Each year at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, we celebrate the arrival of a new year and a new cycle. Often during this time we find our thoughts turned towards what that new cycle will bring, we create new goals, plan our path towards what we want and set up perimeters by which to avoid the things that oppose our desires.
It is both an exciting and daunting time, not knowing what is in store or how best to prepare but one way to ready ourselves and subsequently gain an upper hand is to know and understand the card of the year.
This is done by a simple math equation and follows a pattern which is easy to follow.
For example, this year, 2020 was an emperor year because, 2+0+2+0= 4 and the number 4 is associated with the emperor as it is represented in the Major Arcana in Tarot. It is easy looking back on 2020 to see how The Emperor showed up. We faced challenges, conflict, change and growth concerning things like structure, routine, leadership and power.
This year is 2021, by taking that same equation we get the number 5 and so we move on to the Hierophant. Each year we progress in a linear way until the beginning of a new decade throws us back 9 steps.
At first glance this may sound rather defeating, however, progress is a never ending process, every ten years we take 10 steps forward and 9 steps back resulting in a slow but steady and unyielding evolution as we move together in our growth as individuals and as an intrinsically connected universe.
This is a pattern we can track and predict, an eternal spiral bringing us back to the same lesson but from a higher perspective. The more aware we are of where we are in the process, the more intentional we can be in terms of participating in a shift which is going to happen with or without our cooperation.
So, as we move into 2021: The year of the Hierophant, let's take a look into what we can expect and how we can most effectively move through the challenges and opportunities this year represents.
The Hierophant is responsible for our institutions, such as church, marriage or even the nuclear family. He is the card that represents tradition and conventional wisdom, he is more or less the path that is expected of us. He is a card that embodies the communities we live in and the agreements we have made in order to exist within them.
He is organized religion, he is education, he is the pope.
Part of what this means is that we can expect to see charismatic and convincing spiritual leaders rise in popularity and power both globally and in our personal lives. It will be up to us to separate the charlatans from those who are truly here to help us grow. Spiritual advisors, leaders and mentors are an enormously important part of our progress.
As we move through our journey many teachers will cross our path. This never happens by mistake but by design, the universe is always conspiring to see to it that the right thing is in front of us at the right moment.
There is much to be gained from insight, wisdom and knowledge given from those who have it to impart, what is important to keep in mind is that a good spiritual teacher will give you tools to empower you to find your own personal path and expression of spirituality, a leader who seeks to gain power over you or who claims to be the singular path to spirit is not a leader but a predator.
Whether the teachers who cross our path in 2021 are the former or the latter (and it is likely we should expect to encounter both), the lesson and what is to be gained from either is of equal value and importance. The goal should not be to avoid the painful lesson but to gain through it the knowledge and experience which brings us closer to who we are becoming.
Growing up in a very rigid religious household, I did not initially have positive associations with the Hierophant. I thought of the Hierophant as I thought of my father, a self proclaimed authority on God and his will, rigid, unyielding, stagnant, misusing power, quick to condemn and to assign expectations which did not resonate with me.
These are the negative aspects of The Hierophant but in its positive aspect the Hierophant is a beacon, a divine leader, one who offers knowledge, safety and community through and within the sacred.
This brings me to the second part of what we can expect to encounter during our Hierophant year. We will look to our traditions and support systems and find that they are there to catch us in our deepest need and lift us up. We will become deeply and passionately aware of the degree to which we are able to rely on these systems and gain a deeper appreciation.
However, in relying more heavily on these things, we will also begin to realize the parts that have not aged well, the cracks in the foundation, the ways in which we allow these things to hold us back rather than move us forward, the things that somehow no longer seem to fit.
A church, after all, is not defined by its walls and rooms, it is not even defined by its leader so much as it is a reflection of the collective who call themselves its members. This concept can extend to any group, community or family.
The question becomes, are you creating a safe space for people to truly grow in their uniqueness and authenticity? Do you feel as though your sacred spaces allow you to fully exist as you change and grow?
There are times when convention is the appropriate choice. Within the correct community (and that will be different for each of us) we find guidance, structure, support and wisdom. We all must find our place within the systems and institutions that best suit the will within us. Even those of us who choose an unconventional lifestyle still operate within the system or community of that lifestyle.
It took me some time to realize that even though I had chosen a spiritual path that was in opposition of organized religion I was still engaging in practices and rituals which come from a long line of tradition and that I still belonged to a community of people who had chosen a similar path.
Within that community, although our practice is personal and differs in many ways, there are still many basic principles which we abide by. In other words, even in the unconventional, there is conventional wisdom, there are basic agreements.
When we defer to convention as the only option and neglect ourselves the right to decide independently we lose our authenticity and become shadows of ourselves. Conversely, if we are always bucking institutions and conventional wisdom we are bound to sabotage and limit ourselves all the same and again find that we have lost who we are.
When the Hierophant card is up we can expect to begin to shift in the way we experience and perceive the communities and institutions we have built around us, whatever they may be. Through our lifetimes each of us have chosen different kinds of families, marriages, relationships, religions, spiritual practices, associations, affiliations, clubs, communities etc. and in each of those different choices we have made agreements, traditions and established common beliefs and goals.
This is a year when we are asked to see ourselves outside of each of these, to ask ourselves who we are or who we would be without them and if they are limiting us. You may have already found yourself asking questions like: In what ways do my beliefs differ from that of my spiritual community? Are there times in my life when I have chosen the conventional path at the cost of my happiness and authenticity? Do I have an unhealthy disdain for tradition and where does that come from? What agreements have I made in my communities or chosen family which are too painful to keep? What choices have I made which are incongruent with my beliefs? In what ways could my life benefit from community and/or tradition?
These are common questions we all ask ourselves from time to time but this year will be a year when the question can no longer stand to exist without an answer. We will be forced to come to terms with the truth in such a way that we can no longer bear the cost of burying it.
These questions will come from unexpected places and are likely to stem from conflict and dissatisfaction. Growth rarely comes without work and it is reasonable to expect that we will have to face difficulties along the way. This is not bad news, in fact it is all good news.
The hardships involved in change are far less difficult to bear than stagnation. The challenges will come, there is nothing to be done about that and these issues can be very tied up in our identity, ego and sense of security and when those things feel threatened it is a natural instinct for humans to double down, dig in and become belligerent, stubborn and immovable.
It is important that we stay present and move through the questions as they arise. If we did not create establishment, community and tradition for the sake of supporting growth and creating safe spaces to change then what is its purpose? We must be willing to put aside that which no longer serves us. If we are not in service to ourselves we cannot be in service to others.
This year the Hierophant will be telling on itself, showing us the ways traditional values and established ideals have failed us and subsequently itself. Not so that we can tear it down but so that we can adjust accordingly.
We will be forced to recognize the ways in which our family, social, religious and even political structures are not helping us to become the people we wish to be or to build the world we wish to live in so that we can change them. Changing is not how we destroy something but how we cause it to be sustainable enough not to destroy itself. In the end, this creates a deeper sense of faith, a deeper commitment to our establishments and a deeper authenticity from which to operate within them.
The year of the Hierophant makes way for the year of The Lovers in 2022, which will bring us into our true life path, our highest purpose. Without first dismantling the questions of the Hierophant, we are still too lost, too incongruent with our purpose to fully live in our calling.
It is both a challenging and rewarding process we are on to find our highest selves and although the process asks much of us, the reward is far beyond the cost. We can move into 2021 aware of the challenges that await us, prepared to be intentional and to contribute to a shift which is inevitable. In awareness we become empowered, we become purposeful. We get to be a part of the change and in being a part of it we get to create the kind of change which is in alignment with who we are and who we want to be.