The High Priestess

The High Priestess is familiar with the life that goes unseen, beneath the floors and in the walls. What others may demean, she values and protects.
LWB Tarot of the Sweet Twilight

There is no doubt that my perception of the High Priestess has been influenced by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s, ‘The Mists of Avalon’. Written in 1983 this historical fantasy related the Arthurian legends from the  perspective of the female characters. The book follows the trajectory of Morgaine (Morgan le Fay), a priestess fighting to save her Celtic religion in a country where Christianity threatens to destroy the pagan way of life.The epic is focused on the lives of Morgaine, Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere), Viviane, Morgause, Igraine and other women of the Arthurian legend.

Moreover, the ‘Myth that I Have Lived By’ is based on the notion of being sent down to earth to do the work of the Lemurian Priestesses, who lived and worked in a world that, like Atlantis was submerged after cataclysmic events .

Historically High Priestesses were those that protected and revered the sacred teachings of a time forgotten. They were teachers, guardians, healers, and mystics.  The holy facilitators of ceremony, ritual, initiation and transmutation. Intense study and discipline was required for them to hold these responsibilities, often taught at a young age and raised to fulfil the great work.

Because the Tarot’s “system” is a tool that enables us to access the vast storehouse of knowledge within our unconscious mind the High Priestess is essentially the “spokeswoman” for the entire Tarot deck. So, it goes without saying that her card is one of the first cards I look at in a deck.  It is the artists presentation of her which is one of the determining factors as to whether I will add a deck to my collection.

Keywords commonly associated with the High Priestess: Intuition, psychic ability, spirituality, wisdom, depth, tenacity, revelation, secrets, mystery, initiation, silence

The representation of the High Priestess, by Christine Benintende, in the Tarot of Sweet Twilight is distinctly different to how she is so often represented in Tarot Decks.

In the Rider Waite deck, for example, she wears plain blue robes and sits with her hands in her lap. She has a lunar crescent at her feet, & wears a horned diadem on her head, with a globe in the middle. The High Priestess’ location between the two pillars suggests that she acts as a mediator between the depths of reality. She symbolizes the third pillar or the path between. Her belief is that both pillars are equal and there is knowledge to be learned in both worlds.

This quite unique representation of the High Priestess challenges me to see her differently, to think and wonder about what this priestess has to offer me.

This High Priestess is self assured and very aware that her work is associated with secrets, mystery and the future, which is yet to be revealed. She is aligning with the unknown and has a close connection with nature. Her world is one of the mysterious and imperceptible. In this case the empty eyes of the cat and mice reinforce that there is so much that we cannot see, that we know, but do not know that we know. We need to trust our instincts and go, not with what is immediately visible but with our gut feelings.

It is interesting that this Priestess has mice closely aligned to her. “The mouse was  a soul symbol in medieval Europe. Wonder tales were often told by witnesses to a death, saying  that the soul of the deceased ran out of his mouth in the form of a mouse at the last breath. Alternatively mice could carry souls into a woman’s body for reconnection and birth. Small creatures like mice and insects were often believed to carry souls: a notion arising from the popular image of the soul as a small distinct entity living somewhere within the human body”.¹

Given that it is also believed that people with the Mouse totem have a gift for paying attention to the minutest of details in everything they do it seems appropriate that the High Priestess should be accompanied by two mice.

Of course, the mouse symbolism in this card may be asking us to look closely at what is right in front of our eyes and then take action accordingly. It is also letting you know that to attain the big things in life; you sometimes have to stay focused on the little things. Therefore you need to stay connected to the present moment.

Something to contemplate

Here are three quite different representations of the High Priestess. Look closely! What do you see, think and wonder about the message each card contains.
  • A priestess is powerful and mesmerising, capable and confident. Learn more about the historic work of the High Priestess and the hidden women of history. Enrich your feelings about the High Priestess by searching out pictures, like the ones shown here, that personify her many characteristics.
  • Pull out your favourite depiction of the High Priestess, spend some time carefully framing some questions, approach her directly and interview her.
  • Imagine that a Tarot artist has asked you to come and sit for them, help them come up with an original interpretation of the High Priestess. How will you dress and represent yourself? What props will you insist are to be included?
  • A Priestess knows her connection to nature brings power and magic to her life. Let the sun warm and bronze your skin. Sink your bare feet into the earth. Dive into icy water. Feel the wind in your hair. Make friends with spiders and snakes. Adopt a companion animal. Watch the sun rise and set. Breathe in moonlight and stars. Let the rain wash you clean. Eat food from the earth and realign with the elements

References

  1. Walker, B., 2014. The Woman’s Dictionary Of Symbols And Sacred Objects. [Place of publication not identified]: HarperOne.
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