The High Priestess sits on her throne between two pillars inscribed with ‘B’ and ‘J’ respectively. One pillar is black, the other white. Her dress is also white with a cross upon it and her cloak is blue. She holds a scroll with the unfinished word ‘TORA’ inscribed on it. On her head is a crown while a crescent lies at her feet. Behind her throne and forming a veil are flowers.
The High Priestess symbolises the hidden knowledge that is available to all of us. She is the mother earth, the hidden veil, the doorway to understanding all that has gone before and that which is to come. She guards the entrance to that which is hidden yet her very presence invites us to seek for ourselves.
Read More: Full list of Tarot Card Meanings
This card is brimming with symbolic hints urging us to pierce the veil and learn for ourselves. It is one of my favourite cards of the Tarot such is the symbolism contained in it! The orb in her crown is the sun and at her feet is the moon bringing to mind the phrase, “As above, so below” – We also saw this phrase symbolised in the previous card, The Magician. She is seated on a square, representative of the earth or the midpoint between heaven and the underworld. Here on earth, we are connected to the two.
There is no secret to accessing anywhere in the universe, either above or below. We are the guardians to the secrets and all those secrets are within us if we care to look. At all times the High Priestess, Mother Earth (or the Universe) is there to help us decipher these tools and to use them. Doing this lets us go behind the veil to full understanding of all that was, is and ever will be. But first, we must travel within our own beings to see the our truth.
Her crown is also that of Isis and represents the trinity of goddesses (young, middle and old or past, present and future). Interestingly, the orb in the middle could also represent the Third Eye. This is the Ajna (Forehead) Chakra and it is through this chakra that we can ‘see’ everything that we could possibly ever need.
One pillar is black, the other white (dark and light, sun and the moon, day and night). The ‘B’ and ‘J’ inscribed on the pillars are thought to stand for Boaz and Jachin – the two pillars that stood at the entranceway to Solomon’s temple.
From Chronicles 3:15-17;
“ For the front of the temple he made two pillars, which together were thirty-five cubits long, each with a capital five cubits high. He made interwoven chains and put them on top of the pillars. He also made a hundred pomegranates and attached them to the chains. He erected the pillars in the front of the temple, one to the south and one to the north. The one to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.”
Boaz and Jachin also feature in Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn – the right pillar, Jachin means ‘Mercy’ and the left, Boaz, means ‘Severity’. This explanation would also sit well with the Tree of Life in Kabbalah and the lateral vertical lines of Mercy and Severity. The two pillars can also be taken to mean ‘end’ and ‘beginning’ thus the High Priestess is seated between the beginning and end.
Incidentally, Solomon’s Temple only had high priests. To feature the High Priestess in a card heavily replete with imagery from Solomon’s temple is a deliberate step away from the outline within the mainstream religious texts. This will become clearer the more we progress through the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards.
If you look closely at the veil behind the High Priestess, the flowers (pomegranates) are laid out just as the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life in Kabbalah, further reinforcing this train of thought. The pomegranates may also represent the female and the palm dates the male phallus. They may also reference the description of the pillars of Solomon’s temple as outlined above in Chronicles 3:15-17.
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The cross on her chest could indicate the four quarters (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) or the intersection of male and female.
The scroll in her hand with the partially hidden title of ‘TORA’ hints at the deeper meaning available with the Tarot cards. ‘Tora’ also appears in the Wheel of Fortune. Tora can mean ‘Law’ – perhaps the High Priestess is reading the Universal Laws that guide all things. Or it could reference the Hebrew Bible (the Torah – i.e. the Kabbalah) with the final ‘H’ missing. This would be apt given that the High Priestess is all about piercing the veil and joining up the dots that are right before our eyes.
In readings, when the High Priestess appears upright, we should look for hidden knowledge and understanding. That may already lie within us or it may come from a source outside us but we need to be prepared to recognise and accept it. Our intuition should be heeded rather than ignored. Dreams, conversations and interactions with others may all yield some insight into how we should proceed.
When greeted with this card, we should look for a deeper meaning to our question. Nothing is as it seems but the knowledge we strive for is already available to us – we must just pierce the veil first. In every area of life there are opportunities to understand and grow. In relationships we learn of love and conversely, cruelty. In business, we learn of the physical and conversely, the spiritual. As we go through our daily lives we have the opportunity to consider the impact of our actions on Mother Earth. The High Priestess is a call to us to open ourselves to the hidden mysteries and to learn a greater truth that is held in every experience we have.
The High Priestess Reversed
The High Priestess reversed indicates we may be undergoing a period of repressing our inner voice or failing to understand the messages being sent to us from the Universe. In a way, the High Priestess reversed is a wake up call to pay attention to that which is going on around us and to be aware of deeper mysteries and messages that surround us in everyday life.
Our guardian angel, messengers, spirit guides or dreams may be attempting to awaken our consciousness and alert us to mysteries, opportunities or lessons we need to understand but so consumed are we by the rush of life that we are failing to heed those voices. It may be time to sit quietly with our question and allow our spirit to answer it for us.
The High Priestess reversed may also be urging us to connect once again with the universe. It may be a time to sit quietly in nature, to once again gaze at the moon, celebrate the passing seasons or feel the grass under our feet. The hectic pace of modern life can quickly dissipate our connection to the earth and dampen and overburden the most well meaning mind with superficial tasks. It is time to prioritise our studies into the arcane and stop fretting about the washup, ironing, meetings or the hundred or so other things you won’t remember a decade from now!
When this card appears reversed, we would do well to stop whatever it is we are doing and to meditate on precisely what it is we want from our current course of action. Are we going through life just following everyone else? Are we living superficially? Is there a deeper calling to our lives, a purpose that sets our souls on fire? This is the call of the High Preistess. It is a call to listen to our soul, our purpose, our deepest selves and to begin to live a life where we are true to ourselves. When we follow this path we will find ourselves in alignment with the earth and with the Universe. Following the path of our truth aligns us with the Divine because our very souls are in union with the Divine. Stress, anxiety, depression or any number of things can be caused when we step out or are pushed from this alignment and the High Priestess is a reminder that everything we need to have peace and understanding is within us.