Tarot 2 – The High Priestess
By James Donahue
As he continues his journey, the Fool next
meets a mysterious crowned woman, seated on a throne between two pillars and illuminated by a crescent moon. She is somewhat
dark and mysterious in comparison to the Magician who was outspoken and appearing in the bright of day. A large cross hangs
around her neck. In her lap, partly hidden by her blue gown, is a scroll on which the letters TORA can be seen. The rest of
the word is covered.
She is the High Priestess who, like the Magician,
has something important to teach the Fool. The moment they meet, she makes it clear that she knows all things about the Fool.
She is the guardian of secrets. She symbolizes the realms of our unconsciousness and thus is our guide to our inner self and
the potential that lies within us all.
When he understands the great wisdom concealed
by the High Priestess, the Fool lays before her his sword, chalice, staff and pentacle and asks her to help him decide how
to use these tools to make the most out of his journey. In response she hands him a pair of ancient scrolls which she says
will teach him how to decide.
He sits at her feet, reading the scrolls
by the light of the moon until he has gained the knowledge he sought. But even as he is preparing to leave, the Fool suspects
there are many more secrets to learn, like what lies behind the curtain decorated with pomegranate that hangs behind the High
Priestess. And as he is leaving he hears her whisper: “We’ll meet again when you’re ready to travel the
most secret path of all.”
An examination of the symbolism in this card
gives us clues as to the secrets concealed within her robes and behind the curtain. She has a lunar crescent at her feet,
suggesting a connection with the Moon card. On her head is a horned diadem, or crown, on which is centered a globe above her
head. There is a large cross on her breast. As already mentioned, the scroll in her hands shows only the word Tora. Her gown
covers the rest of the word, which could have many different endings. The four letters alone signify the Greater Law, the
Secret Law, and the second sense of the Word. That the complete word is covered shows that some things are implied while others
She is seated between two pillars, one of
the black showing the letter “B” and the other white, on which is seen the letter “J.” These are said
to represent Jachin and Boaz, of the mystic Temple of Solomon. The veil of the Temple is behind her and is embroidered with
palms and pomegranates.
From the Books of First and Second Kings,
in the Old Testament, Boaz and Jochin were the names of two pillars cast from brass and located on the porch of King Solomon’s
first Temple at Jerusalem. They represented the balance of light and darkness that must exist among mankind. The white pillar
might represent divine man while the dark pillar is the earthly man.
The veil in Solomon’s Temple hid the
secret of secrets, the holy of holies. This was where fabled Ark of the Covenant was placed. This object, manufactured of
gold, was considered the most sacred thing on earth. But just what was it, and what were its secrets? Indeed, man’s
covenant with his great Mother, the creator Mother Earth, has always been to protect, nourish and love the earth from where
he receives his daily bread, his water and his shelter.
Thus the High Priestess has been called the
Secret Church, the spiritual Bride and Mother, the daughter of the stars and the Higher Garden of Eden. She is the reflection
of the Supernal Mother. Her name in the Kabala is Shekinah, the co-habiting glory. She is both above and below, appearing
on the Tree of Life as both Binah and Malkuth.
Binah is the second Sephirah on the Tree
of Life. It is located on the level below Keter, on the far left side. Thus she may represent the left hemisphere of the brain.
Binah is “processed wisdom” and deductive reasoning.
Malkuth, located at the lower part, or trunk
of the Tree of Life, is associated with the earth, matter and the physical world.
It is said that the High Priestess is not
only the mistress of hidden wisdom, but she knows its deeper meaning. Unlike The Magician, she does not explore the world
so that she may master it, but to understand it. Her association with The Moon can lead to deep wisdom, but can also lead
to madness. The water flowing from her gown is the collective unconsciousness that flows through not only humanity but the
Tarot cards as we study them.
Finally, we cannot leave the High Priestess
without examining her number, which is 2. Among the Cabalists and Numerologists numbers can have a variety of meanings. The
number 2 is comprised of two ones, or the Key 11, which is the Justice Card. It also can be linked to the Key 20 which is
When the High Priestess appears in a reading
it may mean a secret is to be revealed, or perhaps a secret that we wish to be revealed. This card may come up as a call for
us to trust our instincts, or to rely on wise counsel for advice. If the reading is for a man, and the High Priestess comes
up, it could be a directive for him to trust his wife or whatever woman is closest to him at the time for counsel.