Table of Contents
When I drew this card, I had a lot on my mind, but nothing specific. I wondered about the day in my own little space, I wondered about the chickens we are raising, I wondered about the state of the world, I wondered about U.S. politics, which then led on to Brexit. I wondered about the week ahead, and then finally I rested on wondering what I should be wondering about when I drew the card.
As I looked at the High Priestess, I had to smile. I feel like the essence of mental wandering can be brought to a point with her.
Let’s examine her influence.
In the Rider-Waite deck, the Empress sits between two pillars, one black, one white, the black one with the letter B and the white one with the letter J. Behind her is tapestry of pomegranates, and her foot rests on a crescent moon. In her hand, and partly concealed is a scroll reading ‘Tora’. Her head-piece is that of the phases of the moon: waxing, full, and waning. On her blue and white rope is an equal-armed cross across her chest. She faces the reader.
The Spiral Tarot also depicts a woman sitting between two pillars, She is wise-looking, and before her burns a fire in a cauldron decorated with the phases of the moon. A three-headed dog, Cerberus crouches in front of her. On her lap is the rolled up Tora. On the white pillar, instead of a J is the sign of the moon and an upside-down triangle indicating the element of water. On the Black pillar, instead of a B is the Hebrew letter Gimel.
The Vampire Tarot, and Faerie Tarot all have simplistic imagery, each depicting a woman. The Vampire Tarot shows a bat woman, whose eyes are concealed by the darkness, though with large ears crowning her head. She is dressed lavishly and has the elemental symbol of water at the base f her neck. She too is between two pillars, though they ar identical, with vines and grapes winding up them. The Faerie Tarot shows a faerie holding a scroll. She has long flowing robes the go over her head, and is crowned with growing flowers and the phases of the moon.
The Thoth Deck shows a card of intense geometric patterns. A woman, shown as a statue, holds out a net. Several crescent moons radiate behind her head, getting smaller as the reach the crown she wears bearing the moon phases. On her lap is a bow and arrow. In the foreground and at the bottom of the net are fruits, geometric shapes and a camel.
The Impressionist Tarot uses a piece originally by Paul Guaguin called Woman with a Flower (1891). It shows a woman in a white night-gown on a red, round hill with two trees growing. On is on the downward slope of the hill toward the reader, and to the right hand side of the card, baring white leaves. The other is on the downward slope of the hill, on the far side of the hill and to the left of the card, bearing red leaves. The woman holds in her hand a crescent moon.
The Prisma Vision tarot shows a naked pare of legs and a hand, holding half a pomegranate. On the ground is the spilled other half. The figure walks in water, which reflects the crescent moon.
The Moon represents the unconscious and intuition. The planetary influence of the moon in astrology is that of where you’ve been, your collection of experiences which have developed you.
The Moon is ruled by Cancer, which is a highly intuitive and protective water sign.
The Bow and Arrow seen in the Thoth depiction is meant to be the Bow of Artemis, the goddess of knowledge. It is to represent Will, as when one uses a bow, they must be centered and focus to hit their target.
The Arrow is that of Sagittarius, the centaur. In mythology the centaurs were seen as healers and philosophers. They are the reach toward higher information to elevate mortal knowledge.
The Cross shown in the High Priestess is a Equal-Armed Cross, which differs from the Christian Cross. It indicates an equality of reach toward spiritual nature and the mundane world.
Gimel is the 3rd letter in the Hebrew Alphabet. It corresponds to the camel. The Camel represents travel and communication. The known fact that a camel holds water indicates that the travel and communication can and most likely will relate to the subconscious/intuition.
This is separate of the astrological moon, as it corresponds to the spiritual representation of the phases of the moon. This directly corresponds to the feminine, as to be expected with the High Priestess.
The repetition of the crescent moon indicates the influence of the Goddess and the phases of life. As humans, we grow like the waxing moon, we reach maturity with the full moon, and then we wane as we get older. The new moon is rarely presented in the moon phases because it is the clasp enclosing the circle. It is unseen but the moon itself is present, even though we can’t see it.
The two pillars represent Strength and Establishment. The Empress is the go-between of these two, the connection between left and right, of creativity and analysis. She is the feminine counterpart to the Magician.
The B stands for Boaz and the J stands for Jachin, which stood on at the front of Solomon’s Temple.
In the Thoth deck there are four three-dimensional shapes, each corresponding to what is known as Platonic Solids. The shapes are the tetrahedron, the octahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron. Each represent a different element and have different connotations to them:
This is a symbol of fruitfulness, of fertility. When considering the pomegranate, consider all its tiny facets which come together to create the whole. Each little facet is a new seed of opportunity. Thus, the fruit represents abundance.
The Scroll in her lap is seen as the Tora, which holds the information of the universe.
She is the number II in the Major Arcana, which holds the message of partnership, of balance, and duality.
The High Priestess is the first card to be the reflection and counterpart to another card, which is the Magician. Considering the Fool to be the first point, the Magician to be the second point, the High Priestess is the third point, which makes the first solid shape of a triangle. Thus, not only is does she have the numerological value of 2, she also has the elements of 3 within her.
The Two represents balance, and it is a balance between dual natures. In traditional depictions of the Priestess, as is seen in The Rider-Waite Tarot and the Spiral Tarot, she sits between two pillars, black and white, the combination of opposites which come together.
The representation of three is shown in other symbolism, such as the Camel/Gimel (see below).
Water is the element of intuition, of emotions, of creativity, and the subconscious. It flows as do each of the attributes, and can sometimes be nourishing and peaceful, but likewise can be turbulent.
It corresponds with the suit of cups, which, as a result, also deal with emotion, creativity, and intuition.
Water is a life fource, without it, nothing can survive. We may go without nourishment, light, heat, but if we go without water for more than a few days, we perish. The implication of water and its relation to the emotion and the subconscious reveals that we need these aspects in order to survive and grow as beings.
Dreams are like water in that they can be clear and vivid until you hold on to them, at which point you begin to lose them. Dreams are an attribute of water, and a window with which can view our subconscious.
The recurring theme through all these symbols is that of creativity, the subconscious, and creativity. The moon in both symbolic and astrological interpretations, water, and the scroll all indicate secret and subconscious/intuitive learning and understanding. The Two combined with the tetrahedron, a symbol also noted for its balance between the physical and spiritual planes, call for a union and a balance between the two realms. The combined presence of the moon and the pomegranates, a substance of the earth, reinforces this message.
The repetition of the symbolism in the card which all revolve around intuition and spiritual knowledge and balance is a forceful message, entailing its importance within this card.
She is your unconscious speaking to you. Your intuition is trying to take hold, and now is the time to do it. You have ideas that need to be brought forward and made manifest, but first they need to be nurtured through balance. Listen and you will discover the information you seek. Bring them forward in your mind, allow them to ripen.
Keywords: intuition, union, balance, subconscious, ideas, developing plans, wisdom, knowledge of deeper things, understanding, fruitfulness.
My focus was all over the place. I focussed on problems, I focussed on solutions, I focussed on focussing. What the High Priestess says is to find that balance, to be still, and to listen. There are so many things going on in the world, it is impossible to give all efforts to all of them, all my focus to all of them. I need to listen to what my intuition is telling me to listen to rather than my logical side. I need to concentrate less on ‘I should think about politics’ and listen to what I’m drawn to, and then immerse myself in that.
Read more of the Major Arcana Cards
Faerie Tarot by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc, 2008. Hertz is a French artist, and the creator of several other beautiful tarot decks. The Faerie Tarot was ‘inspired by the flora and fauna of the French countryside,’ and ‘invites you to see the world in a delightful new way…blending fantasy, whimsy, and nature.’
Impressionist Tarot by Arturo Picca (artist) and Corrine Kenner (author), published by Lo Scarabeo in 2015. This deck takes works of classic impressionist paintings and recreates them to fit the meanings of the tarot. It pulls from works of Edonard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gough, and Paul Gauguin. A truly beautiful deck, especially for those who have interest in the art world.
Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, 3rd ed., published in 2016. The deck itself is beautiful, though perhaps not for the beginning tarot reader. The suits all fit together to create a master picture displaying the energy and progression of the suits. The figures and images flow from one card to the next, showing movement within the stationary cards.
Rider-Waite by A. E. Waite. The deck used in these photos is currently out of print. I won’t say much about this deck, as it is fairly standard and probably one of the most produced decks. It serves as a standard for many tarot readers and artists, depicting classic images relating in part to the original playing cards that tarot developed from.
The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon. With turn-of-the-20th-century style art, this deck takes from the classic Rider-Waite deck and brings it up to the late 1800-early 1900’s, a time of industry and contemplation for the western world as it moved forward into a more technological era. I am a little biased toward this deck as it’s been my main deck for 15 years. The cards are thick with additional symbolism that can be tricky to pick out of the traditional Rider-Waite, and adds layers of Greek myth throughout the Major Arcana.
Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley (designer and author) and Lady Frieda Harris (artist), published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc., in 1978. This deck takes from most esoteric imagery, and requires the reader of the deck to have deep, initiate knowledge of the symbolism used. There is nothing within the cards that is without meaning. However, on a more surface level, the deck draws from Egyptian symbolism and from the style of the Marseille Tarot (mostly seen within the Minor Arcana). For those looking for deeper understandings of the universe, I recommend this deck. I would caution that this deck is highly advanced, and might be avoided for the budding reader.
Vampire Tarot – by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. in 2000. As mentioned above in reference to the Faerie Tarot, Hertze is a French artist who gained her notability through the publication of her tarot decks. The Vampire Tarot was a bestselling deck upon its release, and plays on more gothic symbolism, providing more jarring interpretations to allow for the accepting of negative forces within the world to compliment the positive forces. The deck brings together myths and legends in the form of vampires, which ‘gives tarot readers a macabre passport’ into the world of divination.