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The High Priestess Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in astrology, Myers Briggs, and pop culture with expertise in relationships and dating.

The High Priestess is the second trump card of the Major Arcana. She represents femininity, the subconscious, the connection between mortals and the divine, and secrets.

The High Priestess is the second trump card of the Major Arcana. She represents femininity, the subconscious, the connection between mortals and the divine, and secrets.

The High Priestess in Tarot

The High Priestess card is the second trump of the Major Arcana. The High Priestess is identified with the Shekinah, the female presence of the cosmos.

She wears blue robes and a blue diadem on her head. The crown looks like a plant with the moon resting in the middle. She has a lunar crescent at her feet.

The High Priestess is a highly respected person in her community. She acts as a guide, and people come to her for wisdom and healing. She encourages you to get in touch with your inner voice and to follow your gut. She suggests that the issues you're dealing with are not all that they appear to be. There are more pathways than you realize to your solutions. Be patient and don't jump to conclusions—avoid haste at this time.

The High Priestess wants to bring clarity into your life. She looks to the tides of the ocean and how it connects to the moon. She is in touch with her feminine side, and she may represent a woman in your life who has acted as a guide, a mentor, or teacher. In some readings, she could represent the querent, especially if they're female.

Upright

Hidden talents, intuition, mystery, spiritual insight, wisdom, the supernatural, mental energy, emotional strength, reflection, decompression, awakening, epiphany, grace, science, silence, future.

Reversed

Information withheld, lack of personal harmony, lack of clarity, dissonance, uncertainty, muddled vision of future and self, blocked energy, overworking, louder than necessary, secrets, physical ardor, conceit, surface knowledge, lack of sleep and lack of dreams.

The High Priestess

CategoryNotes

Element

Water

House

Cups: emotions, intuition, relationships, spirit, inner voice, compassion, empathy, matters of the heart.

Number

2

Major or Minor Arcana

Major Arcana

Gender

Feminine

Ruled by

The Moon

Counterpart

The Empress (Sister)

Suggestion

Turn to your inner voice for self-reflection. Decompress, find rest, and meditate. Know your instincts.

Legends in the Card

Tarot was first a card game before it came to be used for divination purposes. In the first Tarot pack with inscriptions, the High Priestess appeared with the Papal tiara. The card was labelled in French "La Papesse," which translates to the Popess. She may be a reference to Pope Joan.

According to legend, Pope Joan was a woman who reigned as pope during the Middle Ages. Most scholars agree her story is fictional. Pope Joan's story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century. She was said to have reigned somewhere around 855 to 857.

She was described as:

  • Talented and learned.
  • A woman who disguised herself as a man. Her disguise was to help her get into the inner circle of the church so she could be with her lover.
  • She rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected as pope.
  • Her sex was revealed when she gave birth, and she died shortly after that, either from labor complications or through murder.

According to some legends, the church removed the female pope and came up with new creeds to ascertain that future popes were always male.

In the 16th century, Siena Cathedral had a bust of Joan among other popes. It was removed after protests in 1600. In Protestant post-reformation countries, Tarot cards included images related to Pope Joan. Italian Catholics saw the La Papesse as representing the Holy Mother Church personified.

With the creation of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the Popess was modified to be the High Priestess.

Hathor

The High Priestess wears a crown similar to what Hathor would wear. Hathor was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian cults. Hathor was a sky deity. She was the mother of sky god Horus and the sun god Ra. She was the symbolic mother of Horus and Ra's representatives: the pharaohs.

She was one of several goddesses who acted as the Eye of Ra. In this form, she would do anything to protect her son. Hathor exemplified the Egyptian ideals of femininity. She could cross between worlds, so she had the unique job of helping souls transition to the afterlife.

Mary, Mother of Jesus

The High Priestess card also has Marian imagery. She wears a cross on her chest. Her long robes are reminiscent of Mary's attire. Mary is often depicted in the colors blue and white. Jesus is also often depicted in these colors.

The High Priestess' body is mostly covered. She comes across as wise, pure of heart, and of good poise. Mary is often considered the highest female figure in Christianity.

Sister Manfreda

Another possible inspiration for the Tarot card is Sister Manfreda. She was an Umilata nun. She was elected Pope by the Guglielmite sect of Lombardy. They believed she was the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, and she was sent to begin a new age of the Spirit.

Sister Manfreda's proponents believed that Guglielma would return to earth on the Feast of Pentecost in 1300. Guglielma lived from 1279 to 1282. She preached an alternative, feminized Christianity. She now serves as the unofficial patron saint of Brunate, Italy.

Those who had faith in Sister Manfreda hoped her rise to Papacy would end the male dominance over the position and lead to a line of female Popes.

Sister Manfreda was in preparation for this role and was supported by wealthy families. Unfortunately, the Inquisition put a stop to this possible evolution of the Papacy. The Inquisition exterminated the new sect. Sister Manfreda was burned at the stake in the latter part of 1300.

Astarte

A.E. Waite, one of the creators of the Rider-Waite deck, speculated that the card's lore was connected to the ancient cult of Astarte. The deity was closely related to Ishtar. She was worshiped in the Bronze Age. She was worshiped in the ancient Levant among Canaanites and Phoenicians. She was celebrated in Egypt after foreign cults were imported there.

Astarte is the goddess of war, hunting, and love. She is most similar to Aphrodite, so in that sense she probably isn't the most likely source for the High Priestess card.

Boaz and Jachin

In the card, the High Priestess sits between the pillars of Boaz and Jachin. In the Bible, the pillars stood on the porch of Solomon's Temple. The pillars were made of copper, brass, or bronze.

The pillars are sometimes used as a symbol for Freemasons. The pillars for the Temple were likely for aesthetic purposes and were not support structures. The pillars were lost during the destruction of the First Temple.

The High Priestess card can appear different among decks. Her card generally has allusions to the moon, the colors blue and white, a diadem, a scroll, and images of pomegranates.

The High Priestess card can appear different among decks. Her card generally has allusions to the moon, the colors blue and white, a diadem, a scroll, and images of pomegranates.

Symbols

The Cross

Represents Christianity and the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water. The cross designates the High Priestess as a spiritual person who is wise. People come to her for advice.

The Scroll

The High Priestess's hands partly cover the scroll. The letters TORA mean divine law. The "H" is covered up, which means some of the knowledge is concealed.

The scroll contains ethereal knowledge on the elements of reality. It symbolizes the memories we carry of the past, our understanding of the present, and our thoughts on the future.

White and Black Pillars

The pillars represent dualism and have the letters "B" and "J." They represent Jachin and Boaz, the pillars that were part of the Temple of Solomon.

The Veil

The veil behind the woman is the veil of the Temple of Solomon, which was a boundary between the common and the holy. The High Priestess has the ability to enter into the holy and bring back knowledge to humans.

The veil has patterns of palm leaves and pomegranates. Palm leaves represent masculinity. Pomegranates represent femininity. The pattern depicted in the veil appears in the next card, The Empress. The pattern is on her dress.

The High Priestess and The Empress are considered sisters with counterpart roles. The High Priestess invites people into the esoteric mysteries of life. The Empress is considered the mother of life who gives souls a physical body.

The High Priestess encourages you to get in touch with your intuition. Know your own thoughts. Know your own instincts. Decompress rather than over-schedule yourself.

The High Priestess encourages you to get in touch with your intuition. Know your own thoughts. Know your own instincts. Decompress rather than over-schedule yourself.

The High Priestess Upright

Tarot is about the Fool's journey. The character is going through a developmental path to awaken his full potential. The Fool is instrumental in helping the planet to heal, but only if they accept the path.

The Magician is the guardian of the conscious mind and the tangible world. The High Priestess is the guardian of the subconscious mind and the teacher of sacred knowledge. The High Priestess works with dreams, goals, aspirations, and the inner voice. The Magician helps you to see the light of day. The High Priestess helps you to see answers at the dead of night.

The High Priestess travels between the spiritual realm and dream plane to our physical world. She has an understanding of the conscious and unconscious. She uses the moon to guide her. The moon and her intuition are intrinsically related.

The High Priestess teaches that not everything is as it seems. There are more variables in play than you realize. With her help, you can see what is behind the veil guarding the entrance to the Temple of knowledge.

When this card appears, it means that spiritual development needs to be a priority. It means you need to learn more about the world within you, learn more from your dreams, and that if you're not aware of your inner voice it may one day overtake you.

The High Priestess card is on your side to discover hidden information. She can help you uncover secrets. She'll point you in the direction of concealed data.

Your inner wisdom is stronger than you realize. You need to make sure your intuition is flowing and isn't blocked, like arteries when we eat too much food high in cholesterol. Your intuition, in a way, also needs to be checked for too much cholesterol.

You can connect to your higher self with meditation, visualization, dreams, and self-reflection. If you are already developing your sense of self, The High Priestess card encourages you to continue your journey.

The High Priestess encourages you to trust your ability to nurture, to empathize, and to sense your feelings.

Upright or reversed, the High Priestess card in Tarot encourages the querent to study their mind more. When reversed, this card is urgently trying to get you to reflect.

Upright or reversed, the High Priestess card in Tarot encourages the querent to study their mind more. When reversed, this card is urgently trying to get you to reflect.

The High Priestess Reversed

The reversed High Priestess is a direct call to look inward. It's a signal that you're majorly missing something, that your intuition is clogged, and that you're not listening to reason.

Signs of a Reversed High Priestess

  • You're easily swayed by others opinions.
  • You're easily drawn to drama.
  • You can't focus.

The card is encouraging you to withdraw. Go somewhere quiet and think. Rely on your inner voice. If you're struggling to trust your intuition then you will struggle to manage your life.

You may also be trying to hide your intuition from others out of a fear of judgement or rejection. You need to have more faith in yourself and others. Go with the flow of the universe instead of against it. Surrender and let go. Stop trying to fight and raise the temperature of the room. Find a sense of calm.

If you're around people who are gossiping too much you should separate from them. Don't let other people's judgments cloud your inner voice. Have open and honest conversations with people rather than flirt with paranoia. Work to address what you see below the surface.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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