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fool the magician
high priestess empress emperor hierophant lovers chariot justice hermit wheel of fortune
strength the hanged man death temperance the devil the tower the star the moon the sun judgement the world
The High Priestess

high priestess
Eve, Lilith... she has many names.  This is the feminine side of life as espoused by the Yin Chinese culture - 
the dark element: it is passive, dark, feminine, negative, downward-seeking, consuming and corresponds to the night. Morgan le Fe, Diana, the Moon Goddess' spirit living on in the shape of witches. Wise Woman v Wise Man: Wizards are concerned with what makes things work, witches with the state of things - before Doctors it was a 'witch' that helped bring you into the world, and one who layed you out when your time was done, ready for you to move on.  

The same pairing exists in the less elemental, more 'sophisticated' duo of Emperor & Empress and, less obviously, in Temperance & The Devil, and again in The Moon & The Sun.

The High Priestess sits/stands in front of - guards, perhaps - a land beyond, a way ahead, another realm, another way... the boundary or entrance is marked by the two pillars behind her. This device repeats in other cards: The Hierophant, The Chariot, The Hanged Man, The Devil (where it is both subtle and in a different relationship to the subject) and The Moon.

The association of 'female' with 'nature' should not be simply though of in 'earth mother' terms. Nature is chaos - raw, wild and untamed. Dangerous. 'Man' tames and civilizes Nature to create the reality which is an ordered society. Any simplistic male v female binary opposition is inadequate to explain the complexities of human life and inter-relations but consider the infinte variety of possibilities afforded by the limitless combinations of on/off  described by the and you are just beginning to see where this could go. And look again at the arrangement of the symbolism.

high priestess marseilles

Along with The Magician, the most misunderstood and misread of cards.  Many divinatory packs – for the Tarot did not start as an oracle – reserve these two as significators.  Whilst The Magician stands for the artifice of humankind and the power of language which we have created, The High Priestess represents Nature – natural magic, laws we obey though without understanding how and why they work.  Occult – hidden, and arcane knowledge is accessed through our High Priestess. It is instinctual, often sub-conscious and beyond the realm of simple language.  Such do we speak of a sixth sense, of intuition, which is often ascribed as feminine.  Since the Sun God replaced the Moon Goddess in the civilized world, she stands for the profane, as opposed to the sacred and women’s intuition is variously revered or grudgingly acknowledged.
Completely feminine and the counterpart to The Magician, the High Priestess is the Gatekeeper of the subconscious. She travels in worlds which most of us only glimpse in our dreams. Her realm is that of unseen truths, untapped potentials, and hidden dangers. The Calling of The High Priestess is to go beyond the obvious and visible to tap those powers which are veiled from normal vision. While she is passive by nature, she has the power to uncover unknown potential and is very aware of the infinite potential all humans harbor within them. She is also very patient. She can wait for events to blossom in their own time.
    Seen from her favorable side, she is the expression of patience, understanding, goodness, and the willingness to forgive. As helper, healer, or prophetess, she uses the power of the subconscious for the good of others. However, her darker side represents the archetype of the "evil woman," the witch who uses her black powers to seduce, lame, and hurt other people













© Jeremy Rogers 2007 Document made with Nvu return to top