Surrendering your power of discernment leads to narrow-mindedness
The Symbolism Contained in the Image
The Hierophant sits on a chair, two disciples kneel at his feet. He holds his right hand up towards the Heavens, his left hand holds a staff with a triple cross (a reminder of spirit, mind and physical form). A red robe covers his white tunic (a reminder of the Magician) and a gold triple crown sits high upon his head (a reminder of spirit, mind and physical form). The pillars in the background represent structure. Two gold keys lie crossed before him, traditionally they were gold and silver. The gold key unlocks the outer world and the silver key unlocks the inner world. Both are needed to unlock full knowledge. In the Rider-Waite deck both keys are gold, suggesting that if you follow only the external teachings it is unlikely that you will ever truly understand the full message.
Just like the Magician, The Hierophant channels energy from the Divine with his right hand, but he channels it through his staff and into his disciples. The message of the card comes from the role of the students. They do not realise that they can connect with the Heavens directly. They can discover the Truth through their own experiences.
And just like the Emperor, the Hierophant is a provider - not in the material sense of the word but in the spiritual sense. This is a card for religion, doctrine or tradition.
In a general reading, the Hierophant card suggests that you are surrendering your personal power to external elements. You avoid taking responsibility for your spiritual growth and instead conform to the narrative put forward by other people or to their expectations of you. For example, you believe in a Truth about the world (the Divine) that you haven't discovered through your own personal experiences but that someone else has told you about (the teacher). Alternatively, other people may be applying pressure on you to do as they expect and you conform to these expectations because you believe in their judgement without going through the trouble (growth process) of doing the discernment yourself. Your current approach is narrow-minded because you allow others to interpret the Divine for you instead of opening yourself up to direct experiences. If you were to seek alternatives, you would find them.
When in reverse, the Hierophant represents rejection of established doctrines and opening up the mind to new ideas and ways of doing things. It suggests that the quarrent is broadening his or her mind, opening up their field of vision for fresh approaches. The person is ready to take responsibility for their own beliefs about the world and to live out their true self.
Alternatively, the Hierophant reversed can indicate that the person is rejecting one doctrine in favour of another, not in favour of finding their own path. Thus they are substituting one Teacher with another.
When this card comes up in a relationship reading it suggests that the partners behave in the way they are expected to, regardless of how they really feel or who they really are. In a sense, they are playing the roles that have been given to them by external forces without consulting their true selves. This card often describes relationships where the partners are being cordial to one another but the spark has disappeared, or relationships that have been arranged by third parties.
In reverse, it suggests that one of the partners wants to have more unorthodox relationship than the other. One wants to have non-traditional roles or a non-traditional lifestyle, while the other is not on the same page.
In a career reading, the Hierophant indicates a profession in stable and reliable industries. The querent is seeking a career in a field that has long and established traditions with well-fixed roles and requirements.
In reverse, it indicates a carer in an innovative field or a young company. Perhaps a job that requires unusual working hours. The querent is drawn to places that offer flexible conditions and flat hierarchy.
In a financial reading, the Hierophant indicates an orthodox attitude to managing money, investment in traditional industries or dealing with financial institutions.
In reverse, it indicates innovative ways of building wealth and investment in up-and-coming fields.