The High Priestess

The High Priestess, or female Pope, identified with Isis, is also a symbol of virginity, contrasting with the Empress who is Earth Mother and represents fruitfulness and female productivity. In some decks her robes are decorated with pomegranites representing the mysteries of life and death. She is identified with the Moon goddess who sheds the morning dew. In the Crowley / Harris Thoth deck she is veiled in light. This light is not the manifestation of the spirit but the veil of the spirit. In other packs her left hand is concealed in her cloak, in either case meaning "all is not revealed".

She is Artemis, the huntress of Greek legend. As number two in the major arcana I have ascribed to her the Hebrew letter Beit, equivalent to Beta in the Greek alphabet. Beit is the second letter of the Hebrew alefbet and because in Hebrew, numbers are represented by alefbetic characters, it is also used in that language to represent the number 2.

The Druidic priestesses held their rites in groves of rowan or willow. I have ascribed the rowan to the Empress as the rowan is the tree of protection and the Empress is the card of nurturing and protection. Both the High Priestess card and the willow are representative of the moon goddess and so the willow became the natural representative for the High Priestess.

The willow represents harmony, flow, connectedness and inspiration. The Willow has in many cultures been connected to the feminine, the moon and water. Many antiquarian goddesses resided in or near the willow. Examples from classical Greek mythology include Persephone, goddess of the underworld, daughter of Zeus and Demeter and goddess of the harvest, and Kirke, who weaves and sings at the navel of the world. The Priestess is most closely associated with the Greek goddess Artemis, who in Roman mythology becomes Diana, goddess of the moon, the huntress. At one time, she was closely associated with Pope Joan, the female Pope, but as Lady Frieda Harris points out, what is a significant association in tarot imagery changes over time. Pope Joan was once a political and religious hot potato but in present times her significance has faded.

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When the High Preistess appears in a spread, a secret is about to be revealed. The card shows mystic power, psychic ability, intuition and the power of the unconscioius mind. It indicates the need to rely on intuition and instincts, and relates to memory. It is obviously a feminine card and in a man's reading can indicate the most significant woman in his life.


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