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High Priestess finally makes sense to me

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High Priestess finally makes sense to me


For years, I have stuck with the average associations with this card. Lately, I've seen it quite a bit and I decided to take another look. This may not be news for some of you, but for others, it might be an interesting ride.

The High Priestess at a glance is very much linked to the Greek Goddess Persephone. She was captured by the ruler of the underworld, Hades. Zeus demanded she be returned, but Hades tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds, and by doing so, she was obligated to return to the underworld half of every year.

The myth of Persephone is not a pretty one. In some stories, she was the one to carry out the punishments in the underworld. For a long time, when the idea of immortality was first introduced, it was believed that when one dies, no matter the person they were when alive, they would be tortured. There was a great fear of death, and Persephone was forced to occupy that space.

The High Priestess is not simply a symbol of hidden knowledge, but that which you fear to know. The pomegranates, a symbol of lust and the feminine, also depicts the cross she bears due to deceit. They serve as a warning that things do not always go according to plan and to be aware that others may have hidden motivations.

In reading, this may not always be a bad thing. If you are anticipating the worst in a situation, she may be telling you that there are things you are not seeing that will work to your benefit. She represents that which is outside of your realm of knowledge, the conversations your love interest may be having about you with others, the cheaper priced oil change down the road that you didn't think to research. So she asks you to seek this information out, to look in places that you do not see.

And sometimes, you are Persephone, the one with the knowledge, and in that case, she asks you to be at peace with what you know and to remind you that you cannot go back to ignorance.
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Cool Also the Princess who carries the seed back to her Mother!


I very much agree that Persephone is at least one aspect of the HPS. You might, in fact, want to check out the Elusinian Mysteries (if you haven't already), the most famous and secretive of rituals in the ancient world, all dedicated to the story of Persephone (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleusinian_Mysteries). The way these rituals presented that story and told it were far more respectful to Persephone than those which spuriously cast her as a torturer and saw the pomegranate as the fruit of "lust" (i.e. women inspire men to lust, boo-hoo, bad women!), rather than feminine mysteries (that's the problem with a lot of these myths--they were rewritten by later Greeks, Romans and Christians with a misogynistic bias. Don't get me wrong! All archetypes, like all tarot cards, should have a "scary" side to them and I wouldn't take that away from Prosphone. But I think being Queen of a mysterious, underworld, dead place is scary enough, don't you? Does lust and torture really need to be tossed in? ) Earlier Persephone/Kore myths don't see her--or the pomegranate--that way at all.

Another interesting difference to note is that given the Mediterranean climate, the split between Hades and Demeter probably wasn't 6/6 months. It was 4/8 (winter is a lot shorter in such climates). And in those 8 months, thanks to Persephone being with her, Demeter brings forth flowers and crops and fruit. We should keep that in mind about the HPS if we're giving her that role. Persephone is the embodiment of the seed, buried underground for safety as winter arrives, which then, in spring, comes to life and bring sustenance to the world. So like the HPS seated between those black and white pillars in the RWS card, Persephone isn't JUST about being the Queen of the Underworld (the dead). She is actually very much about being a goddess of life. Her mother's daughter.

Which is why so many readers will say that they view the HPS as "pregnant." She is a "womb," a place where the seed of life is kept safe, and yet she is also the queen of the underworld, keeping secret knowledge safe. Many mythic heroes visit the underworld to gain knowledge, like visiting a library. Thus the HPS (as Persephone) can signal a pause where you either give the seed of life within you time to "gestate" (like a child in the womb not yet ready to be born), or look within for secret knowledge--i.e. visit that scary place to find out what your intuition or psychic powers know that you don't.

Personally, I also like to think of the HPS by the Hebrew letter assigned to her: Gimel (the Camel). She is the one who carries you through the worst and scariest part of the desert, knowing how to get from one side to the other--like a pregnant woman carrying a child, but also like Persephone who exits the world, passes through the underworld, and rises again. She can guide the living through that scary, dark place. In fact, one of the emblems Persephone carries is a flaming torch, illuminating the dark underworld. The other emblem she carries is grain which she hands over to her mother on her return (and there's the Empress, the mother who has given birth and is nurturing young stalks of grains to grow so they can be harvested).
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Awesome response. I thought quite a bit about the different symbols and stories that are represented in the card. It seemed to me that the one that made the HP most unique, and thus the most telling of what she's about at the core, was Persephone.

Although the underworld is a scary place, I think keeping in mind just how scared the people were of it at the time puts her importance and strength of character in a whole new light. In that way, I think it makes total sense that people built their lifestyles around her image. And it makes one understand why, after all these years, there is still a strange pull to a tarot card that she in part inspired. I think I mentioned it to give the idea that she isn't a "passive" or "weak" card. I see people write that in blogs every once in a while, and although she might call for inaction, it definitely comes from a place of strength. Reading the stories people projected onto her, the good and the ugly, shows just how powerful she was. Not just as a character, but the way that character latched onto the psyches of many. I really dig that!


And of course, the split is why she is seen as the mediary. She goes to hell and back every year, she takes and she gives. That is what I got hung up on for a while. But now, I understand how that works in everyday life. You can despise and love someone at the same time. You can dread your job but appreciate the lifestyle it offers. I think it had a lot to do with my maturing and understanding the complexity of human emotion. Which is interestingly enough, another aspect of her, as you mentioned.


Your last paragraph is interesting because I don't see that at all! How does that aspect manifest in a reading?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSiren View Post
I think keeping in mind just how scared the people were of it at the time puts her importance and strength of character in a whole new light. In that way, I think it makes total sense that people built their lifestyles around her image.
But that's the thing. It isn't the "scary" part of her that had people creating those mysteries which were the single most important two events (entering and leaving the underworld) of the year, and had so much influence that Roman Emperors respected them. It's that Persephone goes to the underworld and RETURNS. Very like her counterpart Innana. And like other deities who had similar stories, including the Egyptian Sun God that went through the dark to rise again each day.

Hades doesn't get to leave the underworld (except briefly to kidnap girls). No other god and certainly no hero or mortal gets to live in both. Just visit one or the other. Briefly.

Persephone—and all those other return-to-life deities brought spring and fruit and grain with them. They brought the world back to life. THAT is why people built their lifestyle around such deities. Because they have that power. If the afterlife was what people feared, to the point of building a lifestyle around the god of that afterlife...Hades would have been the one who got those mystery rites. He's far more in charge of Hades than Persephone is. (Note: See Osiris, god of the afterlife, who people *did* build their life around because to the Egyptians the afterlife was *everything.* The Greeks...not so much. They and the Romans were more interested in gods who didn't stay dead. Who came back to life.
Quote:
she isn't a "passive" or "weak" card.
As you say, "inaction" isn't always passive or weak. The HPS isn't about indecision, it's about knowing that the decision should not be made hastily or without knowledge or insight. It's putting the decision in pause, actively refusing to "act" because more needs to be known. And Prudently taking the time ponder and feel what is right.

The virtue Prudence, by the way, is another possible aspect of the HPS. There's a whole thread on it. Quite fascinating.

I'll answer your other question in a second post.
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Cool What is a tarot reading but a journey through a mysterious land?


Quote:
Your last paragraph is interesting because I don't see that at all! How does that aspect manifest in a reading?
You mean "The Camel" taking you across the desert, or the Queen of the underworld, torch in hand, leading you to the spirits you came to speak to and then to the exit so you can return to the land of the living? The HPS isn't just about saying, "I'm going to wait on that decision." She's also about how you gain knowledge. It's actually interesting to compare her to the Hanged Man (also seen as passive). The Hanged man doesn't want to pause, but he "surrenders/sacrifices himself" to that pause and finds himself seeing the world from a new perspective. When he finally understands that new perspective—and this also means understanding why he had to put his life on hold--he leaves that "observing position" and brings his new insight to the world.

The HPS, on the other hand, doesn't have to be yanked into that pause. She completely understand the need for such moments. The need for a dawn and dusk, for a Fall and Spring. For times "in between." Because she is the feminine, and women, who can get pregnant, know all about that time between sex and the birth of the child. It's a "passive" waiting game. But, in fact, that waiting does a lot. Likewise, that time of not-deciding is, as you say, very active.

It's time to venture through the "underworld" which could be read as advice to go on a vision quest, meditate, take a time out, or just "sleep on it." It could be advice to read-up on the topic, or go to someone who knows family secrets, or is a spiritualist, or, well, a tarot reader. What, after all, are we doing reading the cards? We're getting information that's hidden. A tarot reader IS Persephone. She/He IS the HPS. She leads the sitter through the underworld (or carries them through the dark desert like a camel) first card to last. She keeps them from getting lost, keeps them from danger, and help them to understand what they're seeing in this other land.

Having learned what they needed to know, they can now return to the world and act.

Does that answer your question?
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