Only occasionally does it refer to a person, a spiritual authority; whether they are publicly recognized or not does not matter. It is a person you can turn to for advice or in whom you can confide.
But usually The Hierophant describes a situation, one in which it is preferable to behave in a conventional, prudent and non-flamboyant manner. It is telling you that you should play by the rules and not draw attention to yourself.
The Hierophant stresses the qualities of compassion, understanding, tolerance, forgiveness and moderation. Make sure you are not being too judgemental or not crucifying others for things that you yourself are guilty of.
If the card should appear Upside down in your spread, it is indicating some openness to new ideas, unconventionality. It is the card of the inventor as well as the hippie; a free spirit.
Happy Thanks Giving Weekend,