Tarotbytes: The Heirophant


After all these years, Tarot is still a frying pan to the face every now and then.

Today’s card was less the advice or caution kind of lesson and more of a ” it’s about-damn-time you really FEEL that lesson” kind of message. This particular frying pan was aimed right at my nose, not at yours, so you can relax. No frying pans for you today.

Got home a few hours ago from visiting my mother and sister in the tiny little southern town where I grew up. Going there isn’t always the heartwarming homecoming  kind of warm fuzzy feelings we are all conditioned to expect by Christmas cards and hallmark movies. Don’t get me wrong, they are my family, I love them, and I’m deeply grateful for all the help and kindness they get from our extended family and friends. I’m not saying everyone down there is alike – but daaaannnng they decided to live in a weird place! It was less a feeling of homecoming and more of Twilight-Zone-coming.

We visited the tiny town where I grew up and where mom has lived her entire life. It’s where Mom’s family has lived for generations…since long before the civil war in fact. It is about 60 miles from the even tinier town where Dad’s family lived for generations…long before the civil war too. Is it quaint and old fashioned there? Nope. It’s bizarre. Twin Peaks has nothing on these guys.

It’s a cultural thing, not so much a physical thing, really. The natural landscape is gorgeous. While many may disagree, I think the slowly turning wind generators dotting the mountaintops have an elegant, poetic beauty, adorning the environment as they turn to save it. There is forest, ancient and wise. Rocks and mountains and rivers, all lovely. The problem comes when you get to know how the people think. At the same time we drove by the windmills, we drove by houses flying the confederate flag. Still. Today. Even after everything in Charleston, SC. You can’t convince me it wasn’t an outright racist statement (the flags, not the windmills). Not after seeing KKK meeting posters stapled to the telephone poles in the dead center of town when I was a little kid.

In that same area … I swear this is true … there was a radio ad for a big fundraising festival & raffle at the fairground. The fairground in question is two blocks from the house where I grew up in “the field” neighborhood of Petersburg. Raise money for the fire department? Good idea, you say. Sounds old fashioned and quaint, you say. I wish.

One of the raffle prizes is an AR-15. An AR-effing-15! You know – one of those not for hunting, mass murderer, kill people in a theater guns.

As if that wasn’t incentive enough, “the ghost of Elvis” was going to be on hand to pull the first ticket (there’s a mental image for you). Plus there are lots of other prizes: a Ruger M77, a Remington 700, a Browning shotgun and a chainsaw with accessories.

Is that legal??

Even if it is, it’s appalling and terrifying. I wanted to stop the car on the spot and wrap my daughter head to toe in bulletproof Kevlar.

Then at the stoplight, (one of three in the entire county) there was another radio ad for a shop touting their extensive selection of “glass tobacco pipes.” Tobacco. Riiiiiiiiight. My daughter asked me if it was legal to advertise tobacco like that.


I’m not saying every single person is a gun-toting teavangelical. By the same token, it’s all absolutely real. It isn’t a manufactured media stereotype. Down there right-wing, gun loving, bible thumping, racist, bigoted, homophobics are a very real presence, if not an outright majority. That kind of thinking was always tacitly held up as examples of what good people “should” be like. Which explains why the Hierophant and Judgment cards are such personal nemesis. Of all the cards, those two hit me where I live(d). They activate more brain-parts than just the Tarot reading ones. Anything that gets too close to that American South, evangelical, christian fundamentalist, right wing conservative republican culture gives me a twitch…preacher-pope cards and judgement cards included.

And yet, there it is, staring me in the face today of all days.

There it sits, hitting me with the exact same interpretation that comes with the Hierophant whenever I read for other people. Basically, it advises to either work within social expectations in order to find your best path OR to set aside social & cultural expectations and do what you know is right.

I spent a scary lot of time in my early 20s trying to do the former. I spent years upon years trying to be a “good Baptist girl” and trying to fit in with that Elvis loving, AR-15 raffling, best friend hating, deep ruby red southern sub-culture. It didn’t work. That created an enormous amount heart-breaking and brain-bending emotional and intellectual dissonance. To remotely imply that I might agree with any of it was painfully and intolerably dishonest. Then comes Tarot, and the journey down a different path. The Pope card (among many other things) patiently pan-slammed me in a better direction. Namely, to do what I know is right, not what I was told was right.

It’s hard to admit to yourself that people you care about (and who genuinely care about you) are the antithesis to everything you value and you are the antithesis to all they hold dear. Or maybe they are  just plain abnormal.  It’s a hard lesson, deserving of it’s place within the major arcana. For me, it was a lesson decades in the learning. It’s difficult when a Tarot card is a hard frying pan to the face…no matter what individual lesson that frying pan holds for you. It’s hard whenever life requires you to let go and move on.

AND it’s a nice frying pan to the face to realize that you have moved on.

The way I read Tarot, any given card in any given position or layout can have one of several “flavors” or nuances to the message. It can be advice (do what you know is right even if it is counter-culture, or “abnormal” compared to your friends and family). It can be a reassurance or a promise (you will make a new home and new friends that are right for you). It can be a caution (don’t let them shake your confidence. Don’t sink back into the insanity just to please them or ‘fit in’). Or it can be validation (it’s about damn time you realize you are not from there anymore. You aren’t that … you never were that.) A validation type card message is a nice homecoming gift.

Of all days. After a surreal visit to the old “hometown” pulling the Heirophant card for today’s post  is the freaky icing on a freaky cake. My nemesis card is giving me a nice validation. Who would have thought?

It’s hard to put into words, so I’ll let Disney put it into a picture for me.

You know that moment when you realize you aren’t from there anymore….


Think I’m making that raffle thing up? Check this…