“The High Priestess is arguably the most difficult of the Major Arcana to qualify with words…”
~ James Rioux (ATA site)
Ha! See what I have to deal with as punishment for my sins! I got assigned none other than The High Priestess by the lovely Oephebia as my International Tarot Day challenge. My immediate response was ‘I hope I do her justice!’
INTERNATIONAL TAROT DAY
International Tarot Day falls on the 8th of July every year, as an alternative to the trademarked World Tarot Day for those of us who feel that such an occasion ought not to be under the ownership of an individual.
I wanted to post my contribution in plenty of time to generate interest both in the day itself and also my colleague’s website which is well worth a visit. Oephebia is an animal communicator as well as a tremendously experienced and knowledgable Tarot reader. I first came across her work when she was working for Psychic TV (2004 if memory serves me) and she instantly became my favourite reader to watch. Her Goth aesthetic only added to the enjoyment.
- Possible meaning of the card
- Mythology or folktales attached to your assigned card
- Numerology connection
- Element traditionally associated with your card
- Astrological association (ruler, planet etc.)
- Meaning of the symbolism found in the card
- Shadow side
- Crystals associated with the card
- Herbs, flowers or essential oils connected to your card
Possible Meaning of The High Priestess
I am so grateful that Oephebia choose the word ‘possible’ when asking us to talk about the meaning because I don’t think it is humanly possible to cover all the meanings of the High Priestess in one post.
To me, The High Priestess is both an aspect of each person’s psyche as well as an archetype who at times manifest very strongly in the physical yet maintains so many of her ethereal and mystical qualities. In terms of being an aspect of the psyche, I see the High Priestess as signifying the feminine/receptive/intuitive faculties. As opposed to the ultra-feminine Empress card, nurturing is not included among the qualities of Luna/The High Priestess.
The High Priestess carries more of the Virgin energies of Artemis or Persephone and less of the Mother energies of Venus or Demeter, the latter two being associated with The Empress.
A personality that fits very well indeed with the archetypal energy of the High Priestess is, of course, the Tarot reader herself. She uses her ability to go within to understand the symbolic language of the Anima Mundi which she then turns over in her conscious mind in order to translate it into a message for the Seeker.
Because the High Priestess is such a big part of our psyche, you would expect there to be many myths across all cultures that are a good fit for this archetype… and this is indeed the case. I’m going to briefly talk about the Persephone mythos here because it has personal significance and is one of the most famous Greek myths. It also happens to be represented on one of the cards (New Mythic Tarot) I chose to illustrate this post.
Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter who was abducted by Hades, the ruler of the Underworld where the dead reside. The only two deities who were aware of the abduction were Helios and Hekate and the only one who came to the aid of Persephone was Hekate who acted as her guide in the Underworld.
Demeter had to endure much on her quest to find and liberate her daughter. Eventually, Demeter managed to plead with Zeus to force Hades to let Persephone go. However, because she had consumed some pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, she had to return for four months each year. Persephone is the Queen of the Dead as well as the Goddess of Spring and vegetation. Hence she, like the Moon, embodies both brilliant light and the densest darkness imaginable.
Having had to learn to navigate the darkness of the Underworld, Persephone is a natural choice for the High Priestess archetype who brings up wisdom from the unconscious (Underworld/Water/West) into the light of conscious awareness (Spring/Air/East).
Hopefully, this helps explain the pomegranates on the veil behind the RWS Tarot High Priestess as well. Commonly associated with fertility, pomegranates represent the fertility of vegetation here, as well as the lunar ovulation cycle rather than human sexual reproduction which belongs in the realm of the Empress.
The number connected with the High Priestess is 2, the number of choice and duality. The number 2 is the most feminine number of all. It reflects the light and dark halves of Luna. The black and white pillars in the RWS Tarot card represent Jachin (white) and Boaz (black), the pillars of Mercy and Severity respectively in the Kabbalistic Tree of life. They represent duality.
2’s strive for harmony, unity and merging/blending their energy with the ‘other,’ whatever that other may be.
The Elemental correspondence for the High Priestess is Water. According to Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero (Tarot Talismans), the Element of Water contains the principle of consciousness and creativity. The cardinal point associated with Water is West (easy to remember since both begin with a ‘W’). This is the direction of Archangel Gabriel, undines (Water elementals), sunsets, endings, autumn and of our consciousness on the astral plane.
If it seems odd that consciousness is associated with the Element of Water, contemplate for a moment the Elemental Trump signifying Water, i.e. The Hanged Man. If you look closely, you will see a light around the head of the figure hanging upside down. This is symbolic of new awareness emerging from the depths, bringing about a shift in how we perceive things.
The Planet corresponding with The High Priestess is Luna/the Moon. This can be confusing since we might naturally be inclined to pair the Tarot Moon card with Luna/Moon – especially with the Tarot Sun card corresponding with Sol/Sun. However, the lunar symbology is strong in the High Priestess card too, considering the Triple Moon crown and the crescent underfoot in the traditional RWS Tarot High Priestess card.
The Moon is the Planetary ruler of the Zodiac sign Cancer (The Chariot).
The astrological correspondence for The Moon card is Pisces.
Of course, I’m going by the Golden Dawn correspondences here. You may not agree with them and instead prefer a different association/correspondence… and that is totally fine. Let me know in the comments!
The negatively aspected, ill-dignified or reversed High Priestess may bring a message about a need for shadow work concerning one or more of the following traits or issues: jealousy, emotional manipulation, gossiping, talking about things said in confidence, clinginess or obfuscation of the truth.
A real-life shadow version of the High Priestess archetype might be the charlatan, motivated by greed and posing as a ‘psychic’ for financial gain, fame and/or personal power.
- Mother of pearl
- Lapis lazuli
Herbs, Flowers & Essential Oils
Herbs: Mugwort, sage, fennel, cucumber
Flowers: White lily & Jasmine
Essential oils: Jasmine & Sandalwood
While I agree that for most of us, every day is International Tarot Day, it is lovely to have a special day where we can work together to raise the profile of the Tarot since I believe we have only begun to tap the healing potential of the Tarot. The more we rely on the High Priestess to guide us on this Path, the more we will learn and be able to bring back for the benefit of all of mankind, just like Persephone…
HP is a difficult card, largely because it’s qualities are as elusive as moonlight. I enjoyed your analysis 🙂