"Wheresoever we have spoken plainly, there we have spoken nothing, but where we have used riddles and figures, there we have hidden the truth."
--Rosarium Philosophorum (pg. 47)
The image of the High Priestess is influenced by the soror mystica, mystical sister, portrayed in the Mutus liber, who holds her hand to her lips in a sign of silence. This gesture has been associated with Hermetic philosophy since antiquity, when the Greeks misinterpreted the Egyptian image of the infant Horus sucking his finger, and transformed him into Harpokrates, the god of silence. This card represents the language of silence, and the presence of mystery. It is the truth behind the trickster's verbal illusions, but a truth that can be penetrated only through perseverance.
The High Priestess represents water, which is an archetypal symbol of the unconscious. Sailing in her moon boat on the sea, she becomes the gateway to the deepest parts of ourselves. She acts as the messenger that surfaces from the unseen depths, bringing our inner wisdom to our conscious awareness.
When we attune to the energies of the High Priestess, we come into contact with the Great Goddess, who governs the cycles and rhythms of nature -- the very mysteries of life. Her moon, which waxes an wanes -- the rhythm of life -- symbolizes the highest expression of female spirituality, it is the origin of all mystery traditions. She is luna, the feminine aspect of our hermaphroditic soul.
The High Priestess expresses an esoteric spiritually, which is not found in books, but comes from direct experience and initiation into the mysteries. Like the mysteries of life hidden in the womb of the Great Goddess, the wisdom of the High Priestess is hidden. Thus, her book is closed, and she is silent. She beckons to lead us to a gnostic, or personally realized, spirituality, but once we are at her gateway we must discover her secrets ourselves by solving her riddles and deciphering her symbols.
The High Priestess begins the alchemical process called dissolution, in which the prima materia, symbolized by the Magician, is dissolved and separated into its four elements, water (the High Priestess, feminine/soul), earth (the Empress, body), air (the Emperor, spirit/mind), and fire (the Hierophant, masculine soul).
Tarot wisdom: Two is the number of openings, because two haves create a space between themselves -- the image of a doorway. The High Priestess opens the door for us to probe the mysteries that lie beneath our experiences. She encourages us to look for what is hidden -- to read between the lines, to find subtleties and nuances. This is the card of intuition, dreams, and esoteric knowledge.