The High Priestess is the gatekeeper of secrets and esoteric knowledge. Beloved of diviners as she can represent a psychically-gifted individual and a foray into the depths of occultism and psychic development, she can equally signify that a female with nefarious motives is in the querent's midst.
In her most mundane guises, the High Priestess represents, infidelity, doubt, paranoia, and an uncertain future. With her strong ties to the occult and occult studies, she can also literally mean that a situation or outcome itself is occulted and not likely ready to yield a definitive outcome.
If a female querent is pursuing higher or extremely specialised knowledge, the High Priestess can be interpreted as a favourable omen as it signifies that the querent will attain a degree of knowledge and expertise which is beyond the capabilities of most. In a more general sense however, this card can represent a person or group of people who have consciously concealed their motives and are biding their time to act at an opportune moment.
The High Priestess is associated with the moon in astrology where the moon governs esoteric knowledge, religion, the subconscious planes of the mind, psychic sensitivity, the body, emotional sensitivity, and fertility. These topics may be pertinent when the High Priestess appears in a reading. When dealing with issues of the subconscious or intuition, this card may be encouraging the querent to seek wisdom within and to listen to their innate sense of knowing. The High Priestess is number 2 in the Major Arcana and the number 2 in numerology is associated with partnerships or choices. In this case the partnership overtly referenced is that between the conscious and subconscious levels of the mind. Together they are united in order to reach higher states of knowledge and insight. However the partnership alluded to may be less metaphorical and may suggest another potential lover or associate. The number 2 is also said to embody a uniquely feminine energy and conveys both grace and power.
In the Rider Waite deck the High Priestess is shown gazing straight ahead with steely expression of self-assurance, and she is seated between two pillars with the letters B and J emblazoned on them respectively. The B and J allude to the pillars in the temple of King Solomon, the legendary monarch famed for his intellect and unsurpassable wisdom. Boaz in Hebrew can be translated as "to complete" and Jachin means "to begin". This is a direct reference to the continuous cycle of endings and rebirths upon which existence depends, and intimates that for there to be change, something must be dismantled in order to create something novel. The luxurious tapestry behind the High Priestess is covered in Pomegranates, a symbol of eternal life and fertility in both Egyptian and early Christian iconography. Pomegranate arils (seeds) taken from ancient Egyptian tombs have been shown to be able to sprout and actually bear viable fruit even after thousands of years lying in a dormant state, a testament to their regenerative prowess. In this context the pomegranates suggest that through attaining a state of elevated wisdom, the querent may be able to transcend the confines of their mortal cage and merge with the eternal consciousness which composes our universe.
In her hands the High Priestess holds the Torah (Old Testament) which is a well-known source of hidden wisdom. Not merely an outmoded tome recounting outlandish fables which have no relevance to our modern age, it is understood by many to be a psychological manual illustrating the complexities of the human mind and the metaphysics of earthly life. The headdress the High Priestess wears is composed of a full moon and a crescent moon on each side which can be interpreted as a nod to the triple-headed goddess Hecate or as an allusion to the archetypes of mother, maiden, and crone. These archetypes symbolise wisdom and knowledge and as does the High Priestess. At the feet of the High Priestess is a crescent moon, and its position suggests that she has mastery over her subconscious mind and the tide of psychic information which it brings her. On her chest she wears a cross which at first glance could be interpreted as a symbol of Christianity. However, the sign of the cross is also used in certain practices in order to open up the body's energetic centres to increase sensitivity in preparation for spiritual work.
In a love reading the High Priestess can signify a third party who has interjected themselves into a relationship. They are adept at mental manipulation and will use this skill to derail a union. This could be a lover's mother, sister, or a covert love rival. Contrast the High Priestess with the Queen of Wands. The former uses subversive tactics whereas the latter is bold, daring, and will lure a lover from another publicly and shamelessly. This card can symbolise a hidden woman or a secret love affair, so when inquiring about a potential love interest, be aware that this person may already have someone waiting in the wings. In terms of feelings this card suggests that you not meant to know how someone feels about you; it is a card of secrets and mystery. Sometimes, however, it can indicate that your person of interest sees you as knowledgeable and intuitive. If you are a psychic or work in a specialised field, this would be apt. When the High Priestess appears in the outcome card of a love reading, it is almost without exception a bad omen. It foretells that a partner is unfaithful or that they have more than a few unsavoury secrets that they are keeping.
In a work or career reading the High Priestess suggests that the querent will either work as an intuitive or explore the more metaphysical aspect of life. She can also signify a wise counsellor who is able to impart spiritual truths. Historically speaking, the High Priestess denoted those in healing, educational and scientific professions. Therefore if a job is desired in these fields, this card is an excellent sign. If the querent does not work in any of these fields nor do they have any desire to, the High Priestess warns that now is not the time to make any rash decisions as the outcome is as yet indiscernible. More negatively, she can symbolise workplace gossip or a covert enemy. If this stimulates your intuition, be alert to any office politics.
Timing: Generally timing is dependent on card placement within a spread. However, the moon takes one month to complete a cycle so this may be pertinent.
Major Arcana: Card 2
Planetary Influence: Moon
Positive Aspects: intuition, psychic mastery, occult studies, wisdom, intellectual skills, healing, holistic arts, therapists, doctors, hypnotherapy/hypnotists
Negative Aspects: conniving woman, hidden love rival, manipulation, doubt, uncertainty