Last week we finished the 2’s of the Minor Arcana, and this week we move on to the Major Arcana 2: High Priestess.
As always with each Monday we start off by taking out the Card of the week and spending time simply observing it. This is a time to see the card as it is, notice anything that your eyes are drawn to and sticks out to you. This might be color, symbols, directions of the figures, etc. Don’t try to interpret them. Just take a mental note or a verbal/physical note, however you record things, of whatever stands out to you.
The purpose behind the Weekly Tarot Card series is to develop your own understanding of the cards, and this takes time. This is why an exercise per day is given per card. If you want to look at the other Weekly Tarot Cards covered so far, check out the Dissecting the Tarot Tab at the top, and find the link to the rest there. Alternatively, you can click here.
I have seven decks that I’m using this week to give examples of observation. I invite you to pull out the High Priestess in your own deck(s) and do the same. A journal is helpful in this process too, or some form of audio recording device, however you feel comfortable.
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In the Rider-Waite deck, the High Priestess 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 are 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 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 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.
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As you go through the various cards, what do you notice that is a running theme in imagery? What do you notice tends to differ? Which of the images resonates with you? Why?
Spend time considering your own tarot decks, and do your own comparison.
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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.
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