Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Hierophant

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Fudge belongs to Brenna-Ivy Art.  

Traditional Meaning of The Hierophant

The imagery on the Hierophant card is somewhat complicated, especially for modern-day tarot readers. I’ll address this shortly, but first, let’s look at the symbolism as it is traditional understood. We see the Hierophant, or Pope figure, seated between two stone pillars on a large chair, almost like a throne. He is richly attired in a red priestly robe, and atop his head is a truly magnificent crown (more so even than the Emperor and Empress). He holds a crosier in one hand, while his other hand gives the sign of a blessing to the two men kneeling before him. These two men are undoubtedly priests or studying to become ordained, as their heads are shaved in the tonsure fashion. There are two crossed keys at his feet, representing the spiritual and mundane worlds meeting.

The meaning of the word Hierophant is, “a person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles“, so by this definition we are asked to read the card as a Pope figure, or a type of spiritual authority who understands the religious or spiritual mysteries of life and who stands as a go-between, advisor, or teacher of sorts between these ‘secrets’ and us. Traditionally, the card is associated with education, deep thinking, developing philosophies on life, and exploring spirituality – essentially to “integrate mind and spirit” and “ascend to a high plane of awareness” (Liz Dean’s Ultimate Guide to Tarot, pg. 51). It also speaks to the experience that being part of an institution or structured community can offer, as well as defining and living your values.

However, the imagery on this card (and this is my opinion) speaks to me of religious rigidity and conformity, as well as abuse of power and denial of the reality of ‘common’ life that is often associated with religion and the Catholic church today. I associate it with saving face, keeping up appearances, and the kind of institutionalized rigidity that alienates and ostracizes those who don’t belong. I think of corruption, power, and political maneuvering as well.

If you connect with the traditional meaning, then this character comparison may not fit as well for you, but if you resonate with my interpretation, then you won’t be surprised at the correlations between Cornelius Fudge and the Hierophant. Even if you do see the traditional meaning as more fitting, the reversed aspect of the Hierophant is pretty spot on with my interpretation so you can use this to help you with the reversed or ‘negative’ aspect of this card.

Cornelius Fudge as The Hierophant

Ah, good old Cornelius Fudge. As far as Harry Potter characters go, Cornelius is probably one of the most indifferently despised. No one takes him too seriously, not the fans of the books, heck, not even the characters themselves really do. Unfortunately, when we do notice him it is because of his bumbling nature and (later on) his absolute refusal to make moral and responsible decisions. However we feel about him, Fudge does play a large part in the first five books, and it is due to his colossal screw-ups that Voldemort is able to fully return to power. It is through this aspect of Fudge that find the best representations of the Hierophant card’s themes. Fudge is like one big ‘ol reversed Hierophant written into a character.

Firstly, let’s look at Fudge’s role in the books. When we meet him he is the Minister for Magic, a position akin to the President of the United States or Chancellor of Germany. He has held this role for the last 13 years (13 years!) and to his credit, he has managed to keep things calm and peaceful after the First Wizarding War ended. As the Minister for Magic, Fudge has actually done a decent job, although it is rumored he made few decisions on his own, instead writing to Dumbledore (hello Magician!) for advice. However, he is the face of the Ministry and is endowed with all of the power and influence that comes with the position.

It is impossible to speak about Fudge without speaking about the Ministry as an institution. It is in charge of enacting and writing laws, working with the muggle government, and performing trials and sentencing for those who break wizarding rules. We see many examples of the Ministry, and Fudge himself, sending letters to Harry informing him of violations of magic he commits (Chamber of Secrets, Order of the Phoenix), and in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince we witness the legal power of the Ministry during the Wizengamot trial.

In addition to keeping the laws and regulations of the wizarding world, the Ministry seems to have a hand in the education system in the wizarding world. We see this especially with Umbridge (Fudge’s right hand woman) in Order of the Phoenix. Although they may not directly set or grade the O.W.L.S or N.E.W.T.S., it seems many of the judges work for the Ministry and we get the sense that the Ministry steps in whenever they please.

Fudge as a character is greedy, arrogant, incompetent, and cruel and down-right cutthroat in Order of the Phoenix. He uses the press (Rita Skeeter and the Dailey Prophet) to wage a character assassination against Harry, a FIFTEEN year old, and Dumbledore. Even before this, Fudge shows his distain for ‘lower’ classes of wizards, favoring Lucius Malfoy over Arthur Weasley, and treating other species, particularly house elves and goblins, with disgust and discrimination. He is cowardly, inconsiderate, and offensive.

If we look at the artwork of Fudge above, we see the same kind of expression and showiness pictured on the Hierophant card. I mean seriously, look at their faces, their eyes, could they be any more similar!? Fudge is wearing his signature pinstripe suit and lime green bowler hat, a pompous and flashy get-up, that mirrors the fine robes of the Hierophant. Although not pictured, we know that Percy Weasley becomes Fudge’s assistant and follows him everywhere, which mimics the figures at the Hierophant’s feet.

The similarities go beyond expression though. Just as the Hierophant represents the Church in the Rider-Waite deck, Fudge represents the Ministry. They both stand-in for the institutions they head. Both characters put on a public face, wear fancy attire, and base their actions on how they look to others, or how they can hold on to their positions of power. Both hold the keys to life’s mysteries – the Hierophant, a spiritual knowledge and connection, and Fudge, the Department of Mysteries where we see the Hall of Prophecy and The Veil where Sirius dies.

We can think of the Hierophant card and Cornelius Fudge this way: If Fudge had been honorable, if he had had morals and courage, he may have run the Ministry differently. In this alternate world, we would see more of the traditional meaning of the Hierophant reflected. As it stands though, we see exactly how much damage can be done by the negative aspects of this card. Aspects like poor leadership, selfish ambition, harsh rules and regulations, too much authority, punishment to those who don’t conform, corruption, greed, staunch adherence to duty and obligation (we hear Fudge say it is his ‘duty’ many times), and rigid orthodoxy are all traits showed by Fudge and his ministry, and these are all negative aspects of the Hierophant card. The card however, does tell us to clarify our values – which Fudge also kind of pushes in the series. It is because of his folly that everyone must take a side and decide what they stand for, which is one way to go about this task.

How Fudge as The Hierophant Helps Us Read Tarot

Fudge as the Hierophant helps us read tarot because as we consider how he exemplifies the most awful aspects of the Hierophant card, we can reflect on these traits and behaviors in ourselves or in the institutions we associate with in our own lives. Let’s look at a few questions about Fudge from the books. They are asked with his character and the Hierophant card’s themes in mind:

  • In what ways does Fudge deeply neglect his duties as Minister of Magic? How does this affect the wizarding world?
  • What kind of culture does Fudge’s Ministry encourage or set for the wizarding world?
  • What are Fudge’s worst traits and how are these magnified by his position as Minister?
  • The Ministry safeguards the Department of Mysteries. What do you make of this connection and the Hierophant’s guarding of ‘sacred mysteries’?
  • What good things does the Ministry/Fudge do during the series?
  • If Fudge had been a better person, what difference would it have made for the Ministry as an institution? For the Hogwarts education experience? For those employed at the Ministry? Etc…

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Cornelius Fudge, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Hierophant comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Hierophant shows his up in a reading:

  • Are you neglecting any of your ‘duties’ in life or are you being a responsible leader/teacher/mentor when the situation calls for it? Are there any areas where you could step up into this position? What effect would this have on you or those around you?
  • Would you benefit from seeking out a leader/teacher or community/institution to belong to?
  • What kinds of organizations do you belong to or participate in? What morals, values, or principles do they encourage and live out?
  • Reflect on the traits you dislike and like about yourself – how are these brought out by your different roles in life?
  • What kind of big life mysterious do you often think about? How do you go about trying to seek answers?
  • What good things come from the institutions or leaders (especially spiritual mentors) in your life?
  • What would you change about these institutions, mentors, teachers, or communities? How would these changes better reflect your values or principles?

This post should get your started thinking about the Hierophant, Fudge’s character, and the themes of institutionalization, greed, and deciphering your own values. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Hierophant card in tarot!

Next week we will explore James and Lilly Potter as card number VI, The Lovers.

Listen to the podcast episode of Fudge as the Hierophant:

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