Updated: Jun 9, 2018
This week we return to our tarot series after last month's exciting showcases at Illuminate Frederick and Yogamour. For those of you just joining us, in this series we take a closer look at the Rider-Waite style of tarot, featuring a different card in each post with tips for readings. This week we’re focusing on The High Priestess.
The Spirit of the High Priestess
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”
- Lord Byron
The High Priestess represents divine secrets, emotional intelligence, intuition, femininity, and the Anima. As the hero in our journey moves on from the Fool and the Magician, we now encounter the serene and wise priestess who is at once mother and maiden, teacher and friend — she is like the Vestal Virgins tending the sacred flames and protecting ancient secret knowledge.
Shadows have often been associated with the realms of the unconscious and dreams, and so the High Priestess walks both in the shadows of the soul — swimming in the murky depths of our emotions and intuition — as well as in the light of the divine. Often identified with the goddesses Artemis, Isis, Persephone (and even Eve), the High Priestess is the embodiment of the divine feminine and the Jungian conceptualization of the Anima. As such, she is often depicted on a throne, draped in rich ceremonial robes with pomegranates in-hand or placed nearby.
Additionally, in many Rider-Waite style decks she is flanked by two pillars: a black one with the letter 'B' white one with the letter 'J'. These letters stand for "Boaz" and "Jachin," which were the names of the black and white pillars at the entrance to Solomon's temple in ancient Israel, and which represented strength and mercy — both essential qualities of the High Priestess.
In a Reading
If you receive the High Priestess upright in a reading, you are linked to your unconscious, subconscious, and emotive depths. This card is a herald of divine wisdom and mystery, knowledge, and peace. She represents the Anima in all of us, and so she encourages us to tap into our intuition and secret knowledge. As the steward and teacher of divine mysteries, the High Priestess encourages us to pay attention to our dreams and the symbols around us, relying on our own intuition to discern the messages the Universe sends us. Artists, poets, writers, and other creatives in particular benefit from the High Priestess' influence.
Should you receive the the High Priestess reversed, you may be dealing with more uncertainty and mystery in your life that you're fully prepared to deal with. However, it is likely that you are also not listening to your inner voice or intuition. As such, the inverted High Priestess often represents blocked intuition, emotional suppression, or denial. For others, because she represents the universal Anima, receiving her inverted in a reading can suggest that you are denying your emotional and intuitive "feminine side." On rare occasions, when inverted she can also represent gossip or secrets due to her own hidden nature. Should she appear reversed, ask yourself if you are truly leading with your heart and intuition? If not, it may be time to start.
The High Priestess' Advice
The High Priestess is the spiritual mother to all of us, nurturing and wise, and she empowers us to find our individual intuitive and emotional strengths. When you receive this card, consider tuning out the external world and instead turning inward to reconnect with yourself — whether by mediation, journaling, or a long walk in nature.