Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Hierophant

As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves

We are nearly on the eve of a new year. 2021 is a Hierophant year: 2+0+2+1=5. There are lessons to be learned in the coming year. Are you ready to learn them?

To find a quote representative of the Hierophant, the fifth major arcana in my ongoing #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes project, I’ve gone way back to the beginning, to the First Doctor and the very first season of Doctor Who: “As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”

The Hierophant is a complicated card, one of the more challenging ones for me when it comes up in a reading. It’s about teaching and mentorship, traditionally from the perspective of spiritual learning, rituals, conformity and tradition. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the First Doctor of all the Doctors was perhaps most like the traditional reading of the Hierophant: a teacher who keeps slightly separated from others, they are the keeper of knowledge, and share it at their prerogative.

I tend to favour a reading of the Hierophant that focuses more on learning as something we do throughout our lives, especially as it relates to community and society, and about establishing a spiritual practice that helps us to be mindful. The Doctor, an alien time lord who is centuries old (or millennia, depending on where you pick up the story,) may begin as an authoritarian source of knowledge and wisdom, but you can see them evolve as they learn from their companions over the years. And, as the Doctor learns from the experiences shared with their companions, so the companions do, too.

On the Fool’s journey, as we move from the structure and rigidity of the Emperor’s worldly domain, the Hierophant encourages us to work with a mentor or spiritual leader to begin to develop our belief systems. We need to rely on others on our journey, as the First Doctor observed, to learn about each other so we can learn about ourselves.

What will the Hierophant mean for us in 2021? I think it will start with looking and reaching outward, towards others, in community and society. We should focus on what we can learn from others, and on empathy and compassion, and learning and growing. Mindfulness will help us act for the greater good, not just to satisfy self-serving impulses.

Speaking of focusing on others, the next stop on our journey through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes is the Lovers. Meanwhile, I’m always curious what you think: does this Doctor Who quote illustrate your understanding of the Hierophant? Like I said, this is a challenging card for me, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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