5 Hierophant: Nightcrawler
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” ~Epicurus
Today we continue our look at the Major Arcana through the lens of Marvel’s X-Men comic book characters! Thus far we have discussed Professor X as the Magician, Storm as the High Priestess, Jean Grey as the Empress and Cyclops as the Emperor! This week we celebrate the fuzzy elf with a conscience known as Nightcrawler!
The teleporting mutant known as Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, was born to the shape-shifting mutant terrorist Mystique and a demon lord named Azazel. Abandoned by his mother at birth, Kurt was rescued and raised by a sorceress and trained in the circus as an acrobat. It was some time during his years in the carnival that he found faith in the Catholic religion. This connection to a higher source of power would be of great resource to Kurt through many tumultuous years of challenges.
Kurt grew up with a foster brother Stefan who had some kind of precognition that Stefan might one day commit murder. He made Kurt promise to kill him if he ever did. Kurt reluctantly agreed. Unfortunately, this situation came to pass when the brothers were adults and Kurt accidentally snapped Stefan’s neck while trying to subdue him. Villagers who had been hunting the source of the murders found Kurt and judging him by his appearance, blamed him for his brother’s crimes. They were on the verge of killing Kurt when he was rescued by Professor Charles Xavier who asked him to join his new team of X-Men, and gave him the code name of Nightcrawler.
Professor X gave Nightcrawler a holographic device called an image inducer which Kurt used to disguise himself as his swashbuckling hero Errol Flynn. After a while he began to resent having to hide his true form and eventually released his dependence on the image inducer. Kurt was known by his teammates as a fun-loving, playful charmer who could never resist making someone laugh. He was also known in times of adversity to rely upon his deep abiding faith in God. These two sides of Nightcrawler’s personality led many of the X-Men to consider him a great friend and confidante.
In one of the X-Men’s various fights against The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Nightcrawler noticed the resemblance between his appearance and their leader Mystique. Nightcrawler asked if there was a connection between them, but Mystique ignored his questions. His unknown parentage proved to be a great source of concern for Kurt and his quest for identity undermined his self-confidence and leadership potential for many years.
However, the truth about his origins did come out and Kurt had to make sense of the fact that his birth mother was a murderer and his father was a demon intent on conquering the planet. Neither of these truths managed to divert Kurt from his inner moral compass; perhaps they even reinforced it. Nightcrawler found service in helping others and through his faith and adventure craving personality even became leader of the British team of X-Men, Excalibur. After his tenure with this team, he enrolled in the seminary and became a priest. He later returned to the X-Men team and died heroically in battle. It has been confirmed that he will return from the afterlife in November in the pages of Amazing X-Men as written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Ed McGuinness.
In the Tarot, the Hierophant represents a teacher or mentor, but most of all an intuitive guidance. This archetype denotes spiritual discipline and working within the rules of an existing hierarchy. Nightcrawler was often seeking out authority whether in God, Professor X or by following the precepts of his heart. He was oppressed by the rules of our culture yet still found a way to act on a high set of values and a strong conscience. This is the energy of the Hierophant at work. Kurt’s faith is an expression of his inner guide and his swashbuckling persona defied the stagnant traditions of society. He was a revolutionary who followed his own orthodoxy. It will be a pleasant experience to see him return to the X-Men fold as a voice of conventional morality in a time when the lines between right and wrong have never been murkier.
Alas, Nightcrawler was not included in the deck I use for my X-Men Tarot series (as he was running around as leader of Excalibur at the time), so this is the first time I have discussed Nightcrawler as an archetype. However, if we were to equate him with the number five as per the Major Arcana card with which I have matched him, he would replace Archangel as the harbinger of testing our fears in order to activate our potentials.
Archangel was a runner up for the position of Hierophant as his story of adversity and triumph is much aligned with the ideas of change and transition. However, that character no longer exists in the Marvel Universe as Archangel was recently reborn as simply Angel in the pages of Uncanny X-Force and no longer remembers or resembles his previous persona. Check out issues of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men to see for yourself. Also, keep reading these posts to see what card I did choose for our reborn flying healer!
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Artwork in this post by Ed McGuinness, Alan Davis, Paul Smith, Dave Cockrum, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith, respectively.