The High Priestess
The High Priestess is a most mysterious card, representing that which has yet to be revealed, secret knowledge, the duality of life on earth. She symbolizes feminine spiritual power, or the goddess from whom all life comes and to whom all returns in the ever-cycling round of earthly existence.
She is depicted as a serene-faced female figure, sometimes seated with a book on her lap. In the Waite deck, this book bears the word Torah, but in other decks it is merely an open book or scroll suggesting the divine law that underlies the manifest universe. The scroll or book represents the Akashic Records, the divine repository of our lives past, present, and future. Sometimes, she is standing, holding a staff and pointing toward an unseen object in the distance, another indication of something yet to be revealed.
She sometimes sits or stands between two pillars, which represent the opposites of the dual nature of our world: good and evil, light and dark, truth and deception, positive and negative. She promises reconciliation of these opposites to those willing to follow the spiritual path of understanding universal law. In the Waite deck, The High Priestess sits at the doorway to the temple, which symbolizes the body, as if welcoming students to enter and learn her secrets. However, the crescent moon at her feet warns of the danger of releasing higher knowledge to those unprepared to handle it.
In the Waite deck, two pillars represent a doorway to the interior of life's mysteries, with The High Priestess as the guardian of the entryway. Also in the Waite deck, she sits against a background of pomegranates, a reference to Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who leaves the daylight, or upper world, for six months each year to tend to the dead in the underworld. In some decks, she carries flowers or is depicted against a background of vegetables and vegetation, another reference to the goddess, or Grain Mother.
On her breast, The High Priestess wears a cross, symbolic of the four elements—Fire, Earth, Air, and Water—held in balance. She wears a crown, usually a crescent, the horns of the moon, or a variant of it. In the Waite deck, between the horns sits a sphere, representative of the full moon, while the horns echo the images of the waxing and waning moon. The three lunar phases symbolize the three stages of womanhood: maiden, mother, crone. This particular card is reminiscent of the Egyptian mother goddess Hathor, who wears a similar headdress. Hathor can be considered a forerunner of Demeter/Persephone, as one who gives life and takes it back in due course.
When The High Priestess appears, she indicates that something hidden, or interior, is preparing to come forth or that the person needs to pay more attention to his inner world of dreams, imagination, and intuition. She advises you to develop awareness of the totality of yourself, the night side, so to speak, as well as the daylight personality and activities. Usually, the person is ready to accept the importance of developing this part of his life but may have been holding back out of fear or inertia.
The High Priestess may indicate that the person is attempting to hide something that needs to be revealed. Or she can mean that the person is too much involved in an isolated inner world and needs to reconcile the inner life with the outer one.
Psychologically, the underworld refers to the unconscious, or what is in the process of coming into being. In this twilight realm, of which dreams are a component, we encounter our inner selves through intuition and fantasy. The High Priestess is an image representing our potentials that have yet to be discovered and brought forth—our secret selves longing to be recognized.
The High Priestess is linked to the Egyptian goddess Isis, queen of the intellect, in her veiled form. Isis understands fully the workings of the universe and is familiar with both the upper world and the underworld, where her husband Osiris reigns. Her essence is divine wisdom and a deep knowledge of the laws that underlie and unite both realms. She knows the secrets of regeneration after death, of the transformative powers inherent in secret knowledge.
You are experiencing a high degree of awareness of the invisible world, where inner change takes place before it manifests in the outer, material world. Your attunement to these inner, invisible sources is acute now, and you are in a position to take advantage of this fact. You may want to remove yourself, literally, from your day-to-day life to go deeper into your inner core. Tune in to your inner voice and spiritual awareness.
Something within you is seeking greater recognition of your inner needs, which you may have been neglecting, although at a deep level you are aware that something is stirring. You may be tuning in to yourself in a very private way, not wanting others to know about this activity. Those around you may notice that you seem vague, or not quite yourself, and you may be fending off comments about your not being here. Ignore them. You are in the process of finding your own personal way into your inner world and the riches it contains.