Travel Tarot: The Hierophant

In the Travel Tarot series I share stories and pictures from my life out on the road, reading tarot, tour managing for Kristen Ford, and seeing the USA out the window of our converted camper van named Lady. I take quite a few photos each day, and many of them end up on my Instagram account with a hashtag for a corresponding tarot card that reminds me of the image, mood, or theme of the photo.  Sometimes the connections between life and tarot are obvious, and other times an explanation brings us deeper into the meaning of the card, the energies of our lives, and the connection between these energies and our daily existence.  This series offers that deeper exploration of a photo, a tarot card, and how that relates to my day to day life on the road. The Beinecke Library Yale University New Haven, CT

THE HIEROPHANT: Tradition Order Discipline Conformity Structure Tried and True Time Tested Shared Knowledge Group Mind Inside the Box Collective Identity Conventional Wise Counsellor Establishment Heritage Trusted Guidance


The Hierophant can be a tricky card for this tarot reader. The card is all about rules and structure, traditionally with religious overtones.  It's about someone else telling you how things are and what you need to do. For example, The Hierophant is also called The Pope in some decks. Hell no! I want to set my own rules and do things my own way, especially since tarot reading is against so many of The Hierophant's doctrines. The Hierophant doesn't want you to think for yourself, he wants you to follow. I question tradition. I wonder why doctrines exist. Who do they serve and to what end? Why should I subscribe to a religion when I can create my own spirituality without the need for someone to intervene between me and the divine? I'm perfectly capable of accessing God without a Church or the Patriarchy to tell me how to do it. Societal rules seem just as arbitrary as church doctrine as well.  Why can't I live in my van and park on the street? No overnight parking!? Why not!?  I can be a productive and valuable member of society without hunkering down behind a desk and paying rent, especially while I'm young and active.

Anyway, my point is that when I see The Hierophant come up in a reading, I can have a knee jerk reaction that he indicates unnecessary restriction and constraint on a situation. I think, uh oh, someone is just being a sheep instead of a leader. But of course, this isn't always the case with The Hierophant. There are institutions and systems that I appreciate in our society. One of those societal structures is the library. I love going into different libraries and archives during our travels, walking among the shelves, looking at documents, learning and experiencing history. The photo above, from the Beinecke Library at Yale, is a great example of an institution with rules and systems in place that I like.  Anyone can go into the Beinecke and see a Gutenberg Bible or Shakespeare's original works, but there are some conditions in place.  These rules exist so that the books can continue to exist, and that makes sense to me as rules worth following.

Card catalogs at The Chicago Public Library

I love libraries and archives!  The library was one of my favorite places as a young child, and I read and read and read and am still reading as much as I can today. I love the way libraries look, and smell, and feel.  I love them so much that I went to school for years in order to get a Masters in Library Science. Unfortunately, this degree does not come in very handy on the road. So much about libraries and archives is wrapped up in the physical space of the collection. There is a presence in a library structure that carries a lot of meaning to me.  As far as I know, there aren't many traveling librarian jobs.  Could I just pop into any public library and reshelve the books for a day and some pay?  I wish!  Most freelance library work involves being online and doing something with the digital realm. That's ok, but I'm not going to go out of my way to seek it out when I already spend so much of my time on the internet, doing something I'm really passionate about:  reading tarot and setting up tour dates for Kristen!

Kalamazo, Michigan Public Library atrium.

What I've come to learn from The Hierophant is that there are situations in which you learn from what has come before you.  Accumulated knowledge adds value and keeps you from reinventing the wheel. The important thing is to be conscious of the structures you decide to integrate into your life.  Pick your wise counsellors, instead of just going along with what your parents did, or everyone else does. That way, when you explore your spirituality, you can pick a religion that is meaningful to you and form a relationship with that church. Then the guidance you receive from God will be aligned with your values. The same can be said of books- it's not the best idea to just believe everything your read because your teachers assigned it to you.  Find the books that inform your opinions in order to move beyond theory and into practice.  The Hierophant doesn't have to be a box restricting you, but a firm foundation from which to explore.

IMG_5223The Hierophant Reversed: Undisciplined Unorthodox Originality Invention Outside the box Against the grain Independent Breaking from constraints Unrestricted Questioning tradition No role models Rebellious Making your own rules

Many times in life, the answers or information you are looking for, aren't easy to find.  Then the learning process can be just as worthwhile as the acquisition of knowledge!  Let's take the book example a step farther, above is a photo of a used bookstore in New Orleans, Louisiana.  OMG- what a shop!  Books stacked haphazardly on every surface, all the way to the ceiling. How on earth are you supposed to find what you need in here?  Well, you need to think outside of the box, you need to get creative. My mind whirled as I looked around this store, but soon I noticed that there was a bit of system here. The science fiction was here, the books about NOLA were over there, French language books were piled up by the door. There was a rebellion against the ordinary in this shop, a stirring of independent tradition, or but there were still rules.  They were just unorthodox rules.

And why should a bookstore be neat?  Why should it be organized?  Why should it be that finding the right book for you depends upon being able to read the spine label? How does the author's name effect your ability to learn or being entertained by a book?  This bookstore suggests that there is a different way. Buying a book can be about serendipity. This store, to me, reflects the real world, much more than a library where all the books are firmly categorized and labeled.  Life is messy.  You never know what will happen next, and you have to roll with it.  This store also is a good representation of how information is stored in the mind. There are lose connections between thoughts and memories in one section, but chronology is screwed, names are misplaced, categories overlap. The unrestrained mind wanders and explores, makes associates, imposed cause and effect. Sometimes it all makes sense, but sometimes it's illogical.  In either case, we get by.

Arcadian Books and Art Prints shop in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I could have spent all day in here!

I hope you enjoyed this installation of Travel Tarot.  I plan to add a new photo and travel life story as often as I can, so follow this blog, or hop on over to Facebook and follow me there so you never miss a Travel Tarot story.  Yay!