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The Emperor vs. the Hierophant

June 3, 2014

The Emperor and Hierophant are both seen as authority figures — the former in the domain of the secular and the latter, the sacred. But how does that differentiation help you interpret these cards in a reading? There are, of course, many other ways to distinguish these two cards, but when I found the following quote, I recognized in it another way to interpret them and see the difference between them.

“The key to getting lots of strangers to work together is not to create an endless stream of new laws or institutions but to create a set of shared values. Laws are something you merely obey. Values are something you feel.” — Edward Slingerland

(For more about Slingerland’s ideas on this topic, see an article titled Trying Not To Try: Cultivating the Art of Spontaneity or his book by that title.)

Emperor -- Tarot of the MastersIn light of this quote, I see the Emperor as one who tries to get things done by setting or enforcing rules and regulations. He tells others what they should do or have to do. The Hierophant, on the other hand, represents the values we hold (especially moral or ethical ones), and suggests getting things done through such means as educating people or setting an example by which the appropriate values are ingrained in them. This also indicates the limits of the Emperor’s power when he relies on imposing his will on others thru rules and regulations, and it shows us how the Hierophant might suggest a better way to get things done in a group setting.High Priest / Hierophant -- Tarot of the Masters

By the way, note that this may cast the Hierophant in a better light than we usually see him. This is a nice change for it’s always good to see a card in a new light.


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