The high priestess tarot card is the first traditionally female character encountered among the major arcana in the tarot. As such, this energy will be found in most readings involving this particular card. Many of the characteristics usually linked with the female gender in tradition can be found in their cooler, softer aspects in this arcanum.
Traditional keywords associated with the High Priestess card
Upright: Mystery, introspection, secrets, wisdom, divination, spirituality.
Reversed: Surface knowledge, blind dogmatic trust, holier-than-thou attitude
Traditional Representation and Description of the High Priestess Card
In the Rider-Waite tarot deck, upon which many modern decks are based, The High Priestess is identified with the Shekhinah, the female indwelling presence of the divine. She wears plain blue robes and sits with her hands in her lap. She has a lunar crescent at her feet, “a horned diadem on her head, with a globe in the middle place” similar to the crown of the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, but with the horns having a shape more like half-crescents, and a large cross on her breast. The scroll in her hands, partly covered by her mantle, bears the letters TORA (meaning “divine law”). She is seated between the white and black pillars—’J’ and ‘B’ for Jachin and Boaz—of the mystic Temple of Solomon. The veil of the Temple is behind her: it is embroidered with palm leaves and pomegranates.
Modern Representations of the High Priestess Card
The traditional interpretation of this major arcana card has evolved a lot over the course of the last century. In Medieval times, the High Priestess could often be considered the “negative” side of the Magician, a bad influence, a slight on pure reason. This is probably due to the traditional role of a woman in Medieval times, especially as seen through the eyes of men, who were the vast majority of scholars studying the tarot and the occult sciences. Since the end of the nineteenth century and wider inclusion of women among initiatory societies and tarot reading studies, the neutral and positive aspects of this major arcanum were unveiled and brought forth in a more objective manner.
Feminine, wise, spiritual, and deep, the High Priestess major arcana card has a lot to offer to any Querent willing to make the effort. Many people are afraid of the secrets that lie hidden in the deepest reaches of their minds. But for those who are ready and willing to face them head-on, the High Priestess has a lot to offer.
The Mythic Tarot (1986)
The Haindl Tarot (1990)
Osho Zen Tarot (1995)
Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)
Spellcaster Tarot (2016)
Ostara Tarot (2017)
Upright High Priestess Card Meaning
The main character in the High Priestess card is a woman, usually sitting down on a throne. There are several elements that can be found in most past and modern representations of this major arcana. The Moon will usually be present in some way or another, whether as a symbol found on the priestess’s clothes, or more traditionally either at her feet or on her crown, or both. Her throne can usually be found between a black and a white pillar, representing the twin pillars of the temple of Solomon. Finally, she often holds a book or a scroll in her hands.
In direct opposition with the conscious willpower and drive found in the previous card, the Magician, the meaning of the High Priestess card refers to the unconscious mind and the most spiritual part of your psyche. This is a card that deals with intuition, and generally introspective patterns of behavior.
To understand major arcana meanings derived from this card, you need to be open to understand and welcome a more spiritual, almost magical side of yourself. This is a connection that comes from within but finds its echoes without. It can often underline a strong desire for something that goes beyond purely material things, some urge to find some balance between your rational mind and the sweet, silent whispers of the stars.
This card can also refer to secrets and hidden knowledge, arcane knowledge received about the future, but always in a positive way. This is a source of wisdom, not confusion.
It should also be noted that in some readings, especially among initiatory orders, the High Priestess card could represent the Querent (the person who receives the tarot reading) if that person is female.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
When performing a reading about love, the presence of the High Priestess card can either represent the Querent herself if she is female, or a female love interest the Querent might be thinking of.
Where the Magician called for a relationship based on intellect and reason, this relationship should mainly come from a deeper kind of connection, something that resonates to the core of both people, in harmony. This is the kind of relationship where it is easy to say that you have found your “soul mate”.
The High Priestess love tarot outcome is always intense because it focuses on some almost metaphysical connection of the souls. When it works, these are the kinds of relationships that books and movies are made of. When it doesn’t, the aftershock is more painful than other heartbreaks you might have experienced. But one way or another, this is a relationship that will have a lasting impact on your memory.
In a Question about Career and Work
Career encompasses school and education if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path. Regardless of your current stage of development, the High Priestess represents the moment when you realize your purpose, find meaningful work, or deeply understand your career path.
If you are a student and this is your card, then you need to assess what you are “really” learning in school, which may or may not have to do with your subject of study and the classes you complete. The High Priestess represents the edges of your experience where you learn social values, emotional growth, and diversity of thought and opinion.
If you are working, but not doing something you would consider a career, then this card will encourage you to wonder about the “point of it all”. Do you know the deep or rich history of your work? Does something you do that is mundane have an extraordinary beginning, or is it the reverse? What has the work you do taught you that is not readily obvious?
If you are in a career path, then this card reveals the need to assess if you feel fulfilled by the work and long-term goals. Are you doing something profound? A career is a journey that builds on itself over time, expands and contracts, and offers a potential legacy for persistent and significant effort. What was the mystery of the work or subject that put you on the long path, and what have you discovered thus far as an intentional contributor to civilization?
Reversed High Priestess Card Meaning
The High Priestess tarot card, when reversed, can represent the wild urges of passion, a drive that comes from within for no particular reason, and that is particularly difficult to resist or ignore. It could also represent the downside to any kind of occult or sacred knowledge, the conviction of holding some universal truth that leads you to ignore any argument that would put it into question when spirituality turns into blind faith and dogma and makes you withdrawn instead of open to new ideas and to the outside world.
In a Question about Love and Relationship
There is a spiritually damaging aspect of your current relationship and you need to be on guard emotionally. You may already be in the negative experience with the relationship and this card is trying to let you know that you need to get out or get help. You will not be able to overcome the danger or difficulty on your own or by staying in the relationship and “trying to fix it from the inside”. You may have to acknowledge your failings or the failings of your partner as something you cannot fix together. In fact, being together may be exacerbating or causing problems.
In a Question about Career and Work
When this card appears reversed in a question about work or career, then you want to be on your guard and pay more attention to the behavior of your boss/co-workers and the status of the company. Some difficult situation may be looming or already here. There could be a downturn in the economy affecting your company or a reshuffling of job responsibilities or a new, difficult employee in your group.
Is your resume up-to-date; do you have a contingency plan if you lose your job or have to take a salary cut? Even upright, this card can indicate a difficult experience designed to teach a spiritual lesson; reversed, this is doubly true.
The Fool’s Journey
The Fool meets the High Priestess at the same time as he meets the Magician on his spiritual quest, like two sides of the same coin, highlighting the main duality that can be found in the world, male and female, night and day, black and white, etc. The High Priestess connects the Fool to his unconscious mind, where she plants the seeds of sacred wisdom that will grow alongside him on his way.
As such, the high priestess tarot card can be read as a key to unlock the hidden potential found deep within anyone’s mind, a promise to let this deeper connection to the universe grow if it is nurtured instead of ignored.
Meditating with the High Priestess
With a strong emphasis on introspection and listening to your inner voice, the high priestess tarot card is probably the best kind of tarot-related meditation you might choose. The feminine energies of wisdom and spirituality will help you reach an altered state of consciousness where you will be in sync with your inner self, better able to understand and listen to the various messages that your subconscious is trying to send you.
In a stark contrast to some of the more “quiet” kinds of meditation, when you focus your mind on the high priestess tarot card it is not to let go or clear your mind of every thought, but rather to reconnect to your inner self and discover the wealth of wisdom and advice that can be found deep within.