The Hierophant from the Thoth Tarot and a quote about the Aeon of Horus from Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law

When you think of the Hierophant, you might think of the learning or teaching of tradition, or in a traditional way. Receiving wisdom from an authority. The Thoth Hierophant is exactly the opposite. This holy man is also here to teach, but his lesson is that we don’t need all that structure any more. It’s a new age: the Aeon of Horus. And one of the main principles of this new Aeon is that the age of spiritual hierarchy is out; generosity, joy, and equality are in.

 

The Rider Waite Smith Hierophant as an authority figure

In the RWS, the Hierophant holds a three-bar papal cross. He draws his authority from the church and its hierarchy – he is the Divine representative on earth and thus the authority we should rely on. Our Hierophant, on the other hand, holds a sceptre with three intertwined rings. They symbolise the Aeon of Horus (the top ring), supported by the preceding Aeons, named after Horus’ parents: Isis and Osiris. The image is of a circle, of intertwining, not a ladder. No one is higher than anyone else, no one has more claim to access Divinity than anyone else.

The change from the ladder to that of a ring takes us outside of the church completely, and asks us to look around us, rather than up, for inspiration. The writings of the 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen show us that this is not actually a new idea, but hers are not writings that the church has promoted (she was only canonised on May 10, 2012). She says that “Divinity is like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun, nor ended” and her biographer Matthew Fox adds “To celebrate God [sic] as a circle is to deconstruct ladder-images of God that so readily legitimize hierarchical ladder-climbing in search of a God ‘up there’ or a God ‘over others’.[1] This applies equally to Divinity, Spirit, The Universe. It’s not up there. It’s down here.

 

Another striking difference between the two Hierophants is that in the Thoth Hierophant, the Divine Feminine is back and she is front and centre. Isis stands in front of the Hierophant, holding her sword. She is the mother of the Divine child Horus, who we see as a dancing child in the centre of a five-pointed star. She is taking her place again as the Divine feminine, the active, wise feminine perspective we’ve missed for so long.

The Thoth Hierophant

The dove that is flying downward into the card on the right is a symbol of Venus, who rules Taurus, the astrological sign for this card. The dove tells us about Divine love: ‘Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well!’[2] The dove is about spiritual love and the serpent, by contrast, is the Kundalini serpent that awakens us to enlightenment. The dove flies downward to us; the Kundalini serpent moves upward toward heaven. The Venus-Taurus connection is also why there are bulls on the card. The tenacity and groundedness of the Taurean bull gives us confidence in ourselves and what we see around us.

We also see a touch of the Hierophant’s partner, the Priestess, in the crescent moon that Isis is holding. At the top of the card there are nine nails, a reference to Yesod, the Sephira ruled by the Moon. But there is more to those nine inch nails.

The Hebrew letter for this card is Vau, which means ‘nail’. Here they are pinning heaven and earth together to create a path from one to the other, for us – this is the Hierophant’s main job, after all, to bring heavenly wisdom down to us. The nails connect the macrocosm and the microcosm – the universe as macrocosm and us as microcosm, i.e. a small version of the universe but containing all of it. This helps us reconnect with Divinity which is one of our jobs: ‘”Every man and every woman is a star.” (A star is an individual identity; it radiates energy, it goes, it is a point of view. Its object is to become the whole by establishing relations with other stars. Each such relation is an Event: it is an act of Love under Will).’[3]

Three times

The Hierophant’s left hand is making a gesture of blessing. It’s a mirror image of the blessing that the RWS Hierophant gives with his right hand, holding it upward. He calls on his connection to heaven – the one that you and I don’t have – to transfer the blessing. In our Hierophant, he doesn’t need to do that because he is us. He points to the ground to remind us that in truth, the power is here. Dorothy always had it, and so do we: “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”

[1] Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times (Namaste Publishing, 2012).

[2] Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law (Red Wheel/Weiser), 2004.

[3] Aleister Crowley, The Antecedents of Thelema (Geocities website accessed 1/5/21).