The High Priestess is my birth/personality card.
The high priestess is a symbol of wisdom and of the feminine element of the divine. Her wisdom is of the type that is hard to articulate, because it doesn’t sound the same out loud as it does in inner contemplation, or there are simply not the words needed to speak it. She is mystery and darkness, secrets and passivity. While The Magician is a creative force of the conscious, The High Priestess speaks to the secrets of the unconscious. The two pillars represent Boaz and Jakin, pillars of the temple in Jerusalem which was supposed to contain the secrets of the universe. The veil of pomegranates symbolizes the great potential held in our unconscious. Her headpiece is the cycle of the moon, symbol of the unconscious.
Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says, “Sharing our dreams with the wrong person can open us up to being poisoned by ridicule or jealousy, leading to self-doubt. Like a locked diary, withholding keeps a part of ourselves for ourselves and honors the sanctity of the soul” (47, emphasis in original). The words sacred and secret are related. She shares with us the importance of quieting the world and putting faith in our inner truth.
Huszka’s High Priestess has her arms crossed so that her hands are not visible. This symbolizes a lack of action. The Animal Wisdom Tarot’s depiction of The High Priestess as “Cat, Knower of Secrets” provides a good metaphor for comfortable movement in darkness and with the supernatural as an extension of the natural. The Animism Tarot’s striped owl symbolizes the power drawn from the moon, darkness, and the unconscious.
Her shadow is an inability to connect with the outer world by remaining trapped in her own inner world. She is afraid to open up to others or to trust turning her intuition into action. The opposite/reverse of The High Priestess can represent a loss of one’s inner self, superficiality, or sharing too much of one’s sacred secrets. She is certainly an archetype and cannot constitute a fullness of life alone.
If I were to assign an element to The High Priestess, it would be water. She symbolizes intuition and retreat into the unconscious. These are things deeper than the conscious intellect (air), and her work is internal rather than external (earth).
Raised in the Christian tradition, I have always been fascinated by Mary as the closest thing Christianity has to the feminine divine. (I’m wearing one of my Virgen de Guadelupe shirts right now!) So I deeply appreciate this portrayal of the spiritual as feminine.
I think in my own life, I am currently in the middle of a turn around. I would say before I was strongly associated with the shadow aspects of The High Priestess: self-doubt, inability to connect with the outer world, feeling trapped in my inner world. But I’m in the process of embodying the positive lessons of The High Priestess: trusting intuition, listening to my unconscious, believing in my inner potential, and valuing that which is sacred.
I really appreciate how there is light and shadow for each card. It reminds me of a Spanish literature class I took in college. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but the instructor stated that life and death are dos lados de la misma moneda, two sides of the same coin. That idea stuck with me, and it has been very helpful in understanding the complexity of each tarot card.