The second card in the Tarot deck is the High Priestess. This card shows a woman wearing blue robes, sitting on a chair between two pillars. On her head, she wears a crown that curves out from her head and at its centre is a large sphere. At her feet there is a crescent moon, positioned as though she has a foot upon it and is keeping it upright. In her hand is the scroll of the Torah and around her neck is a large, white crucifix.
Behind the High Priestess an ornate tapestry showing ripe fruit is suspended between the two pillars, one of which is white and bears the letter J and the other of which is black and bears the letter B. The High Priestess is staring straight ahead, almost as if she was staring out of the card and directly into the eyes of those who are looking at it.
This card is riddled with symbolism – but what does it all mean? What role does the priestess play in the Fool’s Journey?
Symbols of the High Priestess
The two pillars dominate the scene, almost detracting from the High Priestess herself. These are thought to be the two pillars that held King Solomon’s temple up, one named Boaz and the other, Jachin. Translated from the ancient Hebrew, Boaz means ‘the end’, while Jachin means ‘the beginning’.
The High Priestess is sat between the beginning and the end of all things. In this situation, she represents the idea that change is a constant force in our lives, whether we actively seek it or not. Her relaxed but alert posture suggests that we need to accept change as part of our lives, although it pays to keep an eye on what’s going on around you. It’s worth noting that, according to legend, King Solomon’s temple was staffed by priests, rather than priestesses, so this card hints that breaking convention can bring its own rewards.
Intuition and Wisdom
The crescent moon at her feet represents the idea that the unconscious mind is the foundation for everything. At her head, the ripe pomegranates represent the fertility of the mind when it is freed from logic and conscious thought. When the High Priestess is drawn in a reading it can often suggest that now is a good time to trust your gut instinct and not to over-think a situation. Whatever you do, change is inevitable, so you might as well go with your innate intuitive abilities.
Interestingly, the cross and the Torah relate directly to the sphere in the High Priestess’ crown. The sphere is actually a pearl, used to represent the wisdom that is attained from finding the best in any tradition. While the Priestess might not ally herself to any particular belief system, she is aware that each has its own wisdom to offer and shouldn’t just be written off. Wisdom is gained through having an open and enquiring mind, as well as a readiness to accept the beliefs of others even though you might not fully subscribe to their origins.
Past, present and future
Many spreads use cards to represent the influences of the past, present and future. In each of these positions, the High Priestess means something slightly different:
If used to represent an influence from the past, the High Priestess represents passivity. However, don't be fooled, as this is very different from inactivity. There may have been a time when the querent was required to draw on his reserves of patience, sympathy and understanding. These qualities can only result in a greater knowledge and sensitivity where people around you are concerned. The Priestess suggests that even the times where we feel most helpless can be the times during which we learn the most. These are the times in which we learn to empathise and when we begin to hone our intuitive skills.
If drawn in the present position, this card symbolises the search for the truth. However, given that the High Priestess is concerned with our intuitive abilities, it is a quest that is based on a gut feeling, rather than any firm knowledge. It might be that the querent has the feeling that he is being deceived somehow or has an inkling that a situation is going to play out a particular way. If anything, the Priestess is suggesting that in some situations, it’s best to go with what your hunches tell you.
In the future position, drawing the High Priestess suggests that there is a confrontation coming your way; one that you are somehow already aware of. In this instance, the best thing to do is avoid it and return to that state of passive alertness that will give you all the information you need to tackle the problem when the time is right for you. The influence of the High Priestess If a card is drawn in conjunction with others, then it has an influence on those around it. With the High Priestess, the onus is certainly on the intuitive aspect of the querent’s character. Let’s take a look at how it can affect each of the suits:
● Coins. Drawing the High Priestess with cards from this suit suggests that you have a hunch about how to make some money. While you might not be an authority on the field you are looking to earn from, the likelihood is that you should trust your gut feeling and roll the dice.
● Cups. The Cups represent the emotions and drawing the High Priestess alongside them suggests that you need to embrace that cool alertness that the picture portrays. This is the time to watch and wait, rather than letting your emotions get the better of you and make a potentially bad situation even worse.
● The Wands represent your creativity and pulling the High Priestess suggests that your artistic instincts are right. Whether it’s a creative way of looking at a business venture or a new artistic endeavour, the time is right to keep on going.
● Swords. Typically, these represent an intellectual confrontation. The High Priestess reminds is that the best form of defence can sometimes be silence. If barbed comments are coming your way, it can sometimes be more productive to let them fly and watch your opponent exhaust themselves.