There is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don’t even know it.
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
Prepare yourself for the fabric of the mundane to part; a time of power and mystery is upon us. During this week that begins with the holy day of the Goddess (and Saint) Brighid, which flows into the ancient festival of Imbolc, it should come as no surprise that in perfect timing The High Priestess comes to call.
The High Priestess’ throne is the cubic stone, the Philosopher’s Stone of alchemy, from which all things may be transformed.
As mentioned in my series about the Hierophant Year, she gazes straight into our eyes from between the columns of Boaz and Jachin, pillars of the Temple of Solomon. Her temple is also recognizable as that of the great Goddess Isis, as well as the Shekhinah, the Hebrew God’s glory made manifest in the world and, according to the mystical Kabbalists, the feminine face of the Divine.
The 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.
The High Priestess bridges and balances the space between, holding the scrolled Torah, the book of Law. In her, the opposites are reconciled.
The veil behind her 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 the Goddess Isis that she wears.
Yet she is also a priestess of the Sun, as it is a solar cross that covers her heart. Is it only coincidence that the equal-armed cross is also the symbol of blessed Brighid, Whose holy day we celebrate Feb. 1?
The Promptings from Within
The High Priestess offers the hidden, the inexplicable, the non-verbal Knowing. She is the gateway to our direct, unchaperoned communion with the Divine.
With her help, we access the indomitable voice from within, the deep soul guidance that we can only name “Mystery.” She shows us our inner beauty and teaches the skills we need, to access the wisdom within our hearts.
She is pre- or non-verbal in her knowledge. Her path is never linear, but curved; more accurately, it is the spiral path of Life’s journey. Thus she teaches how to reflect and find our own sacred patterns and rhythms.
Hers is the face of the Feminine Divine that is both the independent Maiden, and the ancient Wise One.
Again, is it only an accident that today – this very day – is the observance of the Wheel of the Year’s miraculous shift from the Winter and Crone time of the year, ruled by, for instance, the Callieach, to the first stirrings of Spring, as overseen by Brighid?
For it is precisely now that we give honor to both Maiden and Crone and the ways that they are intertwined and interdependent.
And is it simply a fluke that the eyes of the world turn on this day to the priestesses/nuns at Kildare, Ireland, who are tending an ancient flame that has made its home there (despite some centuries of repression) for millennia?
Challenging the Status Quo
The Tarot’s High Priestess is not always comfortable company. Unlike The Empress, the mothering nurturer that makes everyone feel like cherished family, the High Priestess challenges us. She holds the authority of silence, containment, and being sovereign unto herself. Hers is the power of those things so intimate, so ancient within us, that we cannot, indeed should not, attempt to express them in words.
She is the aspect of undomesticated feminine power (belonging to both men and women) that has been feared, punished, shunned, and demonized for thousands of years, by misogynist cultures and institutions. She is not the Mother Goddess, but the self-possessed Maiden/Crone Goddess of magic, potential, secrets, and inner understanding.
In short, her gifts can be extraordinary. Taking this time for your own inner explorations may be profoundly valuable, and certainly in harmony with Mercury retrograde’s encouragement to pause and reflect.
Sovereign of Imbolc’s Initiation
After Imbolc, life begins unfolding from its wintry sleep, and Spring’s stirrings will grow with the increasing light each day. That is why so many of us dedicate to new studies, new practices, and the next level of our magickal work at this time.
So on this cusp of the changeover from Winter’s silence to Spring’s awakenings, perhaps the High Priestess urges us to consider carefully the vows we make for this time of initiation and rebirth.
Are your dreams and premonitions on high alert at this time? What do you seek behind her veil? In what ways might you rejuvenate your service and devotion in the coming season?
Unlike The Hierophant, who prefers to verbalize, analyze, or hypothesize, and who acts as our bridge and mediator, the High Priestess stands at the threshold which we must cross if we are to directly experience the Divine through our visions, our intuition, and the understanding hidden within our own bodies.
You need only ask.
May we welcome this turning of the seasons with the blessings of this great Priestess – she who waits for us at the doorway to the Temple; poised, as are we also, at this ancient and sacred gateway.
May any residual fears of the unknown melt into wonder and appreciation of the Mystery that is everywhere, and is not hidden at all, for those with the hearts to see.
Most especially, as is called upon in Doreen Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess, may she embolden your inmost divine self to be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.