My First Year Learning Tarot: March, The Hierophant


Unveiling gaze

Unveiling linkage

Between the contents

Of a structuring for

Seeing; an opening

Inside; surrounded

S/He lifts

S/He examines

Light, lay on

Dark, rest beneath.

The Hierophant is the illuminating link between our most cherished beliefs and the actual living of those beliefs in our day-to-day lives.

As I write this, I am fresh out of a three hour, in depth, expansive conversation with one of my dearest comrades. I could never hope to recreate the itinerary of our vocalised mental wanderings in relation to each other, but I have to say that I am the most grounded I have been in quite a while.

For some time, I’ve felt a closing in, my self in other dimensions closing down, going to sleep, losing their ways to my center (or maybe I am losing my way to theirs). In speech, I found that I can begin to agitate the rubble lining the connecting, constellating, pathways. I come closer to the Lacanian being: a speaking-being. I close the gap between self and surface. I drain away the detritus. However, it remains a provisional accomplishment which promptly recedes as soon as I cease sending air across my vocal chords, transforming inner rhythms to physical vibration.

S/He is a trusted advisor.

I have twelve windows open on my laptop as I type this (fifteen, if you want to count Spotify, email, my VPN, and an Apple Software Update which does not make a whole lot of sense to me since I have a windows computer). Two of those tabs are devoted to collecting information on Pamela Colman Smith, illustrator of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck(often referred to as the Rider Tarot Deck, Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, or RWS).

Colman Smith was born in London and attended Pratt Institute where she studied art under  Arthur Wesley Dow, before returning to England, without parents (her mother died in Jamaica and her father passed shortly after) or a degree (Colman Smith left Pratt due to health complications).

In England, she proceeded to grow a prolific body of illustration work, from The Illustrated Verses of William Butler Yeats to collections of Jamaican folklore, such as The Annancy Stories (the Jamaican iteration of the African stories of Anansi the Spider).

In 1909, Arthur Edward Waite published Colman Smith’s tarot deck, which he had commissioned. For the first time, the pip cards (the tarot version of the suits) were illustrated with complex narratives,  which Colman Smith brought to life outside the bounds of Waite’s design of the major arcana.

Despite her revolutionary contribution, Colman Smith’s name, image, and even coloration of the cards is often absent, rendering her invisible, like so many other women of color. Yet, she is an undeniable, essential link in the lineage of tarot, illustration, and history; while her presence often went unnamed, she did not disappear, and her contributions, and self, gradually return to their rightful position.

The Hierophant asks you to honestly assess how well your convictions translate to words and actions. It will undoubtedly guide you toward inner harmony.

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I did a tarot reading (probably around the last time I felt like I didn’t have 12 networking universes swirling through my head).

The kitchy conclusion would be that I should be more on myself about exploring the play that I have previously cultivated.

But how would that be play?

Maybe, instead, the more apt intention speaks to a metaphysical throwing my hands in the air and seeing where the cards land.

i.e. Just playing.

Following my intuition, as it forever is the inverse impression of that to which I subject myself.

And knowing that tarot has and no doubt will continue to have a space in guiding me to that location of wonder.

Oh, of course, and going to the Pamela Colman Smith exhibit in the Pratt Library, to which I have existed in close proximity for the last few months--both in and out of the library’s walls--to pay a much needed visit and expressed neverending gratitude for her place in this mystic vein of the world.


Graphic by Katie Vogel

written by
Katie Vogel
March 10, 2019