The High Priestess

Alt names: The Priestess
Keywords: Intuition, reflection, purity, initiation
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Range of meanings

Light: Listening to your feelings and intuitions. Exploring unconventional spirituality. Keeping secrets. Being receptive. Reflecting instead of acting. Observing others. Preserving purity.

Shadow: Being aloof. Obsessing on secrets and conspiracies. Rejecting guidance from spirit or intuition. Revealing all. Ignoring gut feelings. Refusing to become involved, even when involvement is appropriate.

Questions to ask

  1. What is your intuition telling you?
  2. How might you use your unique circumstances, opportunities, and strengths to establish something new in the world?
  3. What might a rebel against tradition do?
  4. What isn’t being said or revealed?
  5. What could be achieved by observing and reflecting?


Personal Growth: Learning to listen can be the most difficult lesson of all. Invest energy in the transformational discipline of silence. Disengaging from the drive to respond will free you to reflect. As an observer, you will see patterns participants will overlook.

Work: Play your cards close to the vest. Reveal your insights to a chosen few. Rather than take rash action now, keep still and observe. Hold your tongue and learn by listening. Listen to your gut instincts. When the time comes for action, you’ll know.

Relationships: Your heart is your best source of information now; listen to it. Set, communicate, and respect sexual limits. Don’t tell everything you know; one element of attraction is mystery. Still, don’t be a puzzle; communicate your needs and the reasons for them. Watch and learn.

Spirituality: The unconventional image of a papess recalls the legend of the heretical, cross-dressing Pope Joan, whose true gender was revealed when she unexpectedly gave birth. Consider alternative spiritual paths or nontraditional applications of your familiar faith.

Fortune-Telling: A mysterious woman arrives. A sexual secret may surface. Someone knows more than he or she will reveal.


Planet: The Moon

Hebrew: Gimel/Camel/3

Archetype: The Virgin/The Maiden

Religions: The feminine aspect of divinity, particularity when expressed through virginity, as with the Virgin Mary or Isis.

Fool's Journey: An unexpected event contains seeds of discord with potential to disrupt the main character’s everyday world.

The Number 2: The Other: Division, debate, duality.

TORA: The Scroll of the Law: Often, the Papess or High Priestess holds an unopened book, occasionally labeled TORA (“law”), an anagram of TARO.

The Moon: In any of its many phases. The Priestess is closely associated with the moon and, by extension, with all lunar cycles. This “lesser light to rule the night” renews itself every 28 days, linking it to cycles of all sorts, including menstruation. By extension, it is also associated with rare events (“once in a blue moon”).

Boaz and Jachin: The B (Boaz) and J (Jachin) often seen on the columns to either side of the Priestess are the two pillars of Solomon’s Temple. Their names mean “in strength” and “God will establish” and hint at the High Priestess's mysterious connection with reality. We also see these columns in the Justice card, but the veil now represents human law.

Pomegranates: Symbolizing fertility, pomegranates connect the High Priestess with the myth of Persephone, whose consumption of three pomegranate seeds linked her with the underworld. The veil is the veil of the temple, symbolically marking the division between the realm of humanity and the realm of God.

Still Water: The water often seen behind or beneath this archetype represents the unknown depths of the subconscious mind.

Content generously licensed from Mark McElroy via