The Hierophant is a card of ᛁ (Isa). It represents the teacher who resists change in favor of conformity and tradition. They demand that you sacrifice a part of yourself in order to receive their wisdom. While the archetype of The Hierophant (both in our modern culture and the historical cultures which produced The Runes and The Tarot) is male, I have known plenty of Hierophants in my own life who have been female.
The Hierophant is also associated with ᚨ (Ansuz), as a card of the teacher. The Hierophant is the card of the one who knows a lot, and is willing to teach you. Learning requires change. A good teacher will be willing to change in order to match their student, and a good student will change to match their teacher.
The Hierophant is also a card of ᛟ (Othala), as it is a guardian of tradition. The Hierophant is the one who teaches you how it has always been done so that you can expand beyond. Remember that before Picasso was famous for his Cubist paintings, he first learned how to paint in the classical style, from a Hierophant-style master.
The Fool’s Journey
Mimir is the Hierophant to whom Odin journeyed. The piece of himself Odin gave up was smaller than what most Hierophants demand: The Allfather merely dropped His eye into Mimisbrun. He didn’t have to give up His cunning or His temper, only His ability to see with stereoscopic vision. For this sacrifice, Mimir allowed Him a sip from the well of wisdom.
Many would argue that this loss of His eye cost Odin his perspective in more ways than one, leading to some of the more extreme acts he performs later in the mythology.
Many decks show The Hierophant as a secluded wizard in a tower, cut off from the world and upset by the way it has changed. Why can’t things go back to the way they were? The Pagan Tarot (right) even shows The Hierophant as a priest standing on the bridge overlooking an old-fashioned book burning.
Most decks show keys near the bottom of the card. The Hierophant is the one who holds the keys to the gateway of wisdom. They are holding up their hand, waggling their finger at you for some imagined disrespect. No no, you may not take the keys until you have sufficiently sacrificed. In some denominations of Christianity, the raised fingers are a sign of benediction: The Hierophant is the one who decides when you receive your blessing.