Tarot: Symbolism of the Hierophant

The Hermit’s view on Esper as the Hierophant:

Card 5 in the Revenant Tarot deck.
Card 5 in the Revenant Tarot deck.

The Hierophant is a man of great wisdom, spirituality, and age. He is a symbol of organized religion, and someone who is recognized as having good moral standing. Esper is exactly that. He teaches not to fear Fate, but let it guide you in its invisible ways. The classic Hierophant is usually depicted as the Pope, wearing red and white clothing, a symbol of both being grounded and divine. Esper’s attire reflects this as well, in the brown leather and black vest, vs. the dull purple shirt. Purple is sometimes used as a color of royalty – his title is the Raven King, after all – and is the highest electromagnetic frequency that we can see as a color, thus representing spiritual enlightenment.

In many cases, the Hierophant is depicted with his right hand raised in a symbol of blessing or benediction, two fingers pointing up, and two pointing down. While his hand is like this, he is not looking at it, but at the raven on his arm, Eih. He recognizes that the desire to bless or damn souls, while it is his domain’s job to do so, is surpassed by the need for wisdom. He has transcended the duality of good vs. evil.

The two trees behind Esper echo the pillars on the classic Hierophant card, which represent Law and Liberty, or Order and Chaos. The branches of these two trees intertwine with each other, representing the inevitable change of one to the other, the cycle of equilibrium. It is a natural exchange that exists in order to keep the world going.

The two ravens, Ing and Eih, represent, in some ways, the two acolytes of the original Hierophant, as well as Odin’s two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, or thought and memory. They represent wisdom and teaching, the passing on of knowledge, which is what the Hierophant card is all about. Being in a place of power and knowledge, and teaching it kindly to those who need the lessons. Esper also acknowledges, by listen to his raven, that you’re never too old to learn. The journey doesn’t end with enlightenment.

The classical Hierophant is depicted with three things that Esper doesn’t have: A crown, a throne, and a scepter. The wings represent his power, in the same way a throne and crown would, but instead of dictating from a high chair, he prefers to teach from a position of “equal ground” so to speak, with his students. He’s a wanderer, always looking for new experiences, never wanting to be tied down to one tradition, despite being firmly rooted in it. He acknowledges, in his wandering, that tradition is sometimes not the right way to do things. Sometimes, the oldest ways are wrong.

In lieu of a scepter, Esper carries a worn and decorated spear. The blade has many chips in it, indicating that it’s been used in many battles, but the decorations on it render it mostly unusable. The three feathers symbolize Crow, Kaillte, and Valanae, three people that Esper lost leading up to his transcendence, as well as the three states of time: past, present, and future. The raven’s skull hanging from the staff was his first familiar, Hagal, whose skull represents a severe understanding of mortality. Being a Revenant, Esper is very familiar with death and dying, and has become a bridge between many different worlds and states of being. The man between Heaven and Earth, so to speak, which is what the classical Hierophant is supposed to represent.

The chips on the blade and the fact that Esper still wears his armor marks him as a man who has seen some violent, unnerving times, but has bettered himself from the experience of those things. He is both a decent strategist, and decent storyteller, and can impart wisdom from either peace or war upon his students, symbolized again by the double-edged spear point. His armor also bears the symbol for the zodiac sign Taurus, a sign which strives for harmony and balance. He is grounded, and has had to be stubborn in the past, traits which, until now, protected him. He is a leader.

Also pictured on this card is the Norse rune Eihwaz, which Esper’s raven is named after. Eihwaz is a rune which represents gateways, understanding and truth, and the World Tree. It is a rune of passage between all realms, and healing through understanding. It compliments Esper and the Hierophant as a bringer of wisdom, spiritual or otherwise.

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