The Hierophant is the male counterpart of the High Priestess, and represents the Establishment, conventional rules, fundamental principles and belief systems that govern acceptable ways of being in any group or system. It could be a workplace, friends circle, family system, society, country at large.
I also see him as a gatekeeper of a deep spiritual ability to guard our Authentic Self. An advocate of necessary rule-breaking as a way of living, that while in keeping with the Establishment’s values, upholds asking difficult questions about what values we are chasing personally.
The Hierophant reminds us of be aware of the difference between:
- group values and personal values
- rules that make us rigid and take us away from, versus those that are soft and more aligned with our personal values
- rules that serve Belonging versus Personal Individuation
All groups have said and unsaid rules that govern who gets to belong and who doesn’t. These could vary wifely and include things like:
- I must always be happy and positive
- I must be married by age 30 and bear least 2 children
- I must not grow a beard
- I must be religious.
- I must not be emotional.
- I must choose security over satisfaction and join the family business
Following such (And other) rules unquestioningly definitely ensures a secure place within the group, but the Hierophant reminds us to stay akin with our spirit, to know when the rule following is coming at a great personal cost. This happens often, when our personal values and group values collide, causing tension.
Life requires building an appetite for healthy rule-breaking, knowing when to question the norms, how to navigate them in a useful way in order to construct a life that is personally satisfying too.
Serving the group ticks the right boxes, satisfies the ego and brings external appreciation. Whereas serving the Self is a quiet process with no outward accolades. Individuation asks us to question the rules, to break down established constructs and reconstruct them when necessary.
Questioning established rules is also to call for change — a deeply unsettling prospect for the majority. To be the one that bucks the rules of the system is invariably seen as being selfish and self-serving. And so it requires being okay with meeting displeasure and unease from the other. It requires the ability to face being judged, disliked and to be unacceptable. To be keenly comfortable with fear, uncertainty and the loneliness of this process. Not with a false sense of bravado, but an inner strength instead.
We typically believe visionaries and change-makers are blessed with fearlessness. We hark their bravery as a prime quality, but I think it is more likely that they are just more comfortable with their fears. They are more friendly with uncertainty. They are okay with taking the risks of going against the grain, and they’re in deep commitment to the personal alignment of their inner Selves, over the easier, quickly-rewarded alignment to the Establishment.
Lately, I have been thinking about this a lot, in the context of two aspects of my life — my growing sensitivity/intolerance to right wing rhetoric in this country, and my evolving ideas around marriage. The two are also very closely related as my personal politics have grown and evolved. I now find myself in a strange new place, where I find myself having to regain belonging again. In a new way, from my new sense of self, having shed all the things I did to belong before — many of which came at a cost to my individual personhood.
Aligning strongly and firmly with personal values that oppose the rules and values of the majority no doubt comes with a loss of belonging and oneness with people around. I feel this deeply in both the aspects I have mentioned above. I feel increasingly like I don’t belong in this country anymore, like this is no place for me anymore. And I feel like a bit of an outsider in the family I have acquired through marriage.
I feel strongly, now more than ever, willing to contend with the inherent loneliness and fear of being in this place, because to choose to flow with the norm just to avoid it feels like too high a cost to pay. My sense of self has grown too strong now, I cannot seem to turn back on this and go back to some of my unthinking, unquestioning ways from before.