The High Priestess

The High Priestess

Divinatory Meanings

Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed; the woman who interests the Querent, if male; the Querent herself, if female; silence, tenacity; mystery, wisdom, science.

Divinatory Meanings - Reversed

Passion, moral or physical ardour, conceit, surface knowledge.

Inner Symbolism

She has the lunar crescent at her feet, a horned diadem on her head, with a globe in the middle place, and a large solar cross on her breast. The scroll in her hands is inscribed with the word Tora, signifying the Greater Law, the Secret Law and the second sense of the Word. It is partly covered by her mantle, to shew that some things are implied and some spoken. She is seated between the white and black pillars--J. and B.--of the mystic Temple, and the veil of the Temple is behind her: it is embroidered with palms and pomegranates. The vestments are flowing and gauzy, and the mantle suggests light--a shimmering radiance. She has been called occult Science on the threshold of the Sanctuary of Isis, but she is really the Secret Church, the House which is of God and man. She represents also the Second Marriage of the Prince who is no longer of this world; she is the spiritual Bride and Mother, the daughter of the stars and the Higher Garden of Eden. She is, in fine, the Queen of the borrowed light, but this is the light of all. She is the Moon nourished by the milk of the Supernal Mother.

In a manner, she is also the Supernal Mother herself--that is to say, she is the bright reflection. It is in this sense of reflection that her truest and highest name in bolism is Shekinah--the co-habiting glory. According to Kabalism, there is a Shekinah both above and below. In the superior world it is called Binah, the Supernal Understanding which reflects to the emanations that are beneath. In the lower world it is MaIkuth--that world being, for this purpose, understood as a blessed Kingdom that with which it is made blessed being the Indwelling Glory. Mystically speaking, the Shekinah is the Spiritual Bride of the just man, and when he reads the Law she gives the Divine meaning. There are some respects in which this card is the highest and holiest of the Greater Arcana.


2. The High Priestess, the Pope Joan, or Female Pontiff; early expositors have sought to term this card the Mother, or Pope's Wife, which is opposed to the symbolism. It is sometimes held to represent the Divine Law and the Gnosis, in which case the Priestess corresponds to the idea of the Shekinah. She is the Secret Tradition and the higher sense of the instituted Mysteries.

The High Priestess

Divinatory Meanings

The High Priestess - Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

Divinatory Meanings - Reversed

Conceit, Ignorance, Unskilfulness, Superficial Knowledge.

Symbolism of the Keys

The High Priestess, or Female Pope - A woman crowned with a high mitre or tiara (her head encircled by a veil), a stole (or a solar cross) upon her breast, and the Book of Science open in her hand. She represents Science, Wisdom, or Knowledge.

The High Priestess

Description and Meaning

The second stage in macrocosmic evolution is the polarity of the omnipotent might of Self, omnipotent possibility of the field of manifestation, universal passive richness, the Kamaduk or Most Beloved Wish-Cow of the Hindus. This macrocosmic field is the Temple of the Great Magician or Architect, in potency at least. It is the Bull, Taurus, of astrology, the house of sound, art, faith and richness. To speak truly, it is not so much sound as the principle of the soundbox, sound itself having its origin in the next step. Therefore Papus may well compare this card with the hieroglyphic meaning of the Hebrew letter Beth, which relates to "the mouth of man as the organ of speech." But it is not "God the Son" as he says elsewhere. It might be called 'God the Woman,' the Divine Mother, the 'Eternal Feminine.' As the passive richness of the Universe awaiting him that will be able to see it and appreciate it, this principle may well be symbolised by the image of the High Priestess, sitting in an attitude of waiting, between the pillars of the Temple, B and J, standing for the Two, from which will spring the worlds of spirit and of matter. Being Supreme Objectivity, it is the symbol of receiving, of possessing, of cult and adoration. It symbolises womanhood in general, as the first card symbolised manhood.

Mr. Waite has restored in his images the original picture of Isis, reposing on the crescent moon, which indeed I should say must be regarded as the best representative of the goddess of Taurus, in which sign the moon is 'exalted,' as astrology teaches. But Isis is not so much to be regarded as representing "Science, Wisdom, Knowledge" (Mathers)--as the goddess "of Nature, whose veil must not be raised before the profane." (Papus) and of supreme consciousness, because 'consciousness' is the faculty committed by Earth.

Waite calls her "Second Marriage of the Prince" and says, that in divination she stands for the querent if female. Now I should say, this cannot be altogether true, as in the horoscope the first house indicates the personal temperament, etc., for a man as well as for a female querent. So in cards the Magician must always bear the meaning of the querent personally, but if a female she will be largely influenced by the High Priestess, as this is the representative of the feminine in general and female properties. It may be true, more or less, that for a man this card represents "the woman who interests the querent" (Waite), just as on the other hand the Magician represents the man who interests the querent if this happens to be a woman.

The High Priestess symbolises constancy, fidelity, repose, stability, but also dumbness, laziness, resistance, endurance as well as passive opposition. It rules everything in connection with art and the artistic abilities, with wealth and with the masonic lodge.

Astrological Correspondence


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