A few years ago, I observed that the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was hitting a critical point, as a glut of news reports was beginning to directly implicate the Vatican. I suggested then that what was happening in the Catholic Church was an indicator of the dismantling of hierarchical systems more broadly and that in the Motherpeace Tarot, such patriarchal, spiritual authority is represented by the Hierophant.
At its root, the word "hierophant" means bringer to light of sacred things. In the traditional Tarot, the Hierophant represents a priest or Pope, the paternal religious authority... Representing a hierarchical view of religion, the Hierophant stands on a pedestal, raised up from the earth, above the common person. In the Motherpeace image, he has taken over the robes and skirt of the High Priestess, along with her breasts which symbolize her sacred power, but he has forsaken her "Sophia" or wisdom... The authority of the Hierophant is based, in large part, on repression of women and the natural instincts that women symbolize.
The Motherpeace Tarot Playbook explains how to read the card when it comes up in a spread.
The Hierophant represents spiritual authority. He represents ritual and ceremonial magic which manifests as organized religion in this culture. Or he represents the psychic control exercised by mostly male, authority figures in our culture, such as psychiatrists, gurus, doctors and courtroom judges. Since he is also the internalized parent or superego authority, he represents conventional morality.
The text goes on to explain how to read this card when it presents as reversed, or ill-dignified.
The reversal shows a full-scale rebellion. You can no longer tolerate external roles and conventional morality; you have begun to call on your deeper conscience for advice You are able to stop kneeling to the priest or the doctor or the father, choosing instead to take your own advice, heed your own counsel.
I believe that this is the fight that is now full-on. After several years of observing and cataloging the scandals and failures of leadership in the Catholic Church, as well as the public breakdown of other patriarchal, spiritual groups—James Ray International, Warren Jeffs's FLDS, and even the strange little splinter group of Amish in Bergholz, Ohio—I see followers in even some very unexpected religious contexts beginning to take their power back. More recently there have been upheavals in organizations as diverse as Scientology and a prominent Zen Buddhist organization.