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TotOP - II - The High Priestess

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TotOP - II - The High Priestess


The High Priestess

Astrological Influence - Moon
Element - Water
Month - July
Contributor - Lois Bourne
Flower - Orpine ~ associated with the Moon

In general, my favourite card in a deck is usually the High Priestess. I think it is because I am drawn in by her aura of mystery, wisdom and grace. Secretly, I wish I had all these characteristics myself. I also tend to see the High Priest as an embodiment of the Goddess, which she most certainly is in the Tarot of the Old Path.

This is yet another card in this deck that moves away from the RWS symbolism. The High Priestess isn't seated in a throne holding a scroll of knowledge, and guarding the veil behind her. In this card she is walking in a green meadow with many animals. It could be argued that she is wearing the veil as a diaphanous dress, and the scroll has become her wand. Her hand placement is much more active then in the RWS deck, appearing much like the traditional Magician pose. I think this is some sort of nod to the fact that the High Priest draws down the Goddess, and is very much an embodiment of "as above, so below."

I think the animals in the card all represent aspects of an ideal High Priestess' personality - unicorn for purity, black cat for mystery, doe for wild innocence, rabbits for fertility, squirrel for swiftness (of mind and body), butterflies for joyfulness, snake for rebirth, and doves for peacefulness.

I see the stream as being the stream of consciousness, as Ms. Pollack mentions in 78 Degrees of Wisdom. It is with the High Priest that we first being to truly work with our subconscious, and thereby become more aware of our conscious desires.

It is also interesting to note that the black and white pillars of the RWS card have been replaced by black and white crescent moons. Much more appropriate for this deck, I think.
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Independence past, present and future


I think this is an excellent representation of The High Priestess. I think it is from this card onwards that The Tarot of the Old Path really starts coming into its own.

The High Priestess is always a fascinating card, for the very unconventional depiction of a woman’s role. Not of course by today’s standards, but of the time. A deck in 1349 depicts a Popess! Why? There were no such thing, and woman were much more conventionally thought of in the role depicted by The Empress. Tarot, as ever, was way ahead of its time; we just had to catch up. We have yet to see a woman Pope, but we certainly now have female vicars, and it will not be long before we see their presence in The Church of England evidencing itself higher and higher up the orders. I wonder, historically, how The High Priestess and The Hierophant were meant to be seen in relation to each other. Were they of the same order? Was one higher than the other, or are they totally separate?

Anyway, The High Priestess has always ensured that there is a strong balance in the Tarot. While The Empress embodies motherhood, The High Priestess has always been there to remind the Tarot reader of women’s independence.

I think that the ‘Old Path’ card is extremely powerful and shies away from nothing. We see a beautiful young woman standing proud. Her very title makes clear her authority, independence, knowledge and calm determination. She carries her own wand, and the unicorn in the background suggests she equals many of The Magician’s powers. On her right arm she wears an armlet. This is significant as an armlet is not often seen on The High Priestess but is very commonly seen on The Emperor in many decks. Anther pointer towards her equality.

As well as ranking (career), intelligence, education, this card undoubted denotes sex. The High Priestess, in this card, is aware of, and relishes, her sexuality (whatever it may be) and enjoys it. Unlike the Empress, while sex is a part of The High Priestess’s life, it is certainly not for procreation. This may change with time, or it may not – that shall be her choice.

So what else is in this card and what’s happening? There is a large wood in the background. From the wood comes a stream, which meanders off to the left. Gracing the top of the card is a black crescent moon, mirrored on the other side by a white one (Silver discusses this in the previous post). In addition to the traditional symbolism being recounted here, maybe we are being warned of her dark side. Birds are flying, as are a butterfly and a moth. There is a unicorn in the background. The High Priestess stands in a light blue, transparent dress. She wears a crown with an orb on the front. Around her neck is a deep blue crystal necklace. One arm (with an armlet) is lifted upwards holding a wand. Her other arm reaches downwards stroking the head of a young female dear. A black cat, rabbits and a squirrel are at her feet, as is a flowering pink plant. There is a snake crawling up the one side of the card and a cobweb interrupting the greenery on the other side. Above The High Priestess’s head is an inverted triangle, a Goddess symbol that also appeared in the previous card: The Magician.

I do not know what all these images mean, but certainly she is shown at one with nature; someone who, like the Magician, holds power over her surrounding environment. I think it is interesting to note how certain images are recur in this deck from one card to the next. The Unicorn links the Magician card to this; the stream in this will take us to where the Empress is sitting in the next card. I think this serves three purposes in this deck:

1. It goes to show various links between the cards, and how they share attributes with each other, in addition to their own unique attributes.

2. To link them together step by step, so as to better visualise The Fool’s Journey.

3. To enhance the continuity in this deck. I think the artist has quite cleverly designed a microcosmic world, where the characters, within the cards, truly do co-exist.

I like The High Priestess, in this deck, a lot. And this, for me, is where this deck starts to get fun.
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II High Priestess

This is one of my favorite cards in this deck. For one thing she's beautiful in a natural sort of way. She looks a bit young to be a high priestess, yet her eyes reveal wisdom and power, which definitely makes her look the part. The creatures seem fitting, especially the black cat, rabbits, spider's web and snake. The cat wears the same expression in its eyes as the priestess, making me think it's her familiar. Unicorns I'm not sold on entirely, since they don't exist in the physical world, and never have as far as we know. But the fact that it's crossing the stream makes me wonder if it's meant to symbolize traveling between worlds, and that would make sense.

The forest in the background brings to mind a sacred grove, with the stream a source of the flow of spirit energy. The circle of light at the priestess's feet calls to mind a circle cast for ritual or magic. It appears that she's blessing the deer, or communicating with it by touch. She's watchful, and perhaps protective. Her raised wand and her glance give me the impression that I've walked into something, intruded on a ritual. There's a distinct feeling of power here, that makes me want to be an insider to this scene, to share in what she's doing and to feel a part of it. The card also gives me the feeling that I still have a lot to learn.

The whole scene reminds me of Robert Gass's "From the Goddess" chant, which I have on CD. Now I'm thinking that I'd like to do a meditation with that music and this card.

It's a card of intuition and deep understanding of this world and worlds beyond, of subtle energies and great power, of secrets and revelation.
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I am the Intuitive Life..........


Isn't that a stunning statement, but so simple?

The Moon is mine........I represent the Goddess Isis and her kingdom. I bring her ways to you. It is my joy to serve her and to make her ways manifest. I am a channel for the Goddess to reveal herself. I am the living representative of the Feminine. I am Wisdom and Compassion. See the pomegranites rich with seeds. Here is a sign of the Divine Feminine Presence. I serve the ancient Wisdom.......These deep secrets are in my keeping. I am the Intuitive Life. I cannot explain my secrets through words but I can share them with you through experience. Are you ready to travel with me? I am the High Priestess.

Tarot Handbook (Ozaniec)

It makes such a difference to imagine how the High Priestess would describe herself, doesn't it. None of us could say anything better than this to capture her spirit.
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Does anyone know what the pool of light around her feet represents? Could this be clarity and knowlege that encircle her perhaps?

Also what type of trees does the wood comprise, as they appear to be different trees than the ones in the Empress card.
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Just bumping this up for the previous question
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My guess for the trees is maybe aspen or birch, and I guess the circle could be a ritual circle, or protection.
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