Recently I wrote a blog post about the archetype of the Hierophant, and the ways in which three modern tarot artists had reinterpreted that archetype. After reading that post, a number of people requested that I make a comparison between the Emperor and the Hierophant.
When we discuss tarot cards from an archetypal perspective, we need to understand that archetypes are different from interpretations. Tarot interpretations can vary a great deal, based on the reader’s intuition, preferred tarot traditions, and the context of both the question and the surrounding cards.
Archetypes, on the other hand, are fixed. The only wiggle room with an archetype is in our relationship to it and our resonance with it. This is an especially important point to consider regarding the Emperor and the Hierophant, since these archetypes both include the very yang energy of masculine authority. How we react to these cards says a lot about how we feel about masculine authority!
I often call the Emperor the authority of the community, and the Hierophant the authority of the church. When I say this, I am thinking about the time and place that gave birth to tarot, where religious authority would have carried a bit more weight than mere political authority. The question is how these archetypes translate into our modern times, when neither politicians nor priests are automatically feared or respected. In fact, some of the funniest jokes I know are about politicians and priests!
Every personality, every character, and every archetype has a light side and a shadow side. I generally see the archetypes of both the Emperor and the Hierophant as positive and well-intentioned. However, both of these archetypal characters have the potential for corruption and abuse.
It is easy to see the ways in which the archetypes of the Emperor and the Hierophant are similar. In what ways are they different?
It might be helpful to look at some of the cards’ correspondences. The Emperor is card number four, the number of stability. The Hierophant is card number five, the number of expansion.
The Emperor is related to Aries, and the element of Fire. The Hierophant is related to Taurus, and the element of Earth.
To me, the numbers and the elements of these two cards seem to balance each other out. Four is stable, but Fire is expansive. Five is expansive, but Earth is stable.
What do I conclude from this? The Emperor needs routine, but may step outside of daily activity in extraordinary circumstances. As a politician, he can declare war. The Hierophant seeks spiritual enlightenment, but is limited by his own humanity. As a priest, he longs to be something more than his human self. In fact, some people may worship the Hierophant.
When I consider the archetype of the Emperor, I see a respected community and family leader, a father and a politician. When I consider the archetype of the Hierophant, I see a person who has mastered a particular doctrine, a person who has become an authority of some specific body of knowledge. By comparison, the Emperor has earned his position by being responsible, likeable and present, rather than by learning a body of knowledge.
In a reading, both the Emperor and the Hierophant could indicate people, generally men. Both of these people could be either domineering or helpful. Both of these people are leaders. The Emperor may be political in the way he operates. The Emperor will do what is necessary to keep his people happy, or to protect them. The Hierophant will operate based on the particular discipline of his body of knowledge or his belief set. He cares less about how others regard him– his concern is adherence to his discipline or dogma.
Both the Emperor and the Hierophant can also represent institutions such as banks, hospitals, governments or corporations.
In a reading, the Hierophant can indicate advanced education, business ownership or being the boss. The Hierophant can also predict a wedding.
In a reading, the Emperor can indicate a position of stability and responsibility, or suggest that a particular situation is stable and reliable.
Thanks to everyone who asked this question. I hope you enjoy the video!
Video of Christiana Answers a Question about the Emperor and the Hierophant