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Every superhero has a super villain. Every Tarot reader has a nemesis card or two. This one is mine. I’m allergic to religion and this card is dripping with it today.
The classic question “Why ask why?” also springs to mind.
Usually that question comes in a context that implies a certain laissez faire attitude or a go with the flow sort of vibe. In Tarot we often work with the unknown or mysterious. Being OK with not knowing things is sometimes as important as knowing the reasons and motivations behind the stuff we do. That level of mystery is, however, the purview of the High Priestess card.
There are several threads of meaning for the Hierophant card. I get along with it better when it’s called the High Priest. Mark Evans’ artwork on the Witches Tarot deck is far and away my favorite rendition of the High Priest. His art captures the card’s grandfatherly, kind, storyteller, tradition-keeper qualities. It is still a belief system and social order oriented card, but with a softer, wiser, more ancient, more organic feel.
From medieval decks to the 1909 Waite Smith to contemporary decks the Hierophant is most often shown as a Christian religious authority figure. Some decks go so far as to call it the Pope card as the 17th century Marseilles deck did.
This pope-like aspect of the hierophant card speaks of a stricter social order, of dogma, and clear-cut cultural expectations. Why ask why? Why not ask why!?When it comes to dogma and blind faith you bet your backside I’m going to ask why. Sometimes why really matters.
But realistically, not everyone has the privilege of questioning.
I rage with heartbreak at the racial, religious and LGBTQIA bigory that floods America like a Tsunami – and always has. It isn’t new to recent politics. Right wing political power has only ripped the top off of a rotting underground septic tank and allowed it to ooze .
Why ask why? To know who you serve, that’s why.
Think, for a minute, about small rural communities.
There aren’t many homeless shelters, if any at all. There aren’t the same community resources that cities and suburbs have. If there are any such civic or secular organizations, they are tiny, underfunded and making miracles out of nothing at all.
Imagine you are keeping a secret in that small town. Imagine being in a closet, be it a sexual orientation one or a gender identity one or an atheist one or a witchy one or any other kind of closet. It eats at you. Especially if you are a teen where self-discovery, self-definition and gaining independence is pretty much your job in life.
Now imagine the heart-rending and mind-bending emotional and intellectual dissonance for someone who has been told their whole life not to lie, because you are a bad person if you lie. Yet, if you DON’T lie to every single body every single moment about your essential self then you put yourself at risk. The same honesty that was held up to you as so very virtuous now puts you at risk for losing important relationships, outright abandonment or possibly violence.
The hierophant is pointing to these dire realities today.
We said earlier that ‘why’ is important because it shows who you serve. Why matters in the context of social expectations and institutional dogma.
WHY are you a member of the groups that hold your allegiance? Do you agree with them? Do they express who you really are? Are you there in service to a set of beliefs? Are you there to serve the advancement of beliefs that mirror your own? If you are an adult, if you are part of a group and if there are no consequences to you if you left, you are there by choice however habitual or mindless that choice may be. If you are a knowing adult with no threat to your well being, then you are a willing part of your social, political and religious affiliations. You are a part of them and they speak for you unless and until you choose otherwise. Agreement is why you are there.
But if, at any age, there are real consequences to leaving a dominant group, a different and vastly more important WHY comes into play. Are you in a group not out of agreement, but rather in quiet service of your own well being. Safety and life is why you are there.
If your why is the preservation of life, health, safety and relationships, know that you are not alone. We see you in your closet because we are in there too – or have been at some point. In your quiet service to your well being, in your quiet why, know that you are loved.
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