Updated: Dec 8, 2022
The High Priestess reminds us of the famous Greek declaration inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “Know thyself.” A wise and intuitive mystic, The High Priestess implores you to listen to and use your intuition—your gut—always choosing what feels right. What is your internal wisdom telling you about what you’re writing? Don’t listen to everyone else tell you how or what you should write. Listen to your heart-mind connection (your Higher Self). Go deeper in your writing and explore possibilities. Right now, you’re only scratching the surface. There is so much more to explore than what you’ve uncovered in your first draft alone.
As a writer, how can you embody The High Priestess’ energy? Read. Always seek knowledge and understanding of the themes, ideas, concepts, people, worlds about which you’re writing. Because, as you well know, writers enter the worlds about which we write. We become either our characters or an invisible, hovering entity watching them embark upon the lessons they’ll learn throughout the story.
As an effective writer, you also know that all of your characters shouldn’t be and/or look just like you. They might embody your characteristics (and you may even interweave your same experiences into their journeys), but the most memorable stories display diversity of people, thought, and language. To that point, research. Want to write a story including a Haitian Vodou Seer who lives in a Coastal Louisianan bayou but you don’t have the first clue about Louisiana, Haitian culture, or the difference between Vodou and Voodoo? I did. That was me. Years ago, when my book series The Scars We Choose came to me, I had to learn all about my character Pinkie Perideaux’s culture, language, and Vodou customs. As such, I stayed curious, conducting extensive research. And I’m so glad I did. That story, after all, was my first introduction to the tarot.
Let's take a deeper dive into this card.
The High Priestess: A Deep Dive
The High Priestess, thought to be a woman, sits on a solid marble thrown between two columns of Solomon’s Temple, Boaz, the pillar of mystery, on her right and Jachin, the pillar of consciousness, on her left. Dressed in a flowing, powder blue gown and veil, she sits upright, rigid but poised. She wears a cross pendant and the scroll resting in her arms is inscribed with the letters T-O-R-A. Many tarot enthusiasts believe this scroll to be a copy of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. While The High Priestess’ crown bears a full moon symbol, at her feet rests a crescent moon. The moon is a symbol of mysticism, fertility, cycles, intuition, and female empowerment. In the earliest versions of tarot, The High Priestess was known as the Papess. She was inspired by the Egyptian goddess Isis, the Christian Virgin Mary, and perhaps even the legendary Pope Joan, as posed by Rachel Pollack in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.
Behind The High Priestess’ throne, stretched between the two pillars, is a curtain decorated with pomegranates. This curtain is thought to be a veil between consciousness and the subconscious, the pomegranate a symbol of life regeneration. As you can see, the pomegranates are arranged in a pattern, a callback to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
In Greek mythology, Persephone was believed to have eaten pomegranate seeds and was able to travel between this life and the underworld—consciousness and mystery. As such, The High Priestess uses her intuitive power to access the unknown. The vast stretch of water behind her fruit-embellished veil is calm and quiet. Water symbolizes emotion and the subconscious, so perhaps this veil and columns represent the gateway between our conscious and unconscious minds, with our liminal High Priestess ushering our passage between.
You are The High Priestess. I am The High Priestess. She represents the Higher Self, the voice in our heads, the nagging in our gut, the slight nudge or hunch we feel when we just know something to be true or are led to go somewhere or do something we can otherwise not understand.
The High Priestess Reversed: the Shadow
If The High Priestess card lands on your desk in the reversed position, its meaning is as clear as that pond behind her: intuition is blocked. That pomegranate curtain is closed and there is no passage through from here to anywhere else. Perhaps this momentary stifling of the Fool along their adventure is for their own best interest. They are warned of turning back in this physical space and taking a respite, letting that cute little dog recharge its intuitive energy and wash the mud off its paws.
Notable Symbols for The High Priestess
Spirit / Water
Two is the number of duality, choice, union, and decision. As you’ve learned so far about this card, there are two pillars, each representative of two separate realms of thought, their embellished curtain a passageway between life and death, here and after, up and down.
Water is a symbol of intuition and the subconscious mind, light blue is a color with calming effects, just like the water beyond The High Priestess’ curtain, just like the color haint blue of Southern Coastal lore.
The cross symbolizes a crossroads, a point between all four directions. Which way to go?
The Pomegranate is a symbol of life, its red juice perhaps representing the blood of Jesus.
The moon is representative of manifestation, the full moon reminding us to remain thankful for our many blessings. The crescent or sickle moon, on the other hand, represents psychic power, fertility, life and death, and in witchcraft it represents the divine feminine.
The High Priestess as a Concept
Feminine wisdom, balance, choices, intuition, peace, calm, tranquility, knowledge.
The High Priestess as a Character(s)
If your character embodies The High Priestess’ energy, whoa doggie! They are a mysterious force, multifaceted, wise, and layered with backstory, foreshadowing, insight, and maybe even a little fantasy. The character patterned after The High Priestess is mystic, always listening to their inner wisdom, consulting the Higher Self before making a decision or counseling others. This character has knowledge to share, lessons to teach.
Who can this person be?
The High Priestess-inspired character could be a teacher, an oracle, a first lady, a wise elder, a prophet, a saint, a witch, a pastor, a papess, a spiritual guide, a reiki practitioner, a psychiatrist, an introvert. They can be anything, really, but whatever they are, be prepared to write someone mystical and complex.
Famous character(s), people, books, or movies that embody this card’s energy:
Pinkie Perideaux in The Scars We Choose, Cher, Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine
Photo credit: All photos found on Pinterest.
Intuitive Check-in Spread
To sharpen and/or gain a pulse on your intuition, I have created an easy to remember 3-card spread.
First, shuffle your deck as many times as needed until you are comfortable and ready to pull cards.
Next, search for the High Priestess card and pull it, the card behind it, and the card in front of it.
Lay them in a row, with the card behind the High Priestess on the left (position 1), the High Priestess in the center (position 2), and the card in front of her on the right (position 3).
Card 1 represents underlying thoughts and/or concerns of the unconscious mind, things of which you might not be aware.
Card 2 represents you and your intuitive Higher Self.
Card 3 represents what’s on your mind right now, the things you are conscious of and pondering.
Questions you can ask yourself while using this spread:
What are my subconscious thoughts telling or warning me about?
How can I draw what’s on my unconscious mind to the forefront and what do I have to learn from these thoughts?
What is my Higher Self trying to communicate to me?
How can I align my unconscious and conscious thoughts in order to make the best decisions for me?
On Writer Wednesday, you will get to meet fantasy author Mandi Oyster!
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.