The Kings and the Hierophant: An Unholy Alliance?

In historical times there was little separation between Church and State, with secular rulers relying on the sway that the clergy held over the pious to keep them tractable. When you’re praying you can’t be fomenting unrest (unless you’re Martin Luther). The clergy, in turn, relied on the King’s protection and largess. Tarot shows us that this wasn’t accidental. The King as the fourteenth suit card reduces numerologically to Five (1+4=5), the number of the Hierophant, and so does Trump XIV – Temperance, the Great Equalizer. The King held the scepter of administrative law and the Hierophant was the paragon of spiritual law, while Temperance (note that I’m not saying “Mercy”) mediated between the two as a kind of “good-will ambassador.” As the saying goes, they got you “comin’ and goin’.” Since Five is a number of Mars, paternal benevolence was seldom part of the mix.


I find it interesting that the Kings and not the Emperor are aligned with the Hierophant as co-conspirators for his religious manipulations. The Hierophant follows the Emperor in the series of trumps, behaving more like an imperial envoy than a self-sustaining force in the world. The Emperor dominates his own power bloc, while the less omnipotent Kings benefit more from the reflected glory bestowed by the emissary of God. It’s the old “iron fist in velvet glove” cliche; if God grants you temporal dominion as attested to by the emissary of the Church, you don’t need to be overtly ruthless; you can be much more Machiavellian about it. It became a question of who was using whom, and to what ends? The King got docile sheep and the Hierophant got to be king-maker, but neither seemed to entirely trust the other.

As the populace became more cosmopolitan and sophisticated, Temperance came into its own as a “higher octave” of the Hierophant and, by extension, the King, who necessarily had to become more urbane. The warrior-king gave way to the diplomat-king, the crafty deal-maker replacing the holy head-roller. While the Hierophant imparted his dogmatic wisdom to the faithful in the sanctuary, the idealistic Temperance held forth in universities for the more philosophically inclined. This obviously worked to the disadvantage of the Kings; smart sheep are restless sheep. Kings who founded and funded schools of higher learning were playing with fire. These days, the Hierophant hides behind the veil of the High Priestess and pulls the strings of the King from the shadows. His former role as dual magistrate of mundane affairs was stripped and settled upon a professional bureaucracy. Control of the sheep has been turned over to the bankers and marketers.

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