V • The Hierophant

Hebrew letter
Magus of the Eternal

The Hierophant represents the open face of religion, concealing nothing. His doctrine is orthodox, his theology is worldly. He is the leader of the many, whereas the High Priestess is of the few. He may actually become that which he symbolizes, unifying the microcosm with the macrocosm, thus being the vehicle of religious expression rather than religion itself. His doctrine is dogmatic rather than inspirational.

The Hierophant is Osiris, the Egyptian god of the Underworld. He is the husband of Isis, the High Priestess. The white part of the crown worn by Osiris was the crown of Upper Egypt, known as the Hedjet. It was thought to embody the protective powers of Nekhebet, the personification of Southern Egypt. The feathers mounted at the sides are emblems of righteousness, and when worn with these feathers the white crown became the Atef crown, which was almost exclusive to Osiris. Mounted on the front is the protective Uraeus.

The flail in his left hand is made of a handle with three hanging parts. This suggests the triplicity of Isis, Osiris and Horus. It is decorated in three colours - the red of Horus, the blue of Isis and gold of Osiris. The crook in his right hand is a symbol of his rule. The outer robe of the Hierophant is red-orange, the symbolic colour of this card. Beneath he wears the white robe of purity, signifying that underneath the outward show of his belief lies the purity of its foundation.

Immediately in front of Osiris is the Djed. The Djed was itself the symbol of Osiris and is said to represent his backbone. It is the hieroglyph representing stability. The ceremonial act of raising the Djed was performed at the beginning of the reign of each Pharaoh. The ceremony re-enacted the resurrection of the god and his triumph over his great enemy, Set. In accordance with the concept of sympathetic magic, stability and good fortune were thus conferred upon the Pharaoh.

Inscribed upon the Djed in blue are the hieroglyphs of the eye and the throne. Together they form the name 'Asar', the Egyptian name of Osiris, which meant literally 'seat of the eye'. The throne is raised upon a dais, the front edge of which is decorated with hieroglyphs. The dais lifts the Hierophant above the level of his followers. It is the first step on the ascent to Heaven.

Behind the throne is Apis, the most important of the sacred bulls of Egypt, who was believed to join with Osiris after death to become Osiris-Apis. This formed the basis of the later Serapis. This god, a composite deity, combined attributes of a number of gods - Osiris was merged with the Apis bull of Memphis, together with elements of the Greek god Zeus and Dionysus. Kneeling before the Hierophant are the gods Horus and Isis. They have adopted the ritualised pose of veneration.

Interpretation The card represents spiritual advancement, perhaps long orthodox lines. It is conformity, the way of the masses, popular belief and common sense. The established Church; religious matters. Conventional moral codes. The reunion of opposing principles.