Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Year of the Scary Guy

2012 is the Year of the Hierophant. OK, all you non-tarot geek people do not have to tune out here. This is Tarot-lite anyway. All the best people will tell you that. Just like last year, we go through the easy task of adding the digits in the year, which is of course completely a human construct since different cultures use different calendars. Never mind about all that. 2 plus 0 plus 1 plus 2 equals 5 in nearly any culture and 5 is the Hierophant’s number. Oh, play along.

Omigosh, what’s a hierophant? And why did they have to pick such a big word to mean…what? A bit of ogling the ol' Google will tell us:


Noun: A person, esp. a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles.

Well, that’s actually an excellent basis for discussion about this card, this year and a bit of history. So, in case you hadn’t known this before, the first traces we have of something called Tarot came from documents in northern Italy in the late 1300’s-early 1400’s. I like to think of them as the police blotter reporting the cops breaking up a bar fight over a card game and basically, that’s what happened. People used these decks of cards first, however, as presentation pieces because paper wasn’t that widely available (go back and look at the history of printing and the whole lifetimes people spent in scriptoriums because things were handwritten and drawn before mass communications had the big printing breakthrough). Suffice it to say, the early decks sprung up in Italy when popular culture assumed, incorrectly of course, that everyone was some kind of Catholic Christian.

So the person at the top who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles is, for $100, Alex, is – pausing for dramatic effect – The Pope! So this card was originally called The Pope. Customs changed and after a while it was rude, and in some cases rude meant punishment in the extreme, to do things like have the Pope as a character in a card game or divination tool. Well, you see where this is leading? They had to change the name of course to something that was a little less inflammatory, hence, Hierophant. Fine, ancient Greece doesn't seem so rude.

Obviously, this wasn’t that simple, but I did promise you Tarot-lite. There’s a lot more to that story.

The essence of meaning didn’t change, though. The number 5 major arcana card still means the person who is The Spiritual Leader who translates spiritual messages to the folks who are, well, not the spiritual leader. This is the person who teaches us how we should live.

Now we get to the scary part. You expected the Spanish Inquisition, didn’t you? Nope, the scary part is how we view this card today because, well, my whole discussion here is how we, the People of Today, interact with the concept of “the person who teaches us how we should live”.

Raise your hand if your hackles raised before your hand when reading that phrase. In “free-thinking” Western Society and especially the sassy, back-talking, wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap United States, we who speak our minds, our hearts, our bathrooms, our bedrooms, our closets, our frivolous opinions, our trips to the grocery store through any medium available and only sometimes regret it later are positively incensed by the idea that anyone would even try to tell us how we should do anything. This distills to the sigh you may hear that “young people are falling away from The Church”. Please note, you may insert any denomination here.

Still, strangely enough, we of the Country of Smart Aleks are often in search of spiritual leaders. We don’t want to be told what we should do but we want to be told how we might do. And, unless we’ve lived Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, the word Teacher seems to be a tamer, less volatile interpretation of Number 5.

From the point of view of the Teacher, without all the brimstone and other signs of enthusiasm, the Teacher has knowledge to translate into something understandable to the Student. Consider how difficult this translation can be if the nature of the information is spiritual, something that by definition defies description in concrete terms so that any Fool could clearly understand it. Is it any wonder then that spiritual topics are often those causing the worst misunderstandings in the world which of course lead to war, hatred, crimes against humanity and all the dreadful things that are anathema to a Spiritual Life?

After all, why did the chicken cross the road? That and so many other things, when discussed by the Teacher with the Students, can be taken out of context and misconstrued by the Teacher’s all-too-human analogies which hit the wrong note with the Student, the Student’s Parents, the Student’s Friends and the Local News. The Teacher, the Hierophant therefore has one foot in the Spiritual World with his understanding of the mysteries and one foot in the human world where he or she tries to make that information make sense in an everyday setting.

Tired of me yet? If you’re the Hierophant, you’re tired. You’ve tried to explain it eight ways to Sunday and sometimes you just want to say, “Don’t try to analyze it. Just accept that it’s true.” That blind faith is the unsteady bridge we build to leap the gap between what the Spiritual Leader “gets” and none of us can describe exactly. Obviously, the simplest messages seem to work best because they don’t get into too much detail that people can quibble about and they make some kind of sense: “Be ye to others kind and true,” as antique samplers might say.
Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

From the Student’s point of view, the Hierophant may be just this side of insane. The Student knows he has some message but, like any skeptic, wants to evaluate it (see my previous post on the Pages' take  on the Teacher’s message). From just about any point of view, though, the Teacher with one foot in this world and one in the next is a bit off his nut, you might say. And that, in itself, is scary. You and your companions have strayed into the Spiritual Woods and the Guide is not all there. But that's just one perspective. What if he or she is enlightened and struggling with translation?

And so, full circle, 2012 is the Year of the Hierophant. You may have a flash of insight and when you share it, the recipients of your new-found Eureka moment may think you’ve lost your mind. You may struggle to teach others something you are afraid is being lost in our fast and furious society. You will see others try to insert their teachings into everyday life, like current political candidates are doing, for good or ill. In this Year of the Hierophant, I urge you to translate carefully, gently, patiently, kindly and allow for the glorious variation that exists in the Spirit Human. Even the Teacher learns. Please, give the Hierophant a break. Let's put the "Hi!" back in Hierophant!

Best wishes. It's just a suggestion.

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