Tarot Tales: The High Priestess

The High Priestess represents intuition, mystery, and divine feminine energy. It’s card two in the Major Arcana, and follows the Magician. She’s the guardian of secrets and hidden knowledge.

In the Rider Waite Smith deck, the High Priestess sits at a temple’s entry (believed to be the Temple of Solomon). She’s between two great pillars – one black and one white. These pillars symbolise the balance between opposites: light and dark, conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine energy. The ‘B’ on the black pillar stands for Boaz, or ‘his strength.’ The ‘J’ on the white pillar stands for Jachin, meaning ‘he will establish.’ She sits in front of a veil, indicating the hidden aspects of the universe she alone can access, until you yourself are initiated. Pomegranates are throughout the artwork, a symbol of abundance, the underworld, and the divine feminine. She holds a scroll of Greater Law, wears the Moon’s three phases as a crown, and at her feet is the crescent moon, another connection to arcane feminine wisdom.

The High Priestess is connected to the subconscious mind and the higher realms of knowledge. She encourages us to tap into intuition and the ‘inner voice,’ even when logic and reason seem to be leading us in a different direction.

What is instinct telling you? What do you know to be true, deep down?

In the Thoth deck, this card is named the Priestess, or Papess. She’s holding the veil across the card, so it hangs between you, and her behind it. Her crown is also the three phases of the Moon – waxing, full, and waning. She has a bow and arrow across her legs, which connects her to the Egyptian goddess, Neith – the weaver goddess of the cosmos, fate, and wisdom. At her feet are crystals, flowers and fruits, and a camel.

This Priestess shows us there’s another reality on the other side of our conscious state. Normally, we meet this reality in dreams, however she indicates we can achieve it in the physical realm when we move past logic, and into our ancient instincts and connection.

The High Priestess invites us to trust in unseen forces, divine grace and ancient wisdom. Sometimes the answers we seek are not found in the external world, but within ourselves.

The High Priestess Reversed

When drawn reversed, the High Priestess suggests a lack of trust, or ignoring the inner voice. There’s probably feelings of self-doubt. She can also point to secrets and hidden agendas. Are there things going on behind the scenes you’re not aware of, or a sense of uncertainty in your life? Importantly – do you already know the answer to this, but are preferring to look the other way and ignore your deeper instincts?

Spiritually, you could be feeling disconnected from your higher self, or struggling to find meaning.

The High Priestess is like the inner sanctum of a temple – the cool, quiet place you can go to just be still, and find deeper answers. It’s in these spaces, when the noise is silenced and distractions removed, that we usually find what we’re looking for.

Step beyond the veil, and trust in what lies behind it.


Polly is a practicing witch who primarily works with Persephone, Brigid and the Cailleach. She's the High Priestess expert on seasonal Australian practice and archetypal symbolism, and is a teacher at Witch School.