Tarot Tuesday: the Meaning of the High Priestess

Meaning of the High Priestess Tarot Card
Continuing with our series on the Tarot, we pick up again with the High Priestess. Although technically the third card in the series, she is numbered two, after the Magician’s one and the Fool’s zero. 


The High Priestess sits on a simple throne between two altars: one black, one white. Here, we have the Tarot's first acknowledgement of duality. The Fool represented being present in the singular moment that is now, and the Magician represented self-actualizing within that moment to be continuous with natural forces and thereby take true conscious action to effect change in the world. But the High Priestess represents the first practical challenge on taking any action: deciding what to do. 


High Priestess Pomegranate

While quiet and unassuming, the High Priestess is the keeper of arcane knowledge, shown by the scroll she holds which reads “TORA,” a reference to the Jewish scripture or an anagram for the Tarot or maybe both. Her crown is a full moon, and a crescent sits at her feet, telling us that she is illuminated through reflection. The curtain of pomegranates—symbolizing the Fruit of Knowledge—hides secrets behind her. The pomegranate also evokes Persephone’s eating the fruit of the Underworld, allowing her to move back and forth between the upper & lower realms. 

She wears a perfect cross, representing the four directions and the balancing of the four selves: body, heart, mind and spirit. Unlike the Magician who externalized the four aspects, the Priestess’ cross represents her internalization of power. That’s why she’s holding the scroll and not reading it: she already knows its contents. The scroll is no longer for her benefit, but for the Fool’s as he approaches her on his journey. 


In readings, the High Priestess usually represents a time for learning and deepening one’s connection to a spiritual practice. It’s actually a bit of a pause button, a time when you need to reflect on what you’ve learned and acquire even more knowledge before taking action. The High Priestess governs all forms of knowledge. Depending on the context of the reading, the High Priestess could be telling you to do more research before making a big purchase, go back to school before launching your business, or deepen your spiritual practices before returning to worldly matters. 


If you are facing a big choice or dilemma, the High Priestess asks you to quiet down for a moment and reflect on the silence within you. From there, answers flow freely. The card’s lunar symbols are all about inward knowledge and self-reflection, and so the High Priestess asks us to pause for more reflection before we do anything. Frustratingly, the High Priestess can be an indication that you don’t have all of the necessary information to make the right decision. It’s best to gather more data first. 


It’s also important to know that the High Priestess was often the gatekeeper at the ancient temple: she chose who was allowed to enter and who was forbidden to learn their secret knowledge. Therefore, she can often come up when we are facing a gatekeeper in our lives. Anytime you’re applying for a job, house or admittance to a school, you are forced to confront the gatekeepers who will determine if you’re fit for entry or not. These are often nail biting moments, and a natural time to want a reading. 


So if you’re waiting to hear if you got the job you interviewed for, or if you got into your top school, you’re quite likely to pull the High Priestess as a challenge card. Take it as an invitation to stop worrying about the outcome and leave it up to the gatekeepers to make their decision. Instead, focus on your inner connection to spirit rather than the outer results of your actions. And until you hear back either way, learn as much as you can to prepare for all possible outcomes. When the time to act appears, you’ll be ready. 


The High Priestess is the yin to the Magician’s yang. Where the Magician represents outer knowledge and action, the High Priestess emphasizes inner knowing and reflection. His red and gold solar colors are balanced by her blue and yellow lunar hues. He is one—representing action and initiation—and she is two—symbolizing decisions and duality.


So far on his journey, the Fool has learned the Magician’s tricks and is able to act, and now the High Priestess shows him how to decide upon which actions to take. Through quiet, self-reflection and acquiring new knowledge, you can determine the best way to create change. When you have learned to consult your inner silence for answers to your practical dilemmas, you will have achieved the ideal of the High Priestess. 

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