In this series I’m looking at each Major Acana card in the Tarot deck, one at a time, to get to know them better. Rather than focussing on the traditional meanings of the cards I’m connecting to the intuitively, so join me and let’s wake up the Tarot together.
Looking to learn the traditional meanings? I recommend Joan Bunnings Learning The Tarot site, which is the one I return to again and again.
Today we have The High Priestess, card 2 of the Major Arcana. Here she is in the Ryder-Waite-Smith deck:
Signs and symbols
On his journey so far The Fool has met The Magician, who’s encouraged him on his journey forward into the unknown. Now he’s meeting The High Priestess, who’s magic has a different flavour altogether. She sits quietly at the entrance of a temple, waiting, waiting, waiting. Time has no meaning to her: She is ageless, as is the knowledge she holds, ancient and fresh at the same time.
In her hands she holds a scroll: The Tora, ancient wisdom at her finger tips. The curtain behind her is covered in a pattern of pomegranates, a symbol that is relevant in many ancient cultures. Representing fertility, death and eternal life dependent on culture, it’s a complex symbol where the meaning shifts and changes according to context. To me I think of hidden treasure – all those jewels hidden within. What do you think of?
The High Priestess sits in this place of ambiguity. To one side of her is a black column, to the other a white column; she sits in the grey area in between and to begin working with her she tells us we must accept that there is no black an white, no definite answers.
She wears a cross of faith around her neck, and a head dress showing phases of the moon. Faith is a mystery, hidden in shadow like the dark side of the moon, heavily robed in many layers like The High Priestess herself.
Just like The Magician she stares out at us directly, fearlessly, but her power comes in a different form. She isn’t obviously creating and combining, her way is more subtle. She moves in realms more mysterious, through patches of divine light and terrible darkness. She tells us that there’s more to life than what we can detect with our five physical senses, and more than we can make sense with the rational mind.
Let’s pull a couple of cards from the Sacred Destiny oracle deck for some deeper insight into The High Priestess:
What strikes me first about these two cards is that they match the columns on the Tarot card: A black panther on one card, a white Arctic fox on the other. One card is all dark, the other all light.
A powerful black panther looks out of the undergrowth with the same calm, level stare as The High Priestess. When I think of cats one of the things I think of is patience; a cat stalking it’s prey waits patiently until it’s just the right time to pounce. If conditions aren’t right it waits.
Success and patience; The High Priestess isn’t about pushing forward and grabbing at success, she’s all about biding your time and tuning into your intuition so that you know when to wait and when to move. Intuition comes from experience – and I wonder, how much of it comes from the collective unconscious? I feel The High Priestess is part of that tuning into the deep, deep, wordless wisdom in our shared unconscious.
The panther: Black cats, the moon (which is also showing in this card) and magic, another way of drawing on the energy that connects all things. The High Priestess’s take on success is to show us that we have access to a great depth of intuitive wisdom to support ourselves with, if we’re willing to walk the shadowy path to seek it.
What comes to mind first in virginity: The High Priestess has dedicated herself to a spiritual path and she follows it with focus. She wears a veil and heavy robes, her feminine form hidden. Sexuality is a way of generating and using energy; but The High Priestess has stepped back from this.
The Purity card in the context of The High Priestess is a challenge: What are you willing to give up to focus on your true path? There will be sacrifices along the way; can you make them? Will you?
Find The High Priestess in your Tarot deck and get to know her better using these questions (using your intuition here is a great way to ‘live’ the energy of the card too:
- What do you feel the temple of The High Priestess dedicated to? What might be inside?
- What have you had to give up in the past in order to devote yourself to achieving a goal? What did you learn from doing that?
- What situations in your life bring out a black and white way of looking at things in you? Think about things where you see things inflexibly as right or wrong, for example.
- Do you know when to hold pack and be patient, or do you rush forward regardless?
I hope you enjoyed this look at the Major Arcana Tarot cards with me. I’ll be doing every card in order, so if you’d like to work through it with me sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I’ve posted about a new card.