see that they owe the peasants in return.

For me today I think The Emperor is reminding me that one facet of my life I’ve been considering lately is finding a way to generate income that allows me to be my own boss. He may be telling me that I can certainly do this but not now. Right now my priority is caring for the in-laws. I can lay the groundwork for eventually finding ways to make money without working for someone else but timing is everything. I need to slowly build the foundation by focusing within myself rather than on external factors. That will eventually change but for now that’s the best use of my time, talents and resources.

I have recently begun working with ogam cards because I want to learn more about them and become more comfortable working with them.  So each day I draw an ogam card to see where I should focus my energies for the day and then pull a Tarot card for additional insights.

Today I drew Fern/Feorn.

Using Erynn Rowan Laurie’s fabulous book Ogam:  Weaving Word Wisdom, I found the question given above and drew the Page of Pentacles.

How intriguing to draw this card.  The first thing that hit my brain when I saw this card is that I shelter and protect myself by remaining a perpetual student.  If I never represent myself as an “expert” or authority on anything then I can’t be truly wrong.  A student is always learning so there is no loss of face in being “wrong” (a big problem for me – being wrong).

It also offers a level of shelter and protection because if I’m continually on a learning curve then I can’t blame myself for not moving forward in certain areas.  I can convince myself that I’m still learning so I can’t be expected to be ready to move forward yet.  I use learning and my pursuit of academic knowledge as an excuse for not actually doing anything.  I love learning about a variety of topics but putting that knowledge into action frightens me.  Manifesting my desires is scary because what if the results aren’t what I’d hoped and dreamed?  Oh my, not having my dreams come true – how tragic!

Another reason I shelter myself this way is because I am a great student.  I always receive positive feedback from my teachers and professors.  I tend to do well academically and receive very good grades.  My brain finds college almost easy.  If I actually applied myself I might even have managed a 4.0 GPA.  I realize that sounds arrogant but that’s not my intent.  I’m merely stating a fact – my brain works that way.  I’m not  and especially gifted artist or crafts person.  Whether it’s a question of learning or interest I’m not sure but I’ve never bothered to put the effort into learning.  For some reason my attention span, when it comes to these areas,  is quite short.

I also find that my interests wax and wane.  Sometimes for several years I will be a dedicated doll collector; learning everything I can about their values, the differences between various models, etc.  Then I will lose interest to such a degree that if I could sell the entire collection in one shot, I would.  Of course there is always a possibility that I will become interested in them again some day soon so that might not be a good idea.  I have the same experience when it comes to cookbooks.  I go through phases of genres.  Right now I’m very interested in American cooking – historical, regional and community cookbooks.  In the past I’ve gone through  an European phase (Italian, French, Irish, etc.), then a vegetarian phase, followed by a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern phase and finally a tea and scones phase.  Eventually I find myself forced to weed out cookbooks and those that I don’t at least look at periodically go on the chopping block.

Now back to the significance of the Page of Pentacles with Fern.  If this fid refers to a need for protection, shielding and defending oneself, then that is certainly an appropriate image.  I’ve often felt that when I was growing up I was the only defense I had against a world that was increasingly hostile.  My parents may have loved me but they were incapable of protecting me, especially from the damage they caused.  I also come from a rough neighborhood during a rocky period when violence and poverty were fairly prevalent.  My experiences during this time left me with a heightened sense of vulnerability and a need to build a wall to protect myself from permanent damage.

Erynn Rowan Laurie’s fabulous book on ogam, “Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom”, offers the insight that, on a chthonic level, Fern can symbolize warriors and the military.  I’ve never been in the military, but have often felt that I was a warrior – sometimes a worn our and very tired warrior but still a warrior.  My biggest challenge is that I’m also not a very disciplined warrior.  I’m untrained and sometimes this results in unnecessary struggles.

This card is also the third Pentacle card I’ve drawn in the past 10 days or so.  All instances seem to connect with my inner nature, my dreams and my insights in the world.  I get the sense that they are trying to tell me I need to stop dreaming and talking about things and start manifesting.  I need to take some practical steps to bring things into fruition so that I can stop feeling quite such a student and mature in my path.  The Tarot has long been giving me messages about getting out of my head, off the fence and start moving.  Now it appears the ogam is chiming in as well.

 

Adders?  Okay, I don’t get why one would chose to use adders to represent the King of Bows but I can roll with it.  I am very unfamiliar with adders but looking at the slithering mass of them on this card I was not immediately given a warm and fuzzy feeling.  I don’t dislike snakes by any means but I would prefer not to wander on a nest of them either.  Apparently adders are venomous and found almost all over the world.  One fact I found fascinating is that adders can decide how much venom to release into a victim.  That could certainly be seen as a King of Wands quality.  According to the Wildwood book, adders engage in a battle for supremacy that can appear to be a mating ritual.  Snakes have often been associated with goddess worship, hidden knowledge, and cyclical changes.  Many (if not all) snakes shed their skin.  I can see that quality being connected with fiery energy.  Fire has a tendency to flare up and die down, bursting forth again just when we think it’s ready to go out.  Perhaps the adder is a reminder not to underestimate the power of the King of Wands.  He may be mature and experienced but he’s not worn out yet.  He still has some fight left in him and he has learned when it is appropriate to expend his energies in a cause.

I get that same sense of confidence and contained energy from the DruidCraft King of Wands.  He is poised to move into the fray when necessary but right now he is fine just where he is.  There is no need for him to exert himself just yet.  He may watch the youngsters struggle and waste their energy in unnecessary posturing and struggles but he is above all that.  He no longer needs to prove himself to anyone.  He is confident, powerful and strong and perfectly capable and willing to unleash that power and strength on enemies when the need arises.  He may occasionally flare up and lose his temper but over time he has learned to master his anger and channel it in ways that are more productive and beneficial to him and his people.

For myself, the King of Wands offers qualities to aspire to in myself.  His mastery and control over his temper and his ability to channel his energies into more productive routes are one I would do well to learn.  He knows how to pick his battles whereas I often find myself in a scattered energy phase – spewing random flashes of energy all over the place.  I need to learn to be prepared for battle without being quite so eager or courting it.  It might be to my benefit to master my anger and energy and passion instead of letting them master me.  I don’t need to lead the charge into the fray anymore.  Maybe I’d be more useful as an advisor and supervisor rather than a direct participant.  Something to consider at any rate.

 

The Wheel of Change Knight of Pentacles (Knights in this deck are equivalent to Kings in more traditional decks) shows an Aztec (or maybe Mayan) warrior accompanied by a jaguar looking over a pyramid.   A huge wheel engraved with symbols that is probably a calendar, stands behind him.  A beam of golden light shoots upwards to the sky from the top of the pyramid.  He holds his shield, bearing the same symbol as one on his chest, at his side.  He seems curious and exploratory rather than defensive or ready for battle.  The Greenwood King of Stones shows a powerful, peaceful and wise looking horse standing in the midst of a clearing.  a halo of small lights twinkle above his head and waves of energy seem to embrace him.

Both these cards offer a view of someone who is strong and powerful but does not feel the need to flex his muscle to show that power.  There is an essence of restrained and harnessed strength and power in both these figures.  The warrior on the Knight of Disks is obviously capable of going to battle if need be but as he is captured in this image, he does not appear to be moving ahead with the intent of engaging an enemy.  He seems more curious – as though he has found the source of his strength, power and wealth for the first time and is awed by a view that others have already seen in him.  The horse on the Greenwood King of Stones is solid, reliable and enduring.  He can work hard when the need arises but does not need to show off that strength as though it is a trick or circus act.

I get a sense of quiet competence, mastery and stability from both these images.  The horse is often view as one of the foundations upon which various civilizations were based.  The Aztec (or Mayan) empire achieved some amazing and wondrous milestones.  We are still learning about how complex and sophisticated their civilization was.  In both cases the foundation was solid and reliable.  Once that changed, civilizations fell or dramatically altered.  These figures give off a sense that you can count on them when the chips are down.  They will support and help you, as long as you’re willing to do the hard work.  They are masters of manifestation and know how to create the physical and financial environment they want.

So this leads me to ask myself am I willing to do the hard work in order to manifest my dreams into reality?  Quite frankly it’s not that I’m unable or unwilling to do the hard work; I just don’t know what it is.  I feel as though I don’t know where to start.  Therein lies my problem – I’m standing at a crossroads with no idea which path to take and not the faintest idea of where either will lead.  As a result, I’m paralyzed by indecision.  I’m consuming self-help books in an effort to seek some guidance but seem to become more confused.  Many of them offer no practical advice on achieving the goal of gainful and joyful employment.

I guess what I have to do is look inside myself and consider what my options are – what I like to do and what I do well (amazingly enough sometimes those are not the same things.  More than that I really need to work on a strategy and plan that is practical and workable for me.  There is part of me that would love to return to the safety and security (or the illusion of both) offered by a tradition job.  Then there is part of me that really wants to try to carve out a few different money-generating options that will allow me to flex my creative side and put my interests and passions to work.  On some level I guess I don’t have much to lose.  It’s not like job opportunities are knocking on my door right now.  I need to start feeling more like this King of Pentacles within myself and then I can learn how to best utilize his energies on the outside world.  I’ve got to do things one step at a time.  I need to master my own fears before I can master other things.  Once I achieve that, manifesting my dreams should prove to be the easy part.

 

Kings are associated with control, mastery, discipline and resolve.  Pentacles are associated with the material world, acquisitions of wealth and possessions, our connection to Earth and Nature, sensation, matters pertaining to the physical plane and the element of earth.  Pentacles can also be connected with practicality, groundedness and being realistic.  The King of Pentacles represents someone solid, reliable, mature and comfortable with his physical nature.  He may also be very materially comfortable.  This is a person who is comfortable with his authority and able to use it with common sense and practicality.  This card is someone who is at home with his material world and comfortable with the sensuous, physical side of human nature.  He is a master of all he surveys and understand how to work with his environment.

“This shows an end to a physical, material, or financial patterns in your life.  There is no point in re-committing resources, physical energy, or money to this project.  It is important to recognize that your investment in this security pattern has run its course.  It is time to take some action to end the old pattern, and withdraw from your involvement in that direction.” – Gail Fairfield

In the Blake LWB, Ed Buryn writes “In the creative process:  Test and refine your ideas or product to see if it works as planned; be practical yet innovative.”

Once again I was drawn to the image on the Blake Man of Painting.  Something about the ability to create such a colorful, artistic and beautiful reality appeals to me.  The fact that he is naked also means he is vulnerable to the elements but also that he is open and exposed to new ideas, new experiences and new sensations.  He bares his body and his soul in order to manifest the destiny he has created.  He is a master of his art and has the discipline and resolve to continue pushing himself.  He may currently be at the pinnacle of his skills and achievements but that doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to pursue new avenues of interest.

The Hudes King of Pentacles appears a bit more somber but he is comfortable holding the large pentacle in his hand and offering it to those in need.  He is comfortable enough with his possessions and his world that he is able to offer assistance to those who might benefit from his largesse.  This king projects maturity and calm.  He seems like someone you can rely on to help you solve whatever challenges life might through your way.

I drew this card exactly one week ago (although it was reversed that day).  It is very appropriate on many levels.  I am the president of a professional organization and my terms ends in June.  Today we conducted a conference that I had a large part in organizing.  It was my last official act as president.  When I saw this card it made me think of how a king must sometimes function as the senior diplomat – welcoming visitors to the castle and providing them with food and shelter.  The king must also be a problem solver.  That role was evident today as myriad minor challenges (forms that weren’t received, payments that weren’t made, etc.) occurred.  I think I handled it well and we received positive feedback about the conference.  And in a few weeks I’ll pass my crown along to the next victim, I mean president.

It also made me think about the original relationship between a king and his subjects.  Although it has now become about privilege, ceremonial duties and charitable work, at one time the king was seen as the physical embodiment of the kingdom.  If the king sustained some sort of injury or illness, it was believed that it would taint the prosperity of the land too.  The king (or local lord) was entitled to certain payment, support or tithes from his subjects but he was also expected to protect his subjects and keep them safe.  The king needed to ensure that his subjects would be able to plant and harvest their crops and not suffer from invasion or other dangers.  It was a reciprocal relationship.  Being the president of an organization is a similar relationship.  The president may be the leader but without the support of other board members and the general membership, not much can actually be accomplished.  There needs to be a two-way dialogue so that the members feel their opinions are valued and their needs are being addressed and the board and president are providing useful, beneficial services for members.  It’s about more than just having meetings once a month where board members get a free meal.  To paraphrase Ed Buryn, a good president or ruler must be practical yet innovative.  This is not always an easy task.  In fact it is more often a thankless one.  And yet, if one is not willing to at least try to achieve this goal there is not point in pursuing a leadership role.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: