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Veiled, cloaked in mystery, with secrets to share with those who dare to listen. The Moon, the Divine Feminine, the intuition; The High Priestess welcomes those who dare to move between worlds and enter the sacred space. The following article describes The High Priestess Tarot card meaning.

“For self is a sea boundless and measureless.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Key Phrases of The High Priestess

  • The Goddess, The Divine Feminine, female mystery
  • Intuition, insight, the inner voice
  • The veil between worlds is thin
  • Deep insight
  • Look within, be still and listen with the other ear
  • Explore the deep and ancient wisdom that’s hidden in your soul

The High Priestess Tarot card upright keywords

  • Intuition
  • Divine feminine
  • Hidden talents
  • Mystery
  • Third eye
  • Subconscious mind

The High Priestess Tarot card reversed keywords

  • Cut off from intuition
  • Secrets
  • Isolated
  • Lack of harmony

The High Priestess Tarot card description

A symbol of intuition, independence and spiritual authority, The High Priestess is depicted by a beautiful woman with a calm disposition. Wearing a long flowing dress or adorned with robes, The High Priestess sometimes sits on a throne of sorts. 

She sits or stands before two pillars. In most decks, the pillars bear letters or symbols; however, some Tarot decks such as the Robin Wood deck have abstracted the pillar visual and have depicted them as trees. Sometimes, there is a veil hanging between the two pillars.

On her lap rests an open book or scroll. In the depictions with the scroll, the letters TORA can be seen. The Robin Wood Tarot deck shows The High Priestess holding both a book and crystal ball.

Her attire and jewellery bear symbols ranging from crosses to triangles and pentacles. 

Finally, The High Priestess wears a crown, headpiece or headdress – symbols of psychic connection. In some decks, her headpiece bears a crescent moon, in other decks, the Triple Moon. 

The High Priestess Tarot card from the Robin Wood Tarot deck
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The High Priestess Tarot card from the Robin Wood Tarot deck

Key Points of The High Priestess tarot card

  • Celestial body: The Moon 
  • Element: Water
  • Number: 2

Symbolism and mythology of The High Priestess Tarot card

The daughter of the Moon, the symbol of the Divine Feminine, The High Priestess guards the gateway to the subconscious

A serene image, the card depicts a cloaked woman sitting or standing before two pillars. In her hand, she holds a book or scroll, symbolic of ancient wisdom and knowledge

The High Priestess asks you to look within yourself, to connect with your innate wisdom and to peer behind the veil into the next realm. 

Read more to understand the meaning of The High Priestess Tarot card, and it’s associated mythology and symbolism.

The two pillars

The pillars that she stands before are a gateway of sorts. The High Priestess is the gatekeeper. 

The pillars symbolise the entrance to the mystical, the sacred, the other realms, the next dimensions. In some decks, the pillars are black and white, hinting at the notion of duality. Duality, the balance of energy, masculine and feminine, light and dark are common themes that occur throughout the Tarot.

In the Rider-Waite deck, the pillars bear two markings, the letter B on the left and the letter J on the right. These inscriptions represent the pillars found at the entrance of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. ‘B’ stands for the Hebrew word Boaz, which means ‘in strength,’ and ‘J’ stands for Jachin (sometimes spelled Jakin), which means ‘he establishes.’ 

These pillars symbolise the balance of and respect for a higher power. As a gatekeeper of sorts, The High Priestess almost seems to say that respect, knowledge and acceptance or understanding of duality are required to enter the sacred space or higher level

In the Barbara Walker deck, the pillars bear the Alpha and Omega symbols – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In the Bible, in the book of Revelations, God says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” These pillars are indicative of the balance and reverence of higher power that High Priestess represents.  

Some decks show a veil or decorative cloth hanging between the two pillars. In the Rider-Waite deck, the hanging cloth is decorated with pomegranates. This visual relates to Persephone, the wife of Hades, who disobeyed the rules of the underworld and ate pomegranate seeds when she wasn’t supposed to. Her punishment forced her to return to the underworld every year. 

The visual of the pomegranate seeds represent the different realms of the conscious and subconscious – the worlds of the seen and unseen. 

The cloth or veil seems to keep people out of the sacred space, allowing only the initiated to enter. In the Barbara Walker deck, two keys are lying at the feet of The High Priestess. The keys hint at the passage between the two worlds that is available to us all. They represent the unlocking of the conscious and unconscious.

The High Priestess Tarot card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck
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The High Priestess Tarot card from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck

Magical headdress

The High Priestess is often shown wearing a crown, headdress or papal tiara. The headdress often includes a moon motif, either a subtle crescent moon or the Triple Moon symbol. Both symbols represent her connection to the Divine Feminine, the intuition and the Moon. 

The triple moon symbol represents the Triple-Faced Goddess. Linked to both the phases of the Moon as well as the phases of a woman, the triple-faced or triple-headed Goddess symbolises:

  • the maiden archetype in the New Moon, 
  • the fertile mother archetype in the Full Moon and,
  • the infinitely wise crone archetype in the waning Moon. 

The Divine Feminine and Goddess mythology

The High Priestess card links closely with Goddess lore and mythology. 

  • In Egyptian mythology, she is Isis, the Goddess of intuition.
  • In Hindu mythology, she is Shakti, divine feminine creative power personified.
  • In oriental mythology, she is Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion.
  • In Greek mythology, with her bow and arrow, she is Artemis, the Nature Goddess getting in touch with her nature. 

Each of these ancient Goddess figures represented the feminine archetype in their cultures. They symbolised the personification of the Divine Feminine and often ruled with kindness and compassion.  

The lady pope

In early depictions of The High Priestess, the archetype was likened to Pope Joan. There is a legend that, during the ninth century, a Pope named John (Johannes Anglicus) was a woman masquerading as a man. 

Legend says that Pope Joan reigned for several years during the Middle Ages disguised as a male until her secret was discovered and she was murdered.

With this association, the card of The High Priestess is often called The Lady Pope or The Papess. 

The High Priestess Tarot card from the Barbara Walker Tarot deck
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The High Priestess Tarot card from the Barbara Walker Tarot deck

The High Priestess Tarot card meaning

The daughter of the Moon, The High Priestess guards the gateway to the subconscious. With a beckoning look on her face, she asks you to come closer, to enter the sacred space and cross into the next realm. 

Dive into the subconscious

Standing at the gateway between the realms of the seen and unseen, The High Priestess offers to escort you through the gateway of awareness, helping you explore the deep waters of divine knowledge opening you up to the possibility of intuitive connection and ancient wisdom. 

Things aren’t always as they seem, the veil between the worlds is thin; there are some interesting influences at play. The High Priestess invites you to look deeper. Access her guidance through meditation, rituals, and communing with your guides.

Trust yourself and your innate wisdom

The High Priestess card is a sign that you should tap into your hidden potential. As the symbol for divine knowledge and spiritual enlightenment, The High Priestess represents the vat of information hidden within us all.

She comes to tell you that this vast ancient knowledge is available to you, and will bring you incredible talents and prowess to achieve success, should you choose to engage with it.

We can tap into this information if we learn to live by the signs of our inner world. You can access this secret knowledge by deepening a spiritual practice through meditating, connecting to the present moment and keeping a morning practice.  

The High Priestess represents a state of heightened perception, a sixth sense and a curiosity for the unknown, so when she visits you in a spread, she is asking you to quieten, look within and to listen to the words of your inner voice.

In some interpretations, The High Priestess archetype represents the journey home to oneself. Deciding to swim in these deep waters will bring you home. 

The High Priestess Tarot card from the Sun and Moon Tarot deck
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The High Priestess Tarot card from the Sun and Moon Tarot deck

Nurture your intuitive gifts

If you pull The High Priestess or are drawn to this card, it can be a sign that your intuition is activated

Now could be a great time to pay more attention to your intuition and intuitive gifts. You may also be receiving intuitive messages in your dreams or meditations. Record your dreams, journal, and if they are calling you, consider experimenting with divination tools such as Oracle or Tarot cards.

If you have been spending time developing your intuitive and psychic gifts, The High Priestess card then brings a message of encouragement as if to reassure you that you’re on the right path and should keep going. 

Tend to your innermost feelings and listen to the words of your inner ear.

Something arises from the shadow

If none of the above resonates with you in your situation, The High Priestess visiting you in a reading may signal that a hidden part of you may come to the surface, that your psychic abilities or hidden emotions may rise shortly.

Honour and express the Divine Feminine 

The High Priestess is the symbol of the Divine Feminine principle. With this, another interpretation of the card is that you are called to acknowledge this energy in you. 

Not a gender construct, the Divine Feminine and Masculine are energies that are within every person. The feminine principle calls for rest, receptivity, balance, compassion and empathy.

Whether you identify as male, female or other, a call to the Divine Feminine suggests that you take a moment to breathe, feel and act from your heart, not your head. Collaborate, not compete. Follow your feelings, not your rational mind. Rest or take it easy, don’t be fueled by action.

Even if your masculine energy is stronger, pay attention to your feminine energy at this time. Feel into whether it is being confined in some way or whether it wants to express itself.  

A woman in your life

In physical form, The High Priestess may manifest in your life as a female. This could be a mother archetype, a female boss, possibly physic or a wise woman who asks your input without giving advice. In some interpretation, The High Priestess refers literally to learning, education, reading and books.

“I am the blue-lidded daughter of Sunset; I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.”

Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law

Other Names of The High Priestess

  • La Papesse
  • Die Hohepriesterin
  • La Papessa
  • La Sacerdotisa

The Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana

Once The Fool has met The Magician, the keeper of the conscious mind and the material world, he meets The High Priestess who guards the gates of the subconscious mind, hidden mysteries and the sacred teachings.

“There is more to the word than you can see,” she says, and so The Fool walks into the temple of wisdom to learn to trust his inner compass.

Featured image available from Viva Luna Studios.

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