When the High Priestess comes up in a tarot reading, your reader might tell you to “trust your intuition”, but what does that even mean? How do you know which of the voices in your head is the voice of your intuition? Is the voice that says, “Eat this entire plate of brownies while flicking through 1001 pictures of celebrity cellulite” the voice of your intuition? Is the voice that says you should quit your administrative job to study Vedic astrology in Madras your intuition, or do you really just want a promotion? True messages from the High Priestess aim to help you find your power and use it. The trick is to be able to distinguish her voice from all anxious musings and ego-driven laments that distract you from hearing her message.
The High Priestess, or Major Arcana II, is ruled by the moon, an astral body in constant cyclical flux, reflecting light into the darkness, pulling the ocean around the globe. Thus the High Priestess is mistress of the subconscious, she navigates our Ids: through the dark, the subterranean, our hidden reefs and recesses. She’s at home there. She can breathe underwater. I’ve always thought “High Priestess” is a misnomer — she should be called the Deep Priestess, or the Queen of the Underworld. That name would just be so much more appropriate. Notice, for instance, in the Waite-Smith deck and many others, the fruit splitting on the vine behind her throne (see image below). Pomegranates are a symbol of the goddess Persephone, who is literally the Goddess of the Underworld AND the patron of the Eleusinian mysteries, an ancient festival honoring secret knowledge and the fire that continues after death. Dear reader, if you’re patient, and you listen closely, the High Priestess, who is Persephone, who is Black Isis and mistress of Deep, will share her secrets with you. Listen…
Tonight is the night of the New Moon in Virgo. Night of the partial eclipse. Virgo is, of course, the Virgin. It’s one of those twisted inventions of patriarchy that virgin has come to mean “a woman who hasn’t had sex.” Sometimes it feels like 20% of the vast energies of patriarchy are spent obsessing over whom women have sex with, and trying to stop it from happening, while simultaneously encouraging women to believe that their value comes exclusively through their sex appeal. Such an annoying hobby! Originally, virgin simply meant unmarried. The Vestal Virgins of Rome were priestesses to Vesta, goddess of the hearth, keeper of the fire; they were sacred women, unmarried, later deemed enemies by the Christians who turned them into nuns and greatly restricted their powers, then literally squelched the fires they’d kept burning night and day for centuries. In the first iterations of the tarot in the 15th century the High Priestess was called the Papess (the Pope-ess), an allusion, though perhaps an accidental one, to her roots as Vestal Virgin. Perhaps it’s a secret symbolic missive from the High Priestess reminding us to look deeper, and not just accept the “truths” regurgitated to us by the so-called authorities.
The virgin is inaccessible. She is woman unto herself. Unlike the Empress who’s wanton and proud, the High Priestess contains her sexual energy and keeps it hidden, uses it for her own purposes. Interesting too is that the High Priestess in a reading can also refer to trauma. Reversed she speaks of trespasses across boundaries, but also healing those wounds by returning to one’s own source of power. Through the process of listening to her own intuitive knowing, defilement is eradicated. Persephone became Queen of the Underworld through a violation (abduction, rape, you get the picture). Hades forced her to confront the dark, but it is a testament to her strength and courage that she was able to locate the source of her power down in that labyrinthine lower world. And that’s what you need to do too, Dear Reader. Take all this chaos and emotional sturm und drang and make it into something worthy of your efforts. Find your creative solution by paying close attention.
The secret of the High Priestess, and the source of her power, is not to listen to the voices in her head, it is to listen to the truth of her BODY. Your BODY is where your intuition comes from. I love the image of the High Priestess from the Motherpeace tarot deck; the red circle in which she dwells is her blood, her sangre, her vitality and life force. Her power comes from within, it is manifested into the world at her root. The true power of the high priestess, her knowing, comes from her ability to turn inward, pay attention, and be honest with herself about what she sees. Recognition of physical truths is the first step towards developing your intuition, and Reader, it’s a practice, it takes work, and it isn’t easy. But damn if it isn’t the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.
In order to be able to distinguish between the voice that says, “Eat an entire plate of brownies,” and “Move to the woods and finish your novel,” you need to practice distinguishing between the subtle tenors of your emotions and physical sensations. For example, when I think, “Eat the brownies,” my eyes get wide with excitement, but my stomach also clenches with panic. I know I’d feel nauseous and polluted afterwards. Whereas when I think, “Finish my novel,” I also feel panic because of all the what-ifs and what-if-I-can’ts, but in addition my body feels expansive, energized, determined.
Forget the whole patriarchal “authority is granted by powerful gate keepers who’ve been there since Jesus,” malarkey. Authority is not conferred upon you from the outside, it’s something you generate from within. Your authority comes from your ability to stay with your own experience and trust it without being swayed by all the phantoms and illusions and dreams that flicker and dance on the waters. The subconscious is a fertile ground for our creativity, but not if we get swept away with its tides. We want to stay solid, we want to breath underwater and stay anchored and strong. The High Priestess is your anchor. As a witch and ceremonial healer she encourages you to start practicing intuition Vestal Virgin-style. Try creating your own rituals and ceremonies. It’s not enough just to THINK that you’d like to listen to your intuition. You have to actually DO IT, physically. Creating a ritual for the purpose is a great place to begin. Try it!
You May Recognize the High Priestess in Your Life When You Encounter the Following
You’re keeping secrets, or they’re being kept from you; heavy research; paying attention; going on a retreat; listening to the body; overcoming violations and trespasses; personal explorations and education; educating others; healing deep wounds; navigating the dark; incubating projects; relationships involving secrets and mixed messages; development periods; deep diving; moon magic; communication over vast distances; camels (Gimel, meaning camel, is the Hebrew letter from the Kabbalah assigned to the High Priestess); seeds gestating beneath the earth; mining soil; close listening; paying attention; a period of fertile solitude; studying herbalism; internal medicine; psychology; collecting your wits; visiting a witch; conducting ceremonies; seeing a Sphinx.
Want to learn more? Book a session with me for a High Priestess reading. Let’s reveal the secrets you are at last ready to know.