The High Priestess

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The High Priestess (II) is the second trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. This card is used in game playing as well as in divination.

In the first tarot pack with inscriptions, the 18th-century woodcut Marseilles Tarot, this figure is crowned with the Papal tiara and labelled "La Papesse", the Popess. For historians or heresiologists, such a figure suggests the supposed female equality practiced among the Cathar perfecti, who had been extirpated from Northern Italy and Southern France shortly before the Tarot first appeared at these locales. Some say that it referred to the legend of Pope Joan.[citation needed]

Contents

Description

In the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, upon which many modern decks are based, The High Priestess wears plain blue robes and sits with her hands in her lap. She has a lunar crescent at her feet, a diadem on her head showing the phases of the moon: waxing, full, and waning (when the moon is new it is not visible on earth), and a large cross on her breast. The scroll in her hands, partly covered by her mantle, bears the word TORA. She is seated between the white and black pillars—'J' and 'B' for Jachin and Boaz—of the mystic Temple of Solomon. The veil of the Temple is behind her: it is embroidered with palm leaves and pomegranates. [1] Further behind all of that is what seems to be a body of water, most probably the sea.

Interpretations

  • Knowingness – Love – Relationships
  • Wisdom – Sound judgment – Serenity
  • Common sense – Intuition
  • Mystical vision – introspection – otherworldliness

Alternative decks

In the Vikings Tarot the High Priestess is Frigg, the wife of Odin. She is sitting on a throne in a swamp, with her golden slippers emitting a blinding light from the hem of her dress.

In the Golden Tarot the High Priestess is portrayed as The Papess.

In the Mythic Tarot, created by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene, the High Priestess is portrayed by Persephone, descending a staircase into the Underworld, with the Earth behind her, dressed in white, and holding falling, white flowers. She holds up a pomegranate, both seen in her most famous myth and the Rider-Waite deck. The pillars beside her are the standard black (left) and white (right), and she also wears a crown, being the Queen of the Underworld.

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