As I continue the Journey into the Tarot sessions on Major Arcana cards, I am dipping each week into a few favorite books with commentaries on the cards. This has me returning to one of the very first books I bought from a used bookstore: Rachel Pollack’s companion book to the Haindl Tarot. The book is a rich exploration of both the art work and the many systems that Haindl connected to the cards. Each Major Arcana card has an astrological, Hebrew letter, and Scandinavian rune correspondence.
This week we journeyed with the Hierophant, Major Arcana number 5, who is the upholder of tradition. His Hebrew letter is Vav meaning nail and Rachel writes about how a nail joins things together just as tradition unites a culture and allows for its tranmission to future generations.
The rune is Radha which means Wheel and Rachel writes of how this rune represents ritual which is a key to upholding traditions. But this rune turned my thoughts to the Tarot’s own Wheel, which brings us through periods of light and dark, decay and renewal, and ever churning circle of life. This unavoidable movement presents the key challenge for tradition and this card’s archetype. The Hierophant is about maintenance of what is so change, that necessary renewing energy, can seem threatening.
I love how Rachel plays with ideas and systems and even math to make interesting connections. I started to think about The Wheel as number 10, which is created by the multiplication of the 5 of the Hierophant with the 2 of the High Priestess. When the Hierophant is stuck and rigid in his thoughts, he needs to turn to the receptivity, mysticism, and feminine wisdom of the High Priestess.
Just as we saw the Emperor and Empress needing each other to create then channel creativity in a repeating process, the Hierophant needs the High Priestess for renewal. Once her energy is integrated the Hierophant can be the channel for preserving and passing on her wisdom.
Right now I’d say that we are in a period when the Hierophant represented by the leaders of so many institutions – religion, of course, but also government, media, medicine – are holding onto to how things have always been done. But below the surface there is a receptive searching for something different. Many people are open to new spiritualities and ways of healing themselves, are looking for new ways to deal with money, and are curious about the world beyond their own culture or comfort level. There is a desire to be initiated into the new.
And here is a sure sign of hope for the Hierophant. The Hierophant is also about initiation into new phases or levels of a tradition. He has lead many people through this threshold-crossing process and has many the examples of how to come into new being. If he can but turn his eye, ear, and heart to the High Priestess, she is willing to hand him the Vav/the nail that connects the old and the new, the masculine and the feminine, the stated teachings and the mystery traditions. Something new and dynamic may yet be born to pass on to the generations to come.
[Note: Haindl Tarot Hierophant is published in the US by ® US Games Systems, Used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.]