The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning

3 High Priestess Tarot Cards left to right from 3 different decks

The High Priestess cards from RWS, Robin Wood Tarot Deck, Tarot of The Holy Light by Christine Payne-Towler & Michael Dowers

The High Priestess tarot card meaning is an enigmatic one for many people, including many tarot readers.

This actually makes sense, as she is quite enigmatic and mysterious herself!

When The High Priestess card shows up in a tarot reading, it usually means to slow down and be receptive. Pay attention to your intuition and allow things to unfold as opposed to “leaning in” and trying to make things happen.

Give your situation some space and if uncomfortable feelings come up, sit quietly with them and allow them to pass through.

A key predictive meaning with The High Priestess, and one I often see, is this: there is a key piece of information coming your way. It was previously hidden, but will soon be revealed. 

When it is, it will something that will help you to understand your situation with more clarity.

It’s like an “aha” moment.

A secondary type of meaning that sometime applies to the seeker’s situation, is that they will be studying the “mysteries” and going deeper with esoteric and spiritual studies. Dreams may also have important pieces of information for you.

Where Does The High Priestess Come From?

Tarot’s High Priestess is interesting because at the time Tarot came on the scene in renaissance Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was dominant (although Martin Luther had his break with the Church and Protestant ideals were around in some parts).

And in the Roman church, the priests were most definitely male. 

However, at that time in Europe, there were also many influences ranging from Hermeticism, Greek thought, Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), Gnosticism (esoteric Christianity) and others.

This was because of a cross-pollination of ideas from many scholars and magi travelling through western Europe.

One of the main ideas that these ancient mystery schools have is that of Sophia - or the Great Mother (more on this later).

This is probably where the symbol of The High Priestess originated.

The High Priestess tarot card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck

In the classic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, The High Priestess is crowned with the 3 phases of the moon. This shows that she can see into the dark places like we can with moonlight. See above photo.

It also symbolizes the cyclical nature of Life; the rhythmic “breathing” between the poles of light and dark. This is shown by the 2 poles in the card - one dark, one light. Notice they are both open ended at the top with a lotus flower?

She sits between them showing that she has mastered the mysteries of both light and dark. The High Priestess is an equilibrium between “yes” and “no.” Between expansion and contraction.

Metaphysics Connected With The High Priestess Meaning

Here’s the basic idea as outlined by one of history’s great mystics, Jakob Boehme: God as undifferentiated Unity and Wholeness was in an Abyss. Kind of like a seed that can grow into a tree and ultimately into a forest, all potential was dormant within God.

But God could not know Himself, because there was nothing to see. Conscious Awareness could not arise without something to perceive.

That is why it is said, “No-one has ever seen God; only the Son has made Him known.” - John i,18 

People have experienced and felt God’s Presence, but no-one has actually seen God.

A kind of will to know Himself arose as a “ground” within this bottomless Abyss. He then fashioned a mirror out of Himself in order to reflect the potential.

This mirror is the Great Mother as shown by The High Priestess card in tarot. The High Priestess is also most often associated with the moon. This is a great correspondence, because the moon is also reflective and nurtures earthly creatures.

In the book of Genesis, this reflective mirroring is spoken of as “the waters.” Water also reflects and nurtures life.

So this 2-fold nature within God had to be in order for existence to arise. And existence needed to come into being in order for That Which Has No Beginning Or Ending (God) to “know” Itself.

The Father is the will or desire and The Mother is the reflecting “womb” of creation, giving birth to the Son or Christ.

The conflict between the 2 polarities creates manifest forms which are more and more complex. The Christ, or Love principle, is the resolution of the tension between opposites.

The word God as used here is NOT a man in the sky with a beard! Using “He” is also not describing a male in the way we look at gender here on earth and in human society.

It’s an active “masculine” will, similar to the idea of yang in Taoist philosophy. The feminine archetype, as symbolized in tarot by The High Priestess is receptive, or yin.

In other words, force can manifest as active, passive and as an equilibrium or balance. This is the secret of The High Priestess and the deeper meaning of The Holy Trinity.

According to this gnostic metaphysics, darkness exists within the light in a dormant state. In God, the tensions between light and dark are perfectly harmonized. 

But in the physical world, the darkness is in the open. One reason for this is to allow for spiritual growth as freewill.

The other is that darkness is a contraction which is necessary in order for individual forms to exist and be stabilized.

Important: It’s important to remember that this is all symbolic language; there is no actual beginning to God or manifestation. Eternity is more like a rhythmic and cyclical breathing than the linear direction we think of with our concept of time.

The High Priestess tarot card from Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

The High Priestess from Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

Notice how The High Priestess card from the Gilded Tarot is leaping out of the depths of the water. This clearly shows that "aha" moment when a sudden intuitive insight flashes into conscious awareness.

The light bulb reinforces to the same idea of spontaneous revelation. The revealing of something that was previously hidden - much like the discovery (after thousands of apparent "failures") of the incandescent light bulb by Thomas Edison.

Polar Opposites & The High Priestess 

Tarot has many cards that are designed to illustrate the tensions in Life; the interplay of these various cards are what create the holographic meaning in a tarot reading.

In tarot, the polar opposition to The High Priestess is symbolized by The Magician card.

The Fool card in tarot symbolizes the Undifferentiated Self prior to manifestation. 

Sophia, Number 2 & The High Priestess Tarot Card

In classic Greek philosophy, the word for wisdom is Sophia. She is the Goddess of Wisdom and in tarot she is The High Priestess.

Notice the word philo-sophy - philo means love. So a philosopher was someone who was a “lover of wisdom.”

The High Priestess is given the number 2 which doesn’t mean she is less than the number 1! It simply means She has come out of the Unity in order for the Unity to know Itself.

Remember, in order for the Unity to know Itself, it needs to manifest and actualize what it is. 

We’re so used to counting everyday things where 2 is an addition to 1. But in number symbolism, the number 1 is Unity. You cannot add to Unity, nor can you take anything away. It is Wholeness Itself.

Number 2 is more like the first idea of fragmenting Unity into all the multiple forms that populate Time-Space.

It’s more along the lines of “half” of 1.

It also comes through tarot cards to express the dual nature of our minds. We need opposites in order to differentiate things in the manifest world.

Without cold, how would we know hot? And because of this, we can also know the shades of meaning between such as warm, lukewarm, etc.

There’s also up-down, right-left, happy-sad, excitement-boredom, etc. So it also comes to mean choices.

In a negative way, number 2 can mean duplicity.

All of this is expressed most purely with The High Priestess card in tarot, but is filtered down through the minor arcana cards in a “weakened” and less potent form.

The Magician and The High Priestess tarot cards side by side. RWS tarot deck

Notice the polarity between The High Priestess and The Magician tarot cards? This is very clear in the RWS deck above. The Magician is standing, The High Priestess is sitting. The red and yellow colours contrasting of the magus contrasting with the cooler colours of the priestess, etc.

The Wisdom of Sophia/The High Priestess

The wisdom of The High Priestess (or Sophia) is illustrated by the book sitting in her lap. This shows that she receives Divine Revelation and knows things intuitively.

Intuition is the contact between our ordinary daily consciousness and the mystical plane.

It allows us to transcend the basic desire to just survive/live, and to want to understand That by which we live. How did we get here? Who am I beyond this name and body I have? What is Life?

So on a deeper level, The High Priestess tarot card is here to instruct us that we require mystical understanding in order to live, love and create more fully.

Otherwise, life and even “magic” or “manifesting” will be a kind of sterility that either doesn’t truly work, or is just an aesthetic fashion.

Note: some writers also correspond The High Priestess tarot card with Hecate or Isis. This too, makes perfect sense.

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Quotes That Evoke The Essence of The High Priestess Card

“Seeing that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything…it would seem that learning is based completely upon recollection.” -Plato

“The transcendent Self, descends to the plane of the personal self; but when there is silence within that self, it serves to mirror the revelations from above. -Meditations On The Tarot by “anonymous” (who is actually a great mystic-occultist by the name of Valentin Tomberg).

The High Priestess Astrology Correspondence

As mentioned above, The High Priestess tarot card meaning is influenced by the moon. Most people can understand this. If you asked anyone on the street what they thought the moon might mean, you’d probably get words like mysterious, dreamy, romantic, mystical, magical, uncertain, changeable, reflective, etc.

Questions To Contemplate With The High Priestess In Tarot

  • Am I listening to the still small voice within? 
  • Am I making time to just simply be?
  • Am I afraid to stop doing and just be - am I afraid of the silence?
  • What are my dreams telling me?
  • Have there been any messages coming to me in my daily life that I need to consider?
  • Am I pushing too hard - or am I going with the flow?

Concluding Thoughts

The meaning of The High Priestess card in tarot is as deep as Life itself. Many people struggle with connecting to the meaning of this card. 

To me, that’s because the meaning is not something you can label with words. It’s something that needs to be experienced.

Sources Used For This Article Include:

Other than my own reflections and contemplations, the following authors and books have supported some of the ideas presented:

  • Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf
  • Meditations on the Tarot by Valentin Tomberg aka "anonymous"
  • The Fool's Journey by Maureen Clark
  • Tarot of the Holy Light by Christine Payne-Towler
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