heart shaped world
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|The 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 binary numeral system and you are just beginning to see where this could go. And look again at the arrangement of the symbolism.
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.
|© Jeremy Rogers 2007||return to top|