The High Priestess Artwork Description
“She has the lunar crescent at her feet, a horned diadem on her head, with a globe set in the middle, and a large solar cross on her breast. The scroll in her hands is inscribed with the word Tora, signifying the Greater Law, the Secret Law and the second sense of the World. It is partly covered by her mantle, to show that some things are implied and some spoken. She is seated between the white and black pillars — J and B — of the mystic Temple, and the veil of the Temple is behind her: it is embroidered with palms and pomegranates. Her robes are flowing and gauzy, her mantle suggests light — a shimmering radiance. She has been called Occult Science on the threshold of the Sanctuary of Isis, but she is really the Secret Church, the House which is of God and man. She represents also the Second Marriage of the Prince who is no longer of this world; she is the spiritual Bride and Mother, the daughter of the stars and the Higher Garden of Eden. She is the Queen of the borrowed light, but this is the light of all. She is the moon nourished by the milk of the Supernal Mother.” 1
The High Priestess Associations
- Alternate Names: The Pope Joan, Female Pontiff, Papess, Abbess, Mother of the Convent.
- Two: 2 Duality, Balance.
- Element: Water.
- Rune: Othila.
- Crystal/Gem: Amethyst.
- Kabbalah: Gimmel “camel”.
- Astrological: Moon.
- Astronomical: Sirius.
The High Priestess Basic Meaning
The High Priestess is a woman of secrets. She holds in her hands a document which contains hidden truth. This truth is usually too powerful for the Querent to bear at this time but is very much desired by the Querent, and therefore will be made known (whether the Querent reaches out for it or it eventually reveals itself to the Querent). This could be gossip, a troubling truth, or something which when revealed will have a deep effect on the Querent (for good or worse). The High Priestess also contains superior knowledge that is above the material plane.
The High Priestess Controversies and Observations
This is a card of non-action: Think before you do. Insight and reflection, utilizing the higher powers/mind, before decision making.
Counter-part to The Hierophant.
“Early interpreters have sought to term this card the Mother, or Pope’s Wife, which is opposed to the symbolism.” 1
“Meaning: Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed; the woman who interests the Querent, if male; the Querent, if female; silence, tenacity; wisdom, science.
Reversed: Passion, moral or physical ardour, conceit, surface knowledge.” 1
“Mysteries revealed; occult teachings and study; often shows up right before an epiphany or initiatory experience; secrets; intuition; the subconscious; wisdom; the symbol for alchemy and the goddess Sophia.” 2
“Basic Tarot Symbols: Blue, white and black colors, pomegranates, the moon crown of Isis, veil, solar cross, crescent moon. Black & white lotus, pillars (B stands for Boaz, signifying negation, J stands for Jachin, meaning beginning). Scroll with the word Tora on it (either the Jewish Torah or an anagram of ‘Tarot,’ where the final letter is left unseen).
Basic Tarot Meaning: Once you have an idea, you also have decisions to make. The High Priestess holds scrolls of arcane information in her arms. In addition, the moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see about a job possibility, an investment, love, career, family, etc. But you need some alone time, some quiet time to meditate and reflect.
This is what the card is all about. Seated between two pillars as between two choices, the High Priestess is not about making a decision so much as holding decision-making at bay while you take time to listen to your inner voice. She wants you to gain knowledge before you act: instinctual knowledge, supernatural knowledge, secret knowledge, self-knowledge.
The High Priestess, however, goes beyond even that for those who seek more. Behind her throne is the curtain that leads to the deepest, most esoteric knowledge; the pomegranates that decorate it remind us of Persephone, who was taken down into the land of the dead, ate its fruit and became the only goddess allowed to travel to and from that strange land. The High Priestess is our guide to all that is mysterious and mystical.
Thirteen’s Observations: If there is a card that symbolizes the tarot reader it is the High Priestess. A woman (or man!) of psychic powers, intuition and secret knowledge. Where the Magician is about revealing, the High Priestess is about keeping things hidden behind the curtain. Where he urges the querent to verbalize what he’s thinking, the High Priestess urges him to silently reflect on his feelings.
She is not only the complement to the Magician, however, but to two other majors. She is the counterpoint to the Hierophant, maintaining secret traditions and rites passed from seer to successor, rather than advocating community traditions. And she is the natural moonlight to the Hermit’s manmade lantern, equally solitary and of the night, but acting as restful librarian of information rather than restless seeker of it.
If the reader feels the High Priestess stands for the querent then this is a time of solitary investigation for them or perhaps just a time to trust their instincts. Things kept secret will be revealed, either passed on to them by another or coming to them psychically by way of visions or powerful feelings. Insights may be found in crystal balls, tea leaves, dreams or conversations with spirits.
Standing for someone other than the querent, the High Priestess is usually read as a spiritual woman or medium, a teacher of archaic knowledge, librarian or just a reclusive relative who knows many family secrets. She may come across as cold, unpredictable and scary, but her instincts and insights will be uncanny.
The High Priestess if often seen as a perpetual maiden, the eternal virgin of an Athena, Diana or Vesta. But some view her as also representing a woman who might be pregnant. In such instances, the High Priestess is NOT viewed as an emblem of fertility, a ‘mother,’ but rather as a still, quiet incubator where the ‘idea’ (child) can remain stable and protected.
‘I’ve a new idea,’ says the querent–thanks to the Magician. But now there are decisions to make. What direction should one take this idea? The High Priestess not only offers illumination, revealing secret paths and hidden dangers, but also a still, quiet place between the pillars of dark and light, existence and negation, wax and wane where one can pause, see, feel and reflect on what one really wants to do with this idea.
Now that you know what you want to do, how do you make it real? The next card will discuss that…” 3
Axank’s Dream Recollection
November 29-30, 2011
I dreamt of shaving and ended up shaving my entire head. I knew it would be okay because I normally buzz my head, but then I realized I was shaving it down to the skin <unveiling>. After completing this, I saw how ugly and misshapen I was. My head was extra large and blocky. I was so upset and frightened by my own head <the truth revealed>.
<note: I knew there was something underneath all that hair, and after getting to the bottom of it, I did not like what I saw. Fear.>