Tarot: The High Priestess

Tarot: The High Priestess

Tarot: The High Priestess

The High Priestess represents the aspect of yourself that acts as a gatekeeper between the conscious mind and divine wisdom. She holds sacred space as you stand before the pillars of the temple, watching over your footsteps as you walk toward the well of ancestral wisdom. The High Priestess whispers, as you pass through the veil into the deepest parts of yourself, “You are not alone.”

When the third card of the Major Arcana appears, it is time to let go of rationality and quiet your conscious mind. The High Priestess is not afraid of the dark and encourages you to trust in your own ability to navigate the unknown. She may be calling you toward shadow work, a hidden truth, or a spiritual journey. Listen carefully. She is the embodiment of divine intuition.

The High Priestess knows the answer before you have spoken the question.

The High Priestess Reversed

When the High Priestess card appears reversed in a tarot reading, it often signifies a disconnection from intuition and inner wisdom. It suggests that you may be ignoring your inner voice or failing to trust your instincts. This card can point to a time when secrets or mysteries are revealed, or when you’re urged to listen to your intuition more closely. This card calls for a reconnection with your intuition, a deeper exploration of subconscious aspects, and a more open-minded approach to uncover hidden knowledge and wisdom.


“I trust in my wisdom and intuition by leaning into the mystery of the unconscious. I remaining open to the knowledge and insights that are being revealed to me.”

Major Arcana Symbolism

Tarot Card NameThe High Priestess
Traditional Card ImageryA seated woman in religious attire
Traditional SymbolismEsoterism, veil between worlds, initiation, Isis veiled, mystery, divine feminine energy, occultism, divination, higher self, the intuition, mysticism, the unconscious, theosophy, hidden knowledge, deep reflection
Card NumberII, 2
Classical ElementWater
Influencing ElementAether / Akasha
Traditional Upright MeaningIntuition, sacred knowledge, inner voice, connection with divine feminine, the subconscious mind, wisdom, spiritual insight, keeping your own counsel
Traditional Reversed MeaningDisconnected from your intuition, information withheld, misuse of spiritual gifts, not listening, lack of self-trust, secrets, withdrawal and silence, lack of center, lost inner voice, repressed feelings
Archetype In NatureDivine Feminine (Yin) spirituality enclosed in the temple, separated from nature
ChakraThird Eye, Sacral
Astrological CorrespondenceCancer, Moon
Yes or NoMaybe (All will unfold in accordance with the highest good)
Crystals and StonesLabradorite, Lapis Lazuli, Blue Calcite, Blue Flash Moonstone, Sodalite, Blue Sapphire, Celestite, Azurite, Kyanite, Iolite, Dumortierite, Ceylon Sapphire, Tanzanite, Citrine, Melo Pearl, Brown Tourmaline, Orange Calcite, Amber, Boulder Opal, Orange Tiger’s Eye, Tangerine Quartz, Cognac Diamond, Orange Tourmaline, Chocolate Opal, Coral, Hyacinth, Petrified Wood, Orange Selenite, Smoky Quartz, Peach Moonstone
The High Priestess

Tarot Through the Ages

Tarot was originally invented as a card game in the mid 15th century. French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as “Etteilla”, was the first to assign divinatory meanings to the cards in the late 1700s. Many others have followed in his footsteps, bringing their own unique interpretation of the cards. In our exploration of the Tarot, we weave together contemporary insights with the timeless wisdom of the past. This blending of past and present perspectives offers a more holistic view, allowing us to connect with the evolving narrative and lineage of wisdom that has shaped our understanding of each card over time. Let’s dive into some of these historical interpretations…

Allegory of The High Priestess

When I lifted the first veil and entered the outer court of the Temple of Initiation, I saw in half darkness the figure of a woman sitting on a high throne between two pillars of the temple, one white, and one black. Mystery emanated from her and was about her.

Sacred symbols shone on her green dress; on her head was a golden tiara surmounted by a two-horned moon; on her knees she held two crossed keys and an open book. Between the two pillars behind the woman hung another veil all embroidered with green leaves and fruit of pomegranate. And a voice said:

“To enter the Temple one must lift the second veil and pass between the two pillars. And to pass thus, one must obtain possession of the keys, read the book and understand the symbols. Are you able to do this?”

“I would like to be able, ” I said.

Then the woman turned her face to me and looked into my eyes without speaking. And through me passed a thrill, mysterious and penetrating like a golden wave; tones vibrated in my brain, a flame was in my heart, and I understood that she spoke to me, saying without words:

“This is the Hall of Wisdom. No one can reveal it no one can hide it. Like a flower it must grow and bloom in thy soul. If thou wouldst plant the seed of this flower in thy soul —learn to discern the real from false. Listen only to the Voice that is soundless… Look only on that which is invisible, and remember that in thee thyself, is the Temple and the gate to it and the mystery, and the initiation.”

-The Symbolism of the Tarot by P.D. Ouspensky (1913)

The High Priestess Reversed

The High Priestess (II)

This card has been called many names; The High Priestess, the Pope Joan, or the Female Pontiff. Early teachings have sought to term this card The Mother, or the Pope’s Wife, which runs counter to the symbolism of the card. The High Priestess 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.

She also represents 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 symbolically understood as the Queen of the borrowed light…but this is the light of all. She is the Moon nourished by the milk of the divine Mother.

In a way, she is represents the Divine Mother herself, that is to say, she is the bright reflection. It is
in this sense of reflection that her truest and highest name is Shekinah (the glory of the divine presence, represented as light or interpreted symbolically). According to Kabalism, there is a Shekinah both above and below.

In the superior world this divine presence is called Binah (the divine understanding which reflects to the emanations that are beneath). In the lower world this divine presence is called MaIkuth (the world being, a Kingdom made blessed being the Indwelling Glory). Mystically speaking, the Shekinah is the Spiritual Bride of the just man. 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.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The High Priestess Card Imagery

The High Priestess has the lunar crescent at her feet. She wears a horned crown with a globe in the center and has 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. The scroll is partly covered by her robe, to show that some things are implied and some spoken.

She is seated between the white and black pillars (J. and B.)of the mystic Temple. The veil of the Temple is behind her, embroidered with palms and pomegranates. Her vestments are flowing and gauzy, and the
her crown suggests 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.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The High Priestess Meaning

The High Priestess Meaning

The woman is adorned with all the attributes of Authority and persuasion. She is placed under the porch of the temple of Isis, between two columns. This represents the idea of a sacred dwelling, of a divine recipient. The two columns, like the arms of the Juggler, express the Positive and the Negative.

The woman is crowned with a tiara, topped by the lunar crescent. She is enveloped in a transparent veil falling over her face. On her breast she bears the solar cross, and upon her knees lies an open book, which she half covers with her robe.

This is the picture of Isis, of Nature, whose veil must not be raised before the irreverent. Her book indicates that the teachings of Isis are bidden. The High Priestess reveals the secrets of the true Kabbalah and occult science to the magi. We must admire this profound symbol.

-Modern Translation of The Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

Significations of The High Priestess

  • Reflex of Osiris, the Reflex of God the Father = Isis, or God the Son
  • Reflex of Adam = Eve, the Woman, Life
  • Reflex of Natura Naturans = Natura Naturata

-Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

The High Priestess Card

The High Priestess Card

The Meaning of The High Priestess Card Throughout History

The Tarot deck is a beautiful synthesis of esoteric thought and archetypal imagery. The journey of the deck, shaped by the events and values of each era, has continued to evolve and take on new significance as it adapts to a larger cultural story. Often a tarot card will have a variety of names and meanings. Exploring the historical interpretations of each card will create a deeper understanding of this powerful method for divination and self-discovery.

Various Names for The High Priestess Card

Tarot de Marseille (1650)The Popess
Court de Gébelin (1781)The High Priestess
Etteilla (1783)Etteilla / Female Querrent
Paul Christian (1870)The Gate of the Sanctuary
Golden Dawn (1888)The Priestess of the Silver Star
Papus (1892)The High Priestess
Rider-Waite (1910)The High Priestess
Thoth (1943)The Priestess
The Priestess of the Silver Star

Card II: The High Priestess

A woman crowned with a high headdress 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.

Upright: Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education
Reversed: Conceit, Ignorance, Unskillfulness, Superficial Knowledge

-The Tarot by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (1888)

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

The High Priestess (II) - The Illustrated Key to the Tarot
The High Priestess (II) – The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain

This guide by Arthur Edward Waite, the designer of the most widely known Tarot deck and distinguished scholar of the Kabbalah, is the essential Tarot reference. The pictorial key contains a detailed description of each card in the celebrated 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot deck, along with regular and reversed meanings. Contents describe symbols and secret tradition, ancient Celtic methods of divination, and wonderful illustrations of each Tarot card. This book is the perfect complement to old-style fortune telling and also serves to make the Tarot entirely accessible to modern-day readers. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is the classic guide to the Rider-Waite deck and to Tarot symbolism in general.

Crystal Tarot

The High Priestess (II) - Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The High Priestess (II) – Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

As rich and complex as life itself, the Crystal Tarot blends the look of stained glass with art nouveau style to gracious effect. The use of patterns within patterns gives depth to the traditional pictures of the Tarot. Influenced by both the Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot decks, this modern Tarot is an exquisite blend of the old and the new. The familiar images are all there, while the details–executed in brilliant and unusual colors–invite viewers to linger, to search, to make sure they miss nothing–an effective trait in a tool of self-examination.

Silver Witchcraft Tarot

The High Priestess (II) - Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights by Lo Scarabeo © 2005 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The High Priestess (II) – Silver Witchcraft Tarot by Lo Scarabeo © 2005 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

Expressing the wisdom of the ages through Luna’s ethereal light, the Silver Witchcraft Tarot Deck combines the tradition of the Rider Waite tarot with modern Pagan symbolism, creating a unique reading experience. Weaving the phases of the moon and the Pagan holidays into each suit, this deck offers knowledge of a material, emotional, and spiritual nature.

How will you Harness The Transformative Power of The Tarot?

We invite you to walk into a cosmic narrative in which we are all a unique element in each other’s story. Humanity has long used sacred tools for awakening the soul and illuminating our path toward enlightenment. The Tarot is simply an instrument. These cards amplify your inner wisdom and empower your highest truth.

What aspects of The Tarot can serve you as you walk through your own Mystic Doorway?

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What you have read is only the beginning…

Mystic Doorway is always gaining new insight into the rich symbolism of Tarot. We are looking forward to sharing with you as we continue to expand our knowledge of this divinatory tool. Check back with us soon to see what we’ve added to our Library.