Many people arrive at this card in their decks and start wondering what the title means. The term “Hierophant” stands for a head priest who would perform a specific ritual in ancient Greece. While the “the Pope” might have been an easier title to understand, that term comes with it's own set of religious connotations that might not match up well with the real meaning of the card.
On the Hierophant card we have a man sitting in a throne, his hand held in a traditional Christian blessing or benediction. His red robes mimic those of a Catholic priest, as does much of his attire. He sits on a solid throne between two pillars of stone. At his feet, two men stand on either side, awaiting to hear what the great Hierophant has to say.
The Hierophant can be seen as the counterpart to the High Priestess – in fact, in some decks there are instead referred to as “The Pope” and “The Popess”. The reason for this parallel is this – while the High Priestess has accumulated all the knowledge of the unknown, the Hierophant has accumulated all the knowledge of the known world.
This card stands for knowledge – book-learned, school-taught, institution-led knowledge. The churches of Europe used to be the very fount of knowledge, teaching those in their order how to read, write, and record further knowledge. These stewards became known as men of intelligence and worldliness. The card may be asking you to pursue this worldly knowledge in any way that you can, be it with formal training or self-teaching.
The card can also play off the more religious aspects of faith. The leader of a ritual has faith that his or her actions are methodical, meaningful, and will have a result – you might need this type of faith in your life to continue down your road. This faith can actually go hand-in-hand with knowledge: after all, our society does have faith that the knowledge is truly correct.
Lastly, there are many who look at this card and see a hide-bound, restrictive system that many adhere to. This card can reference the need to be a part of (or escape) a congregation. This does not simply refer to a church, however. Most well-established sports, clubs, and other organizations have a code that members are required to stick by. That kind of structure can help you get to places you might need to go. Conversely, you might do a little soul searching and find out you should leave a congregation you belong to.
When you see this card, ask yourself a few things. Do you need or want to pursue formal education? How about informal education? Do you required the structure of a congregation, or do you need to escape it? How much do you know about the world around you? Do you feel you could further yourself by knowing more? Where does faith come into your life?
The Three of Pentacles is closely tied to the Hieophant for many reasons: they both represent learning, and working with a team, group, or congregation. The Ten of Pentacles also has an interesting tie with the Heirophant – the Heirophant stands for conforming to a set of rules, and the Ten of Pentacles gives a possible result of that structure.