Queering the Tarot is a guest post series written by Cassandra Snow. Cassandra takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discuss ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA* client—or for yourself.
Queering the Tarot: 5. The Hierophant
From the Druidcraft Tarot
For most queer tarot card readers, the fifth card in the tarot, the Hierophant, poses a bit of a problem.
Traditionally, the Hierophant represents religion, religious leaders, and a conservative orthodoxy that was popular during Catholic reign. As time went on and in many countries church and state have separated, it has come to represent government and other forms of institutionalization—college, marriage, etc. It can represent an important teacher or leader in one’s life, or it can represent a call to action to become that teacher or leader, but that is still usually backed by a firm, disciplined energy that invokes ideas of government and religious rule.
The problem comes with the idea that traditionally this card is seen as a positive one—but for most queer querents, their experience with the institutions of church and government have not been positive. Many have been rejected by churches, and are still denied equal rights and dignities by the government.
From the Afro-Brazillian Tarot
Even with the increase in countries allowing same-sex marriage, institutionalized queerphobia is so deeply entrenched in most cultures that we hear “institution” and it’s not a far jump to “systematic oppression” in our minds. Hate crimes are still under-penalized, in many places you can still lose your job and your home for being a person of LGBTQQIAP+ identity, most places have not even started making progress on trans rights and dignities, and there are countless other ways the religious and government institutions that are supposed to keep us safe dramatically fail queer people.
Even so, queering the Hierophant and still making it a positive card is not necessarily difficult, it just takes delving into the card a little deeper. An easy leap to make, especially when you look at the Hierophant as a leader instead of the church or government they are leading is to think of important queer role models in the querent’s life or leaders in the local queer community, and suggest the client look to those people for guidance. Frequently, the Hierophant represents the structure of the querent’s current life. Even for the most off the grid radqueer out there, there is some structure that they’ve built that they’ve based their life on. They’ve developed a system of morals and a routine or pattern of behavior based on those. This is the essence of structure, and all persons have that.
From the Motherpeace Tarot
As this card frequently denotes teaching and leading, the querent could simply be called to show this way to others, or welcome them into their fold. The card could denote they’ve strayed from the structure they’ve built or the morals they adhere too, and it’s time to get back to what has traditionally worked for them—not the traditions of society, but the one’s they’ve developed for survival or success on their own.
Many queer-friendly tarot readers also note that if surrounded by cards that indicate breaking things, healing, or starting over, the hurt and bondage of the traditional Hierophant in our lives could be leaving. Essentially the Hierophant could mean the opposite of it’s traditional meaning—that a break and healing from harmful systematic and institutional oppression is possible. In a negative reading, the Hierophant likely indicates that these bonds of structure and institution are still working against the client, and the next step will be to figure out how to move forward from that.
From the Prisma Visions Tarot
This interpretation is a crucial one, as even with the above explanation of how the Hierophant can mean more than a church, a church leader, or the government, many LGBTQQIAP+ people will not be able to get past the weight words like institution and tradition have in their lives. It is for these clients and in these cases that we look towards how to break free from the Hierophant, instead of making it’s traditional positivity work for all clients. Just like all interpretations won’t work for all clients, neither will changing the interpretation to match the mood work in every case.