“From the breadth of the spirit realm, the High Priestess brings gifts of wisdom and understanding.” – Polly Fae (Pride Tarot Guidebook, © US Games Systems, Inc)
Archetypal Example: Enheduanna
You have probably never heard of Enheduanna (en-hwood-wah-nah), the Akkadian princess and high priestess of the Temple of the Moon in the ancient city of Ur in Sumer. She was writing spiritual poetry in cuneiform five hundred years before Homer was born. Cloistered and mysterious, Enheduanna served as a living conduit between the gods and the nation through her “Sumerian Temple Hymns“. Her social influence possibly rivaled the secular power of her father and brother as kings during her forty years as a religious leader.
I don’t think Polly Fae (aka Paulina Cassidy) drew on Enheduanna in specific while creating her exquisite, ephemeral High Priestess. Her own fairie-kissed imagination begot this card’s imagery but in a manner that brought something powerful into esoteric tarot.
The High Priestess as an archetype is the embodiment of the cloistered keeper of occult knowledge and wisdom. They represent a part of ourselves that we have to journey inward to find and speak with in order to have metaphysical truths unveiled there within our inner temple.
Like the High Priestess herself, Polly Fae is quiet and mysterious about the esoteric secrets this card contains. They don’t provide any details in the Pride Tarot guidebook so all of this comes from my personal interpretation of what I see (wisdom) using my knowledge of mythology, esoteric symbolism (understanding) and google-fu. I mention the chakras in my analysis of this card. I talk about them a bit in one of my esoteric tarot lessons if you are interested.
The scroll: Instead of specifically alluding to the Jewish Torah as is RWS tradition, the scroll could be any sacred text. Rather resting in this High Priestess’ lap horizontally (passive yang) it juts upward (dynamic yang). It is also centrally locally between the roots of a living Tree of Life.
The scroll is tied with golden thread. Hellenistic myth (The Fates, Ariadne’s gift to Theseus) and European fairy tales old (Rumpelstilsken) and new (Jo Rioux’s books) give a rich tradition for golden thread as metaphor for a life path. Gold is one of the few colors to tint this card and I think it is intentionally to mark specific images as significant. The scroll might be placed in a way to associate it with the root chakra. Look up at the way other images I mention below seem to be a column that matches the places the chakras are typically placed.
The golden pomegranate: Jutting from a branch shaped like a triskele (tris-keel or try-skeel), the golden pomegranate is a symbol of eternity and immortality in many world cultures. It corresponds with the pomegranates featured in the RWS card. On this specific card, the pomegranate covers the High Priestess’ womb/sexual organs in a way that makes me associate it with the Yoni and the sacral chakra.
The white rose: Above the golden fruit there is a fourth branch that spreads forth a little right over the solar plexus where the third chakra, Manipura, is said to rest. The white rose flowers like an eight-pointed star, the star of Ishtar also known to us as Inanna– the Akkadian goddess that Enheduanna served. The white rose in this context probably represents a heart full of reverence, holiness, purity, and wisdom.
The cartwheel ruff: Around the High Priestess’ neck is a poofy Elizabethan-era ruff which adds to the figure’s austerity. It hides their throat and therefore hides their throat chakra which controls communication. This adds a clever element to the High Priestess as a keeper of secrets and passive/silent/hidden.
The bindi: Between their brows, the High Priestess has a mark or gemstone like a bindi which marks the third eye chakra. The history and symbolism of a bindi runs very deep and fits with everything mystical and spiritual associated with this card.
The full moon: The Moon is the astrological planet attributed to The High Priestess in conventional Western occultism. The crescent moons adorning the figure’s shoulders also bear witness to this.
Faces being drawn into the sun and the moon is very common for the whimsical style that Polly Fae is so good at. I think the style itself evolved from the kind of alchemical woodcuts done before printed books of fairy tales came to be. The twelve triangles which surround it in a very yinyang pattern make me thin of the zodiacal wheel.
The living tree: The RWS version of the High Priestess has a lot of heavy Qabalistic symbolism. Polly Fae does something extraordinary in my opinion. They reframe the card so that the High Priestess does not merely pose between the Yin and Yang aspected pillars and guards insight into the Middle Pillar. If you start at the bottom of the card, look at the roots, then their skirt as the trunk, and the way the branches jut out from their hair? The High Priestess appears to be infused with the tree throne itself.
This depiction of a fairie or dryad who has human aspects but is also a tree has a deep mythic/folk tradition all its own. This card transforms the High Priestess from a human agent serving the divine into an aspect of natural, earthy divinity itself.
The moths: I think the High Priestess’ own golden-hued wings are those of a silk moth. Two other silk moth hovers companionably underneath each to form a trinity. There is a lot of myths and folklore for silk moths that can be tapped into. What came most to mind for me was the Chinese story of Empress Lei Zu.
Reading The High Priestess In General
Upright this card could mean something like:
- It is time to recognize the difference between personal truth and what is true for everyone else in this situation.
- Pay close attention to what is being said and done around you. Trust your intuition.
- Now isn’t the time to act or even discuss how you intend to act with anyone.
- React wisely and impartially; don’t play favorites or act in a selfish way.
Reversed this card could mean something like:
- If you are currently upset or angry? Before anything else, you need to calm down before you deal directly with anyone else in this situation.
- If you think someone is lying or gaslighting you, then you are probably right.
- It might be time to withdraw from the situation. Let other people deal with it while you focus on self-care.
- It’s time instead have an open and honest conversation about the matter with someone impartial and get some advice, then follow it.
The High Priestess In Questions About Relationships
You As The High Priestess Upright: If this is a relationship you want to progress in a deeper (especially romantic) way, then you need to make that clear in what you do and say when you are with this other person. If there is something you have been keeping a secret from this other person, it is an good time to privately reveal it to them.
You As The Priestess Reversed: What is the most important relationship of any kind that you are currently involved in? It could be your relationship with family, God or a church, a best friend, anything/anyone that you feel pledged to. This other relationship should remain your priority.
The Other Person As The High Priestess Upright: This card suggests that this person in question is an introvert. They might need a lot of privacy and personal time/space. This doesn’t mean this is or will be a bad relationship, especially if you are an introvert yourself. But introverts often have trouble expressing or reacting to strong feelings. It will be important to be calm and patient around them. Pay close attention to what they say when they do talk about themselves and their needs. This person will have boundaries and respecting those boundaries will be key to a successful relationship with them.
The Other Person As The High Priestess Reversed: The High Priestess reversed typically represents someone who is asexual or is simply not currently looking for a sexual relationship. Asexual relationships are discounted by mainstream culture and shouldn’t be. But if you are a seeking a sexual relationship, this might not be the right person for what you have in mind.
“The modern-day Priestess is a woman who is deeply spiritual, yet her beliefs and practices are typically not rooted in a particular religion. Instead they are informed by practices that resonate with her spiritual truths.”
― Jalaja Bonheim©2021 The Loracular.com; you may distribute or use as you please so long as this attribution is given.
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