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The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning - Trust Your Intuition

The High Priestess is one of the most magical and mysterious cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot representing the Divine Feminine, intuition, and knowledge. It is the second card in the Major Arcana, after The Fool (0) and The Magician (1).

In readings The High Priestess often points to our intuition, our connection with the Feminine, and hidden knowledge of life’s mysteries that we all possess deep in our subconscious minds.

Historical Significance of The High Priestess

Long before our male dominated religions of the Western World, the archetypal energy of the High Priestess was prevalent in a variety of ancient cultures. The history of priestesses is completely fascinating.

In Ancient Greece, for example, priestesses were very powerful compared to other women, and held a very high status in society. Priestesses, called Hiereiai, lived in temples and served the Greek Goddesses in ritual. They presided over festival days and were often consulted on political matters. One of the most famous priestesses of them all was the Oracle at Delphi. She was believed to possess the power of prophecy and carries ties to the even older prehistoric worship of the Earth Goddess Gaia.

In ancient Egypt priestesses took similar roles to male priests and served both male and female deities. Often called “chantress” a woman might serve through impersonating or embodying a Goddess in ritual. The most important members of the priestesses were often of royal blood and acted as the human wives of the God Amun at Karnak. They were some of the only people who could enter the inner-most shrines to make offerings and perform rituals. They practiced powerful magic aimed at keeping Egypt safe from enemies, shooting arrows into ritual targets and burning enemies in effigy.

In pre-Christian Babylon priestesses dedicated themselves to Goddesses like Astarte and Ishtar and practiced the art of sacred sexuality in worship. These priestesses kept excellent records and so we know of some of their practices including a sacred marriage ritual between the High Priestess who embodied the Goddess and the King.

In all of these ancient cultures the priestesses were honored and considered to be of a very high status in society. They were well educated and lived comfortably in temples and palaces. They spent their days accumulating sacred knowledge and participating in detailed rituals.

The Origins of The High Priestess in Tarot

In some of the earliest Tarot decks we see the High Priestess pictured as a female Pope or Popess. She is represented as Pope Jone, or in the case of the Visconti Sforza Tarot, as Sister Manfreda, a nun who was related to the family that had the cards commissioned.

Later, when the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot emerged on the scene the more catholic images of the High Priestess changed to the more esoteric and multi-cultural representation that most of us recognize the card by today. The Golden Dawn tradition of which Smith and Waite were both members even have a secret esoteric name for the High Priestess card, The Priestess of the Silver Star.

Throughout the different representations the High Priestess is an embodiment of the sacred Feminine and represents the female aspect of the Divine.

Symbolism and Imagery in the High Priestess Card

The High Priestess card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is rich with potent symbolism and imagery. Almost every aspect of this card has elements of the esoteric mysteries from various traditions and cultures.

Beginning with the High Priestess herself, we see a young woman in ritual garb. She wears a crown that resembles the Triple Goddess symbol of the waxing, full, and waning moon. This represents the three elements of the Divine Feminine, the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. It is also associated with the Egyptian Goddess Isis - goddess of life, magic, and the moon.

The robes she wears are blue, symbolizing wisdom and divine knowledge. The robes flow down to the bottom of the card like water, and all water pictured through the rest of the Tarot originates with the High Priestess’s robes. On her chest is a cross which signifies the balance between Yin and Yang or Feminine and Masculine energies.

In her arms she holds a scroll with the letters TORA. This is one of the most highly debated symbols in Tarot, as the creators barely discussed it. Some believe it is representative of the Hebrew Torah, the ancient holy books of Jewish religion. It is symbolic of knowledge held by the High Priestess.

Behind the High Priestess is a veil of pomegranates and date palms. The veil separates the figure from the ocean behind. The ocean symbolizes the great unknown, and the veil represents the division between this world and the next. The pomegranate is associated with the Feminine, as well as with the story of Persephone and the death, life, and rebirth cycles. The date palms are associated with Masculine energy, and are also sacred to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor.

The pillars on each side of the woman are echoes of the pillars that stood outside of Solomon’s Temple. They represent duality that is necessary for all of creation - again, Yin and Yang, Masculine and Feminine. They carry the letters B and J. Some believe the letters stand for Beelzbub and Yahweh or Boas and Jakim. The Columbus are also found in many other esoteric traditions like the Golden Dawn and the FreeMasons.

Finally, at the feet of the High Priestess, where her robes turn to water, is a crescent moon. The Moon and the Ocean share a bond in the cycles of tides. Throughout the Tarot, water is associated with the unknown and the subconscious. These symbols continue the theme of the Divine Feminine and intuitive knowledge.

What to do when you receive The High Priestess in a reading

The High Priestess card can have several different meanings. When The High Priestess card is present you are being asked to connect with and honor the Divine Feminine, perhaps within yourself, and perhaps within someone close to you. The High Priestess can represent you or a person you know. Consider who represents the Divine Feminine in your life. Maybe it is a mother, a teacher, a sister, or a friend.

This card also gently pushes us to nourish our intuition. We all have intuitive knowledge somewhere within us. It is part of our magical birthright. Some are much more connected to their intuitive knowing, while others of us may have some blockages in this area. You might consider practicing using your intuition with a pendulum or through free flow journaling. You know more than you think, you simply need to trust yourself

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