This post compares two distinctive images of The High Priestess II from the Rider Tarot (Visual Oracle Ultimate Edition Lite Lifetime Licence 16.3.28) and The Tarot of Marseilles, (B.P. Grimaud, 1969. France)
Looking at complimentary & contrast we can develop a broader and deeper understanding of both the upright and upturned meanings suggested in this Major Arcana.
The High Priestess in both tarot decks offer us a woman of mystery, wisdom, and sacred knowledge.
The High Priestess: Rider presents an image that is both serene and dynamic. We see an ethereal and youthful female figure in fluid, pale-blue and white clothing. The liquid nature of The High Priestess’s robes replicate that of the vast sea and sky behind the veil; demonstrating her bond with the subconscious. Blue is the colour of communication and represents the 5th Chakra; that of speaking your truth to materialize your dreams. She infers that our vision, imagination and ingenuity are linked to the relationship between the subconscious and the conscious. The ‘language’ for both states of awareness is, perhaps, our intuition and psyche.
The High Priestess II: Marseilles is a confident and mature figure. She is clothed in expensive and fine fabrics in the traditional Marseilles colours of red, blue and gold. Red, the colour of the 1st Chakra, indicates she is well-grounded, self-sufficient and clearly understands her purpose. Royal blue is the colour of the 5th Chakra and signifies someone who is loyal, honest and honourable. Gold is abundance, power, strength and perfection. Gold is associated with the wisdom of ageing.
The history behind the crowns of both The High Priestesses is interesting and significant. The High Priestess: Marseilles wears the Papal Triple Crown which symbolises 3 levels of power: ‘Bishop of Rome, successor to St Peter and Head of the Universal Church’; Her crown shows she is equal to the Pope at every level. The High Priestess: Rider, wears a crown of the powerful Egyptian goddess, Hathor. The sun disk and horns represents love, health, fertility and wisdom; and the Underworld.
The High Priestess: Rider balances a large crescent moon with her left foot, signifying her ability to conceptualise ideas for positive change or new beginnings. It is a waning moon which traditionally is a time of new plans, good luck and growth. The two solid columns of black and grey-white, from which hangs her veil, creates a sense of natural balance, complementarity and contrast; thus echoing the nature of physical reality: night and day, dark and light, yin and yang, heat and cold, all and nothing, etc. The columns may also be an entry point, a way to access, our creative and inspirational subconscious.
On the veil behind The High Priestess: Rider we see a pattern of vibrant pomegranates and corn-cobs (or palm stamen) that symbolise female and male reproductive organs (respectively); and show quite clearly the basis of fertility and creation. Is she the guardian or the weaver of this intricate tapestry? Perhaps both. And, we might wonder if these symbolic plants are given life through the ‘waters’ of the subconscious. The veil of High Priestess: Marseilles is a contrast to that of the Rider. Hers is a soft neutral material, that gently folds about her head and shoulders offering protection and privacy. It is the same colour as the book to signify sacred knowledge is always 'neutral' and has many interpretations and connotations.
Both The High Priestesses wear a cross over their breast. This is symbolic of divine protection and represents a balance between masculine and feminine energies. The High Priestess: Marseilles is comfortably seated and appears to be attentively observing and listening to someone, or something, in her right. A thick and heavy book rests on her lap in clear sight and we made are fully aware of the importance of the knowledge and guidance she offers. The High Priestess: Rider faces directly outward from the card; her attention is on you. On her lap is a portion of a scroll on which the letters TORA are written. She holds it in such a way as to obscure its contents; perhaps indicating the nature of secret knowledge is that slowly unfolds and unravels.
In a reading, The High Priestesses signifies mystery, a puzzle or a secret unfolding. This Key represents that even while all is not revealed/knowns at this time, success is possible through inspiration and self-mastery. She appears at the time when situations, things and people can no longer be taken for granted or at face value; and deeper insights are more important. This is a fortunate card for anyone starting new ventures requiring an insightful or intuitive approach; and for those wishing to utilize their special talents and gifts.
The appearance of The High Priestess may indicate you are on your spiritual path. She encourages you to develop your intuition and self-awareness through the daily practise of visualisation, prayer and meditation. Literally, this card may propose that you follow a daily practise that includes reading from a spiritual book or an oracle!
Reading tarot for others (and occasionally myself) is exciting, inspiring and very gratifying. Over the years (decades) I have had the very good fortune to witness the timely insights, information and guidance, the ‘reality check’, answers or solutions that can bring ease and hope to my client.