Mythic Study - The High Priestess


The High Priestess is by far my favorite card in the Mythic deck. Queen of the secrets of the dead, queen of the underworld. Very seductive and alluring. I would think the High Priestess is the reason many of us are drawn to reading tarot in the first place. Who wouldn’t want to delve into the unconscious mind, or explore puzzling dreams we have, or want to know what our own destiny is, or even see why our lives seem to take odd directions at times, as if we were meant to take a certain path. Does anyone have experiences where the High Priestess has touched their lives?

I was reading the story of how Persephone was abducted. It said, it was thought that she was very young because as Hades swept her up in his arms she seemed to be more concerned that the flowers she had gathered fell out of her hands than the fact that she was being abducted by the lord of the underworld. There was a sense of immaturity and naiveté about her. That stood out to me for some reason. I was wondering if there was some significance to that and how it might relate to this card, but I haven't come up with anything. The High Priestess doesn’t strike me as someone being so young and naïve.


mmm...good point

There was a sense of immaturity and naiveté about her. That stood out to me for some reason. I was wondering if there was some significance to that and how it might relate to this card, but I haven't come up with anything. The High Priestess doesn’t strike me as someone being so young and naïve.

I hadn't thought about that, but I'll agree that I never thought of her as naïve. Or perhaps that the process of her transformation into Hades queen (by eating the pomegranete) was part of that transformation.

I see her as that figure between two worlds. The earth behind her (the book points out that it is the landscape of the Empress card) and the Underworld before her. Between the black and the white (columns), she stands suspended between all. She posesses the secrets of the Underworld, never to divulge them to the upper world. A priestess who possesses knowledge, but knows what can be told and what to whom only. The rest must remain secret (or told only to those prepared for it).

Note also that she holds the fruit of the Underworld in one hand (up) and the flowers (narcissus) of the earth in the other (downward).



What first struck me with this card is that she is not in the traditional RWS or GD sequence. She comes after the Empress and Emperor cards. There aer no numbers at all for the major arcana. I'd very much hesitate to do any sort of reading based on numbers with this deck. The placement of the HP after the Emperor probably wasn't considered when we started our studies, but I think it's important to note. And it is a logical placement based on myths. Demeter must of necessity come before her daughter. I think we are forced to the conclusion that you can't use this deck in the same way as RWS or GD. The Mythic seems to have a more internal/intuitive approach.

When looking at the staircase in back of the HP, I am reminded of a meditation technique used for getting in touch with deeper levels of our self. You visualilze yourself walking down a staircase to a place of stillnes and new awareness. It's quite an effective technique. In the card the HP stands at the bottom of this staircase with her fruit and flowers. So when we descend her staircase we can find the wisdom promised by these items.

To me the HP is a gatekeeper, as shown by the two columns.

I don't find Persephone's concern with her flowers as evidence of her naivte, although that is a perfectly reasonable interpretation. For me, it speaks to a shift in priorities when entering her domain. She may be saying that there are new rules to follow when dealing with the issues of the underworld.


We see her while she enter the underworld. Behind her, we see the surface. But we don't see the underworld. She is Persephone but I am under the impression that she is initiated to her new domain at that precise point we see on the picture.


Persephone stands at the bottom of the staircase that descends into Hades. She wears a golden crown. In her right hand she holds an opened pomegranate, showing its seeds, while white narcissi trail to the ground from her left hand. One either side of her are pillars, one black and one white. Behind her at the top of the staircase is the lush green landscape seen in the Empress.

  • the fruit of the dead, the fruit of conjugal love (because of its many seeds)
  • suggests that which is fertile and full of undeveloped creative potential
  • abundance, generosity, sexual temptation, wedlock, symbolic deflowering
  • the regeneration that accompanies spring and summer, rejuvenation
  • love and blood, and therefore life and death; immortality
Narcissus plant
  • associated with the dead because of its ghostly color and its annual emergence from the winter earth
  • self-sufficiency, self-love, vanity, mistaking shadow for substance
  • coldness, death in youth
  • madness caused by the scent of the flower as a result of self-love and vanity
  • symbol of sleep, death and resurrection; it was planted on graves as a sign of the relation between sleep and death
  • symbol of moving away from enlightenment, understanding and heaven; regression
  • symbol of the difference between earth and hell or the conscious and subconscious
  • Metaphors/Proverbs:
    • “to be out of step” is to act differently from the rest of a group
    • “step by step” means one segment at a time
    • “watch your step” means be careful of what you’re doing or where you’re going
    • “to step down” is to resign
    • “to step out” is to go on a date
    • “the first step is the hardest” means that making a start is often the most difficult part of an undertaking
    • “a journey of a thousand miles beings with one step” means that one shouldn’t be put off by the magnitude of the task ahead of them – the important thing is to make a start
    • “the only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping-stones is the way you use them” means that one should try to be positive in their approach to obstacles that lie in their path and try to turn those obstacles to their advantage
  • the duality contained in the underworld; the creative potentials and destructive impulses that are hidden in the unconscious
  • the vertical axis which both joins together and separates Earth and underworld
  • stability, the concept of standing firm
  • one black and on white pillar symbolize all bi-polarities – the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge or Death, complementary opposites in duality and their balance and tension in combined action, spiritual and temporal power, the strong and the weak, tension and release, upward and downward movement, power and liberty, and the will and the law
  • passing between them symbolizes entry into a new life or another world
  • exploring one’s deeper reaches or unexplored regions
  • reminder of one’s past life; transition to another state of mind or place; transition from realm to another; entryway to the realm of the dead
  • Metaphors/Proverbs:
    • “every door may be shut but death’s door” means that death comes to everyone and is the only thing in life over which we have no control
    • “when one door closes, another one opens” means that disappointment or failure is often followed by a new opportunity
  • goddess of corn, the underworld and fertility; guardian of the secrets of the dead
  • as guardian of the underworld and custodian of its secrets, she could never speak of what she learned there when she was back with her mother Demeter
  • eating the pomegranate seeds caused her to lose her innocent girlhood
  • image of the link to the unconscious; embodiment of that part of us that knows the secrets of the inner world, which is full of riches and potentials as well as the darker facets of the personality
  • she appears through dreams and strange coincidences
  • the unconscious, which can only be glimpsed through dreams, fantasies and intuition; trying to understand the unconscious or to master it for other purposes is futile
  • the shadowy glimpses of patterns and movements at work within the individual in her world require patience and time before they can be brought into the light of day
  • image of the natural law that works within the depths of the soul and governs how one’s destiny unfolds as it is revealed through feeling, intuition and dreams

I wrote the following in my workbook on 4Aug91:
Persephone leaves the outside world of indecision with its hills of indifference, sea of lies and fields of despair. She passes down the stairs of uncertainty through the hall of fear until she reaches the twin pillars of truth and lies. She wears a gown of personal growth and a crown of truth. In one hand she holds a fruit of lust while flowers of self-delusion drop gently from her other hand.
My primary colors were light and dark blue, which I associated with clearness of mind, thought or purpose; truth (light) and secretiveness, lying (dark).