We’re after something that lies beneath all [the] noise, something literally un-thinkable, something that is not so much communication as it is communion — a felt language; a silence filled not with emptiness, but with presence.
~ Gregg Levoy, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
From The Magician, who brings the flash of consciousness and manifestation, we move immediately to his successor, the very next step on the Royal Road. For only the second time ever, this week, we welcome The High Priestess.
She sits quietly, on the cubic stone, the Philosopher’s Stone of alchemy, from which all things may be transformed. Gazing straight at us from between the columns of Boaz and Jakin, pillars of the Temple of Solomon, her temple is also that of the great Goddess Isis, as well as the Shekhinah, the glory of the Abrahamic God made manifest in the world and, according to the mystical Kabbalists, the feminine side of the Divine.
Her pillars are black and white, representatives of the duality of dark and light, active and passive, order and chaos. Yet, like the ancient Yin-Yang symbol, the white lettering on the black column, and the black lettering on the white show that duality is only a perception. Each side holds the seed of its opposite.
She sits in the balancing space between, holding the scrolled Torah, the book of Law. In her, the opposites are reconciled.
Behind her, a veil is decorated with pomegranates and dates, representing lush fertility. These were also carved onto Solomon’s Temple. The placement of the pomegranates hints at the upper sephiroth of the Tree of Life, the lower half remaining mostly hidden behind her.
She is obviously associated with the Moon, not only from the crescent that is held in the watery hem of her gown, but from the lunar crown of Isis that she wears. Yet she is also a priestess of the Sun, as it is a solar cross that covers her heart.
Although the scene directly behind her is veiled, it peeks from behind the pillars, and we can see a blue world of water, symbol of the unconscious. According to author Paul Quinn, tradition says that all other water depicted in the Tarot cards flows from the High Priestess.
The High Priestess is the deep, the mysterious, the non-verbal Knowing. She is the gateway to our own intimate, direct, unchaperoned communion with the Divine.
Where The Magician is the aggressive, overt initiator and communicator, The High Priestess is the receptive listener, intuitive, and sacred observer.
And unlike The Empress, the mothering nurturer that makes everyone feel like cherished family, The High Priestess holds the authority of silence, containment, and being sovereign unto herself. She is not the Mother Goddess, but the untamed Maiden/Crone Goddess of magic, potential, secrets, and inner understanding.
Hers is the power of those things so intimate, so mysterious and deep, that we cannot, indeed should not, attempt to express them in words.
Her alignment with the Moon, and her emotional, psychic, solitary ways of worshiping the Divine have been labeled heresy in the dominant patriarchal religions. She is the aspect of feminine power (belonging to both men and women) that has historically been feared, punished, shunned, and demonized by misogynist cultures and institutions.
But when we reject her, we burn our own souls at the stake. When we fear or negate our wild, intuitive, unspoken Knowings, we damn ourselves to the illusion that we are minds only.
The gifts of The High Priestess are as silent and mysterious as moonlight, and as powerful and inescapable as ocean tides. Don’t expect fiery wheels in the air, or burning bushes and lightning flashes. She is the still, small voice within.
In what ways do you need a period of silence or contemplation? What tide is now turning in your life? What mysteries does she invite you to consider?
What do you seek behind her veil? Are your dreams and premonitions on high alert this week?
One of the four pillars of magic is the power to keep silent, and this, too, is her gift to us. Are there important secrets that you need to keep? Wisdom is recognizing when to act, and when to be still.
Rather than verbalize, analyze or hypothesize, The High Priestess offers a chance to directly experience Mystery through our visions, dreams, and our intuition. She invites us to the understanding hidden within our own bodies.
Our culture shuns the irrational and only recognizes as valid that which is linear, verbal, and logical. Yet The High Priestess is the deep brain of instinct. She opens the doorway to that most holy communion, which is wild and inexplicable, and deeply intimate to us alone.
In the words of the late, and aptly named, Shekhinah Mountainwater, “She is the receptive and sensitive part of us, which we need for successful magic as well as personal wholeness.”
May our old fears of the unknown melt into the discovery of Mystery’s beauty, and may the deep knowing that cannot be spoken guide us to wholeness, with the greatest of wisdom.