In the language of the Tarot the High Priestess may simply mean ‘a woman’, just as The Magician may simply signify ‘a man’.
The High Priestess corresponds with Monday as a day of the week. The reader may of course also correlate the Moon card with a Monday, but should be aware of The High Priestess connection, not to miss out on a potential clue in a reading.
The Moon card additionally correlates with the zodiac sign of Pisces, and in terms of timing of events may be suggesting dates late February- late March.
The High Priestess may be a scholar, and/or something of a witch. She may be a reader, an artist in any medium, a writer and a teacher. She may be a herbalist or hedge-witch, a midwife or a doctor. She may be in any line of work at all, but whatever she does, yes, she studies – hence the scroll in her hand- yes, she learns from others, but above all she learns from herself, and she is ready to talk in silence, like her masculine counterpart, The Hermit, and to walk and work alone.
She is recognized by HOW she does things, rather than necessarily what she does. She may be single, but even if she is married and a devoted family woman, there is always the sense that she has her own domain, separate, not shutting others off, but hers to rule.
The light is cool, silvery, remote at times though not cold.
You can see in this card various mythological references: the pomegranate of Persephone, as she wanders alone between the World and and the Underworld, and the cow horns of Hathor, goddess of the sky, of beauty, fertility, music and joy.
You see the Owl of Hekate, daughter of Zeus and Asteria, the triple goddess of ghosts. She is identified with the Crone and the waning Moon. She is the keeper of the dead, of boundaries and of the crossroads, purveyor of poison, but kindly to the broken, kindly to Demeter when Persephone was abducted. Hekate herself is no mother, but also took pity on the tragic mother Hecuba, queen of Troy, after Hecuba’s death by suicide,jumping overboard the Greek ship that was taking her into slavery after the fall of Troy and the deaths of so many of her children. Hecuba had suffered more than anyone could bear. Hekate, seeing this, rescued her soul with the gift of forgetting and transformed her into a hound which she keeps safely at her side at all times.
The owl as a totem animal is strongly associated with the intellectual warrior goddess Athena but hers was a Little Owl. Hekate’s totem animal is a Barn Owl, aka screech owl.
This owl is also associated with Welsh mythology, the Mabinogion, and the legend of a magical woman who was turned into an owl; a story which featured in a famous novel by Alan Garner, The Owl Service.
The Owl Service-
“Garner was fascinated by the love triangle of Lleu Llaw Gyffes (the man cursed never to have a wife on this earth), Blodeuwedd (the woman who was magically made out of flowers for him) and Gronw Pebyr (her lover). In the Welsh tale, Blodeuwedd conspires with her lover Gronw to kill her husband Lleu, but Lleu escapes his murder, turns into an eagle and flies away, eventually to be restored to life by the magician Gwydion. Blodeuwedd’s punishment is to be turned into an owl, while Gronw is killed by Lleu with a spear that passes through him and pierces a stone”.
Source: Times Literary Supplement
The High Priestess wears a headdress refers to the sacred Bull cult of Apis, corresponding with the material sign of Taurus, which is also associated with Hathor, the cosmic cow which carried the weight of the whole world.
The element of Earth is no less ‘spiritual’ than Fire, Water or Air.
When The High Priestess is drawn reversed in a reading, a female (though not necessarily female) enquirer may be feeling unhappy and lonely. If it refers to a woman in the enquirer’s close environment, this card may be picking up on a female friend where there has been a distancing or a disagreement, or this other woman is not after all a true friend. Be careful who you trust is the warning of the High Priestess.
Anyone who sees you as a competitor can never become a true and trusted friend. What they want in life, you cannot give to them, even if you wanted to, any more than a cow could simply shed its horns. But whatever they may want for you or from you, is, ultimately, not motivated by goodwill.
The High Priestess is watchful, and under no illusions as to whether someone is friend, foe, neutral or indifferent. But she knows it takes all sorts. She doesn’t take it personally.
In this respect, the shrine or sanctuary of The High Priestess corresponds with an old Norse rune called Perthro or Perdhro, meaning secrets, cup, chalice, sanctuary or paddock.
People meet on the road, or on the bridge, or on the strand between the shore and the sea, but, like The Hermit, the High Priestess accepts solitude as the price of learning, the sanctum she serves….whatever that sanctum may mean in reality; a home, a job, a business or a creative endeavour, or a cause dear to her heart….
People are quick to commiserate with bad news. But the real test, the acid test of a friendship is, when a friend also truly, sincerely rejoices in your good news.
The Watcher by The Well of Wyrd
She works alone with words and stones,
Disposing glyphs on graven runes,
Wyrd runs water; she must deal,
In whisperings and Fates unsealed,
Winds of fortune shape and shatter,
Time, disposing of all matters,
Is Serpentine, the ouroboros,
Endless, rolling, still coils sinuous.
Till next time 🙂