The Hierophant in the Tarot: unpleasant or not?

“Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it, or read it in books. Look for the truth in yourself, not without yourself”

Pyotr Demyanovich Ouspensky

At the start of the “Tarot & Jung” course, I always let students perform an exercise in which they choose one or more tarot cards that they find ‘annoying’, ‘difficult’, or simply ‘unpleasant’. Although this might be different for each individual, the High Priest is invariably in the top 3 of unpleasant cards (it often ends up with IV The Emperor and XII Death). If you’ll take on a Jungian approach, the explanation could be that this antipathy is not our own, but our ancestors’. The unpleasant image has ended up in the collective unconscious and that is why we generally might perceive this image in a negative way.

Death, of course, leads us all the way back to prehistoric times where the primal man & women developed an instinctive feeling that this should be something to avoid because it is ‘dangerous’. The Devil and the High Priest are cards that we generally feel to be unpleasant because of 2000 years of church history that is behind us; We have been collectively made afraid of the Devil while the High Priest reminds us of the (Christian) clergy that obtained much power and wanted to make us walk in line by preaching about hell and damnation. Dogmas, abuse, mistreatment, punishment, inquisition… in the western hemisphere we all carry this in the ‘unconscious’ compartiment of our luggage. The treatment that many of our ancestors received – especially women – is not pretty! At the very least, they are severely restricted in their freedom and development.

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