Updated: Mar 4, 2022
Patience and Contemplation
The High Priestess Tarot card otherwise known as the Popess, or La Papesse is the 2nd numbered card of the Major Arcana. The card is represented by a mysterious woman or goddess in front of a veil in the Marseille Tarot. She can be between two pillars as in the Rider Waite Tarot. She can also be in front of a far distant cityscape as in the Deviant Moon Tarot. In the Mythic Tarot, she stands between two pillars in front of a doorway leading to a land unknown far in the distance. She is there to serve as the connection to our self awareness and our intuition. She is associated with the moon, water and the changing tides.
She follows The Magician, the first numbered card in the Major Arcana. She is working using her knowledge and intuition. She is Number Two in the Arcanum and she is preparing, but not ready to make a decision or communicate her next move. Her mood and thinking changes like the phases of the moon. The number two has it's meaning in Tarot as a feminine type of energy that is reflective. The High Priestess reflects on her options and continues to update her knowledge from the Book of Knowledge and Life that she holds in the Marseille Tarot. Truth is important to her. The cloak she wears is opened at the neck. When we see the neck exposed, we know that truth is important and if the there is anything that veers away from truth, the High Priestess is ready to call you on it!
Number Two or II in Tarot:
This is the least amount of time or the shortest distance between two positions or elements. The Moon is the closest celestial body to the Earth. The distance between the known (what appears in front of us in the physical world) and the unknown (our subconscious). The High Priestess sits in front of the veil that hides the unknown. She is the gatekeeper to hidden truths.
In Tarot, two elements can represent a partnership, a meeting, relationship, conflict, or confrontation. The the two elements in the situation are motionless and has not produced any motion yet. These two elements must come together in order to make an action, choice or produce something.
Two can also represent the tension or stress between opposite elements. For example: when a decision has to be made or one of two points of view much be chosen.
We can also reference Yin and Yang. When we are contemplating our next move, we go from one option to another many times realizing that there are benefits and risks for each option. There is good and bad in any choice.
Duality: where one is between two worlds (spiritual and material), two choices or options.
Collision: two opposing elements meet before a conflict begins
Associated with Moon:
In the Rider Waite deck we see a full moon as part of her crown and a crescent moon at her foot. We are reminded the phases of the Moon has a 28 day cycle. This may also indicate time needed to make the next move, as the High Priestess needs patience before she responds. There is risk to taking so much time in making the next move because this could become procrastination. As she contemplates, her moods fluctuate like the tides. She needs to be sure of how she responds to a situation or a project. She doesn't put plans into action until she is sure she prepared. She can also be viewed as being unresponsive, cold and undecisive.
The Moon also indicates an interest in the occult.
High Priestess is receptive
The High Priestess faces to the left which indicates a passive and reflective energy. She is mysterious because we are not sure what she is thinking and she can sometimes represent a cold woman that is unable to commit to a relationship. She can also represent someone who comes across as emotionless because the High Priestess is very careful about what she reveals.
Book of Knowledge
Her knowledge grows as she reads from the Book of Knowledge and Life, but she is not ready to act on the information she has learnt. She is in the middle of something and she is planning her next move. She can give advice and is great at listening. She reminds us that patience is necessary and she is cautious. She can represent a person that is too cautious and timid. This can represent someone who is being overly cautious and they never get their project started.
The colour of the pages in the book can be:
yellow which represent intelligence, growth and advancement.
white which represents truth and spirituality
flesh colour which represent humanity: Book of Human Knowledge.
In the Rider Waite Tarot, the High Priestess carries a scroll with the word Tora. Tora means the divine law.
Connecting the Physical and Spiritual World:
The High Priestess card can represent someone who is spiritual and is the link to intuition or the inner knowledge that we all have but have yet to connect with. She receives information, but has not done anything with it. She has the link or connection to the Star Card (number 17 in the Arcanum) as they are polar opposites. The Star is open and comfortable with the spiritual and material self. The 17 lines that are on the pages of the opened Book of Knowledge held by the Popess in the CBD Marseille Tarot is a reference to the Star and how the Popess is working on linking her spiritual self and her material self.
She has yet to become comfortable and reconcile these two selves which are her ego and her soul. There are lessons she still as to learn. The 17 lines pictured in the book represent the lessons to get to that harmonious state. In other Marseille Tarot decks there are 15 lines (see the Popess in the Jean Dodal deck). The 15 lines are the number of lessons or mysterious to be learnt between the Popess and the Star.
The Crown/Tiara: The Marseille Tarot decks based on the Nicholas Conver (CBD tarot and the Lo Scarabeo by Anna Maria Morsucci), the tiara is three tiered which represent the three elements of the individual: body, mind and soul.
In the Marseille Tarot of Jean Dodal (restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy), the tiara has four points for the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. The flower shaped centre points to the north star or heaven. These together represent the spiritual world and the physical world.
The High Priestess in the Rider Waite deck wears a crown with the full moon that represents changing moods, links to the divine and the feminine mysteries.
The cloak worn by the High Priestess is heavy with layers draping to the floor which represents hidden knowledge one is not ready to reveal. This can also indicate that a person is closed or distant or unaffectionate. The heaviness of the cloak can represent that a querent or someone in the querent's situation wants to be regarded as a serious intellectual person.
The pelvis and the chest are well hidden by the cloak which indicates repressed sexual expression or a blockage of energy in the Sacral Chakra (creative and sexual expression).
The cloak can also represent that a querent needs to create boundaries for the sake of discretion, On the other hand, the heavy cloak can represent very firm boundaries in order to avoid intimacy.
In the Marseille Tarot, the High Priestess sits in front of the veil. What is behind the veil is unknown. The High Priestess is the link between what we see and what is hidden from us by our subconscious and messages in our dreams. She reminds us that intuition is in all of us and needs to be used. Our intuition is like a muscle, it needs to be used and this takes patience and work. Meditation, calm and contemplation is needed.
The veil in the card can be a sign of a secret and perhaps it's a warning not to be too open about personal or spiritual matters at this time. It can also mean that the querent is not truthful about their situation. Some readers note that if the High Priestess is drawn as the last card in the spread, the answer to the client's question is unknown and is not ready to be revealed (timing is not right to seek an answer).
The High Priestess sits or stands between two pillars. In the Rider Waite, one pillar is white and the other is black representing duality, polar opposites (light and dark),and the pillars of the temple of Solomon. She is the gate keeper to the hidden world, dreams and the subconscious. The B and J seen on the pillars stand for Boaz and Jachin, the two principles of life of being and love.
In some Tarot decks we may see pomegranates in the High Priestess card. This is an association with Persephone of the Greek myths. The pomegranates are a symbol of the divine feminine, abundance and fertility. It is also the fruit of the dead and it represents marital love because of the abundance of seeds. Persephone ate the seed of the pomegranate in the underworld that was offered by Hades who had abducted her. This meant that she must also return to the underworld. She is our link to the underworld, the link between the dark underworld and light.
The above are suggestions for reading the High Priestess/Popess/La Papesse card and are not the only meanings that this Card can have. You must look at the surrounding cards chosen by the querent in the reading. Whatever meaning you get from the Tarot card will be dependent on the deck you use, other cards in the spread and the question (the reason why the querent is having a Tarot reading).
A Sample three card reading:
A querent has the question about starting a new business once he has finishes his apprenticeship. He has the opportunity for a position in a company. This will be a steady pay cheque for him, but having his own company has always been a dream.
The Ace of swords has notes of ambition. The querent has definitely found something he is very passionate about and feels he can make a successful business. He is not afraid of competitiveness and he is not afraid of hard work . He has learnt many things from his past experiences, courses and practical learning from his recent apprenticeship, but is he ready to start his own business? The Popess reminds him to take his time to make his decision. Has he given enough thought to the position that was offered to him? Does he have enough money to live on while he creates his business if decides that self employment is right for him? Does he know how much he has in his savings? How much is required to get a business of the ground? Before he makes his decision, he needs a business plan. The Popess shows up in a reading when serious thought has to be given to big decisions. Take the time that is necessary to create a business plan, make business contacts and learn about the necessary finances. The Popess looks to the Page of Coins to show him that he is may not be quite ready for his own business, but it is a possible in the future. Page of Coins has feet going in opposite direction suggesting indecision or hesitation and direction is not clear. The coin in his hand indicates how much he thinks he has, but he doesn't see the coin at his feet. This indicates he needs to really look at his financial goals and his expenses. Now is the time to be practical. The advice is to finish his apprenticeship and to be discreet about making plans of owning his own business. Take this time to form connections in the the trade that he is learning and learn as much as he can. Taking the position offered would be a good idea for him. It would give him an opportunity to earn an income, save and plan for a future business.
The Marseille Tarot Revealed, A Complete Guide to Symbolism Meanings and Method by Yoav Ben-Doav 2017 Llewellyn Publications
Reading and Understanding the Marseilles Tarot by Anna Maria Morsucci and Antonella Aloi 2018 Lo Scarabeo
The Mythic Tarot, A New Approach to The Tarot Cards by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene 1988 edition Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited
The Tarot and You, A Simple Guide to Using the Cards for Self-Discovery and Prophecy by Lindel Barker Revell,1995 Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd.