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A hierophant (Ancient Greek: ἱεροφάντης) is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.[1] As such, a hierophant is an interpreter of sacred mysteries and arcane principles.

The word comes from ancient Greece, where it was constructed from the combination of ta hiera ('the holy') and phainein ('to show').

Greek priesthood[edit]

In Attica, Hierophant was the title of the chief priest at the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was an office inherited within the Philaidae or Eumolpidae families. The office of Hierophant, High Priestess and Dadouchousa Priestess were all inherited within the Philaidae or Eumolpidae families, and the Hierophant and the High Priestess were of equal rank.[2] It was the task of the High Priestess to impersonate the roles of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone in the enactment during the Mysteries.[2]

Notable examples[edit]

Rider Waite tarot[edit]

In the Rider–Waite tarot deck and similar decks, "The Hierophant" (known in the Tarot de Marseille as "The Pope"[3]) is one of the twenty-two trump cards comprising the "Major Arcana", and represents conformity to social standards, or a deference to the established social moral order. As the guide towards knowledge, insight, and wisdom, in a tarot reading it might, for example, represent a priest, scholar, therapist, or teacher although these individuals are more definitively represented by the Hermit, or suggested by the traits attributed to the King of Cups.

A. E. Waite wrote that the Hierophant:

...symbolizes also all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side. As such, he is the channel of grace belonging to the world of institution as distinct from that of Nature, and he is the leader of salvation for the human race at large. He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order; but it may so happen that the pontiff forgets the significance of his symbolic state and acts as if he contained within his proper measures all that his sign signifies or his symbol seeks to shew [sp] forth. He is not, as it has been thought, philosophy—except on the theological side; he is not inspiration; and his is not religion, although he is a mode of its expression.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "hierophant | Greek priest". Retrieved 2016-09-10.
  2. ^ a b Pomeroy, Sarah B, Goddesses, whores, wives, and slaves: women in classical antiquity, Schocken Books, New York, 1995
  3. ^ a b Waite, A. E. (2012-03-06). The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Courier Corporation. ISBN 9780486117126.

External links[edit]