II • The High Priestess
Hebrew letter
Priestess of the Silver Star

ON the surface this is a card of purity, but within the wider bounds of this idea lies the concept of things hidden or concealed. The High Priestess is the receptacle of secret knowledge and wisdom, the mysteries which will only be revealed when the candidate is suitably prepared. She is the immaculate queen of heaven.

Isis, the lunar goddess, was one of the most popular of all Ancient Egyptian deities. She was the sister and wife of Osiris. The High Priestess is the higher spiritual counterpart of the earthly Empress. The High Priestess is the middle pillar on the Tree of Life.

Her robe is blue, the colour traditionally associated with the High Priestess card. It is a symbolic colour of the moon, and in Christian iconography the colour of the Virgin Mary. It denotes truth, revelation, wisdom, chastity, prudence, piety, peace and contemplation. It is the colour of the waters and of the sky. The ankh represents the combining in a single form of male and female symbols, the union and unification of the sexes. It is the key to the mysteries. The mystical union of heaven and earth. The marriage of lsis and Osiris. Its colour is menstrual red. The papyrus roll represents knowledge as yet unrevealed. It is the book of the law. As with the whole card, the papyrus represents Gnosis - it is the Word.

The dove is one of the sacred birds of Isis, a representation of submissive innocence, purity and virginity. It is white (purity again), the colour of the moon. Conversely, it is the holy spirit, the agent of divine impregnation. Through the action implied by the dove, the virgin becomes the mother, Priestess becomes the Empress, the idea becomes manifest on the earthly plain. This is the first throne depicted in the cards of the Major Arcana. In Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs some pictures represented sounds. The picture of a throne represented the sound 'Ase' or 'Eset' this was the name by which Isis was known. The throne is the physical embodiment of Isis.

Astrologically this card corresponds to the moon. It is a feminine symbol. The moon is a ruler of the subconscious mind, governing insight, instinct and intuition rather than logic and rationality. As the moon she is the visible reflection of the divine light. A veil of silver-grey cloth hangs between the pillars, concealing the horizon directly behind the High Priestess. It is decorated with images of lotus flowers. The veil itself symbolises the darkness before dawn, the darkness that will be cast aside or rent by the rising sun. It represents the state before enlightenment, the promise of the revelation of forthcoming initiation. The veil also suggests the concealed entrance to the subconscious levels of the psyche. Like many other elements in this card the veil is also an emblem of virginity.

Interpretation The card suggests that insight into problems produces a solution. Hidden knowledge. A change for the better. The favourable influence of a woman. Intuition and psychic experiences. Purity. Imagination, dreams, perhaps sometimes even nightmares. Hypnosis. Spiritual rather than mundane interests. The High Priestess is the bride before the wedding.