The High Priestess Tarot Card Meaning

At the heart of the tarot deck lies the Major Arcana, a set of 22 cards that represent life’s significant events and spiritual lessons. Among these powerful cards stands “The High Priestess” a figure shrouded in mystery and intuition. As the second card in the Major Arcana, following “The Magician,” she embodies the passive, introspective energies that contrast with the active force of the preceding card. Often depicted sitting between two pillars, one black and one white, The High Priestess is a guardian of secrets, a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious, and a symbol of the deep, intuitive knowledge that resides within us all.

As we delve deeper into the meaning and significance of “The High Priestess” tarot card, we’ll uncover the layers of symbolism that make this card one of the most intriguing and spiritually enriching in the tarot deck.

Historical Background

The tarot, with its rich tapestry of symbols and stories, has evolved over centuries, and with it, the imagery and significance of each card. “The High Priestess” is no exception, with a history as enigmatic as the figure it portrays.

Origins and history of “The High Priestess” card

The origins of “The High Priestess” can be traced back to the earliest tarot decks from the 15th century, where she was often referred to as “La Papessa” or “The Popess“. This early representation was believed to be inspired by the legend of Pope Joan, a woman who allegedly disguised herself as a man and reigned as pope during the Middle Ages. The card was a symbol of hidden knowledge and the power of femininity in a predominantly patriarchal religious structure.

As tarot evolved from a card game to a tool of divination in the 18th and 19th centuries, the imagery and meaning of “The High Priestess” began to shift. No longer tied to the legend of Pope Joan, she transformed into a more universal symbol of intuition, mystery, and the subconscious mind.

Evolution of its imagery and symbolism over time

In the iconic Rider-Waite tarot deck, designed by A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith in the early 20th century, “The High Priestess” is depicted seated between two pillars, labelled ‘B’ and ‘J’, representing the pillars of King Solomon’s temple, Boaz and Jachin. She holds a scroll labelled “Torah” (The Torah is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, namely the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), indicating the divine law, and wears a crown with the moon, symbolising her connection to the unconscious and the cycles of life.

The crescent moon at her feet and the pomegranates on the tapestry behind her further emphasise her ties to the feminine, the cyclical nature of life, and the mysteries of the subconscious. Over time, as various tarot decks emerged, the imagery of “The High Priestess” has seen subtle changes, but her core essence as a guardian of secrets and a bridge between realms remains consistent.

From the Marseilles deck’s “La Papessa” to the Thoth deck’s “Priestess”, each interpretation offers a unique perspective on this powerful card, reflecting the changing societal views on femininity, spirituality, and intuition.


Card Imagery and Symbolism

The High Priestess, with her serene and enigmatic presence, is a card rich in symbolism. Every element, from the grand pillars flanking her to the subtle hues of her robes, carries a depth of meaning that offers insights into the card’s essence.

Detailed description of the card’s imagery

In the centre of the card sits The High Priestess, a regal figure exuding calm and wisdom. She is seated on a stone bench, representing the solid foundation of knowledge. Behind her, a tapestry adorned with pomegranates hangs, veiling the entrance to a temple or sacred space. Her position between the pillars and in front of the veil signifies her role as a mediator between the conscious and the subconscious realms.

Explanation of key symbols present on the card

  • The Pillars: Flanking The High Priestess are two pillars, one black (labelled ‘B’ for Boaz) and one white (labelled ‘J’ for Jachin). These pillars are reminiscent of those found in King Solomon’s temple and represent duality – masculine and feminine, dark and light, conscious and unconscious. The High Priestess sits between them, symbolising balance and unity.
  • The Moon: A crescent moon lies at her feet, reflecting her deep connection to intuition, the subconscious, and the feminine cycles of life. The moon also signifies the ebb and flow of emotions and the mysteries that lie beneath the surface.
  • The Scroll: In her lap, she holds a scroll labelled “Torah”, which can be interpreted as the divine law or teachings. This scroll, only partially revealed, suggests that there is hidden knowledge or truths yet to be unveiled.
  • The Cross on her Chest: The equal-armed cross on her chest is a symbol of equilibrium and the union of opposites. It emphasises her role as a bridge between dualities.

Interpretation of colours and their significance

  • Blue Robes: The deep blue of her robes signifies knowledge, truth, and intuition. It also represents depth, suggesting the profound insights and wisdom she embodies.
  • White Trim: The white trim on her robe and the white pillar symbolise purity, clarity, and enlightenment. It’s a reminder of the clarity that can be found through introspection and meditation.
  • Pomegranate Pattern: The red pomegranates on the tapestry behind her are symbols of fertility, abundance, and the divine feminine. They also hint at the mysteries of life and the knowledge that is both hidden and abundant.
  • Golden Crown: The gold of her crown represents divine connection, spiritual enlightenment, and the highest truth.

The High Priestess, in her entirety, is a visual symphony of symbols and colours, each harmonising with the other to convey a message of introspection, intuition, and the vast reservoir of wisdom that lies within.


Upright Meaning of The High Priestess

When The High Priestess graces a tarot reading in her upright position, she brings with her a profound message of intuition, inner knowledge, and the unseen mysteries of life. She encourages the querent to look beyond the surface, to trust their inner voice, and to embrace the wisdom that resides deep within.

General meaning when the card appears upright in a reading

The appearance of The High Priestess in its upright position often signifies a time of introspection and inner reflection. She encourages a pause, a moment to listen to one’s intuition and to trust the subconscious insights that are bubbling to the surface. This card suggests that not everything is as it seems, and there are deeper truths and mysteries to be unveiled. It’s a call to trust one’s inner guidance and to seek answers from within rather than relying solely on external sources.

Significance in different aspects of life

  • Love and Relationships: In the context of love, The High Priestess suggests a deep, intuitive connection between partners. It may also indicate that there are hidden depths or secrets in a relationship that need to be unveiled. For singles, it encourages listening to one’s intuition about potential partners or situations.
  • Career and Finance: In matters of work and finance, this card advises trusting one’s instincts about a job opportunity or financial decision. It might also hint at unseen potentials or hidden factors at play in one’s career. The High Priestess encourages a thoughtful approach, suggesting that the answers lie within, waiting to be discovered.
  • Health and Well-being: When it comes to health, The High Priestess is a reminder to pay attention to one’s body and its subtle signals. It’s a call to trust one’s intuition about health matters and to seek inner balance. Meditation, mindfulness, and activities that connect one to their inner self can be beneficial.
  • Personal Growth and Spirituality: On a spiritual level, The High Priestess is a beacon of inner wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. She encourages a deep dive into the subconscious, exploration of dreams, and the pursuit of spiritual knowledge. This card is a reminder that each individual holds a wealth of wisdom within, and it’s a journey of discovery to unlock it.

In her upright position, The High Priestess serves as a gentle yet powerful reminder of the vast reservoir of knowledge, intuition, and spiritual insight that resides within each of us. She encourages a journey inward, assuring that the answers we seek are often closer than we think.


The High Priestess in Different Tarot Decks

The tarot, with its rich history and diverse interpretations, has given birth to a myriad of decks, each with its unique artistic flair and symbolic nuances. “The High Priestess,” as one of the core cards of the Major Arcana, has been depicted in various ways across these decks, reflecting the evolving perspectives on her symbolism and significance.

Comparison of “The High Priestess” imagery in various popular tarot decks

  • Rider-Waite: In the iconic Rider-Waite deck, The High Priestess is depicted as a serene woman seated between two pillars, with a tapestry of pomegranates behind her. She holds a scroll labelled “Torah” and has a crescent moon at her feet. This imagery emphasises her role as a mediator between dualities and her connection to the mysteries of the subconscious.
  • Crowley-Harris Thoth: Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck offers a more abstract and esoteric representation. Here, The High Priestess is named “Priestess of the Silver Star” and is shown with a bow across her lap, symbolising the ties between the conscious and unconscious. The background features a blend of blues and moons, highlighting her lunar associations and deep intuitive powers.
  • Marseilles: In the Tarot de Marseilles, an older deck, she is often referred to as “La Papessa” or “The Popess”. This depiction leans more towards the historical figure of Pope Joan, with the High Priestess donning a papal crown and holding a sceptre.
  • Modern Decks: Contemporary decks, such as the Wild Unknown or the Shadowscapes Tarot, bring fresh interpretations. In some, she might be intertwined with nature, surrounded by animals, or even portrayed as a figure of pure energy, reflecting modern understandings of intuition and inner wisdom.

How different decks interpret the card’s symbolism

While the core essence of The High Priestess as a figure of intuition, mystery, and inner knowledge remains consistent across decks, the nuances of her symbolism can vary:

  • In the Rider-Waite, her connection to the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem and the divine law is emphasised through the pillars and the “Torah” scroll.
  • The Thoth deck, with its deep esoteric leanings, focuses on her as a cosmic entity, a bridge between the realms of reality and the vast expanse of the universe.
  • The Tarot de Marseilles, with its historical bent, ties her more to earthly power and the hidden strengths of femininity in a patriarchal structure.
  • Modern decks often infuse her with contemporary themes of self-discovery, empowerment, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Across the myriad of tarot decks, The High Priestess remains a powerful symbol of the depths of intuition, the mysteries of the subconscious, and the untapped wisdom that lies within us all. Each deck offers a unique lens through which to understand and connect with her profound energies.


Tips for Reading The High Priestess in a Spread

The High Priestess, with her aura of mystery and intuition, can bring profound insights into a tarot reading. However, her messages can sometimes be subtle, requiring a keen intuitive sense to decipher. Here are some tips to help you navigate her presence in a spread:

Guidance on how to interpret the card in different positions within a tarot spread

  • Past Position: When The High Priestess appears in the past position, it suggests a period of introspection, reflection, or a time when you relied heavily on your intuition. It can also indicate past secrets or hidden truths that influenced your current situation.
  • Present Position: In the present, she beckons you to pause and listen to your inner voice. There may be more to a situation than meets the eye, and it’s essential to trust your instincts. It’s a call to delve deeper and seek answers from within.
  • Future Position: As a future card, The High Priestess hints at upcoming mysteries, revelations, or a period where your intuition will play a crucial role. It suggests that while not everything is clear now, the answers will unveil themselves in time.
  • Outcome or Advice Position: Here, she serves as a reminder to trust your inner wisdom and not rush decisions. She advises patience, introspection, and reliance on one’s intuitive abilities to navigate challenges.

Common card combinations and their meanings

  • The High Priestess + The Moon: Both cards resonate with intuition, the subconscious, and mysteries. Together, they amplify the need to trust one’s instincts and suggest that there are hidden depths or secrets yet to be revealed.
  • The High Priestess + The Emperor: This combination speaks of balancing intuition with action. While The High Priestess embodies introspection and inner wisdom, The Emperor represents structure, authority, and control. Together, they advise blending intuition with practicality.
  • The High Priestess + Two of Swords: Both cards carry themes of indecision and introspection. This combination suggests a need to look inward for answers and trust one’s intuition when faced with a difficult choice.
  • The High Priestess + The Magician: While The High Priestess represents passive, introspective energies, The Magician embodies active, manifesting forces. Together, they indicate a harmonious blend of inner wisdom and external action, suggesting that now might be a time to act on one’s intuitive insights.

Interpreting The High Priestess in a spread requires a blend of knowledge, intuition, and an open heart. She serves as a reminder that while external guidance can be valuable, the most profound insights often come from the quiet voice within.



The journey through the world of tarot is one of discovery, introspection, and profound insights. Among the tapestry of cards that make up the Major Arcana, “The High Priestess” stands as a beacon of inner wisdom, mystery, and the vast reservoir of intuition that resides within us all. Her serene presence and enigmatic aura serve as a reminder of the depths that lie beneath the surface, waiting to be explored.

From her historical origins as “La Papessa” to her modern-day interpretations across various tarot decks, The High Priestess has consistently symbolised the bridge between the conscious and the subconscious, the known and the unknown. Her imagery, rich in symbolism, beckons readers to delve deeper, to seek the hidden truths, and to trust the voice within.

As we conclude our exploration of “The High Priestess” tarot card, it’s essential to remember that while knowledge and understanding of the card’s symbolism are crucial, the true essence of tarot reading lies in intuition. The High Priestess, in all her wisdom, encourages each of us to trust that inner voice, to listen to the whispers of the soul, and to embrace the mysteries of life with an open heart and mind.

Whether you’re a seasoned tarot reader or just beginning your journey, let The High Priestess guide you, inspire you, and remind you of the boundless intuition that flows within. Trust in her, trust in the cards, but most importantly, trust in yourself.



  1. What does “The High Priestess” tarot card represent?
    The High Priestess represents intuition, mystery, subconscious knowledge, and the unseen. She embodies the balance between opposites and serves as a mediator between the conscious and unconscious realms. She encourages introspection, trust in one’s inner voice, and the pursuit of deeper truths.
  2. Is “The High Priestess” a positive or negative card?
    The High Priestess is neither inherently positive nor negative. Instead, she embodies a neutral energy that emphasises introspection, intuition, and hidden knowledge. Her presence in a reading suggests a need to trust one’s instincts and to seek answers from within.
  3. What does it mean when “The High Priestess” appears in a love reading?
    In a love context, The High Priestess can indicate a deep, intuitive connection between partners. It may also suggest hidden depths or secrets in a relationship that need exploration. For singles, it encourages listening to one’s intuition about potential partners or situations.
  4. How should I interpret “The High Priestess” in a reversed position?
    When reversed, The High Priestess can indicate ignored intuition, surface-level understanding, or hidden agendas. It may suggest a need to reconnect with one’s inner self or a warning against ignoring subconscious insights.
  5. How does “The High Priestess” compare to other Major Arcana cards?
    While each Major Arcana card has its unique symbolism and significance, The High Priestess stands out as a symbol of the subconscious mind, intuition, and the mysteries of life. She contrasts with cards like The Magician, which represents active, manifesting energy, by embodying passive, introspective energies.
  6. Why is “The High Priestess” often associated with the moon?
    The moon is a symbol of intuition, cycles, and the subconscious. Given The High Priestess’s deep connection to these themes, she is often associated with lunar energy. The crescent moon at her feet in many depictions further emphasises this connection.
  7. Can “The High Priestess” also represent a person in a reading?
    Yes, The High Priestess can represent an individual (regardless of gender) who embodies her qualities. This person may be intuitive, mysterious, wise, or someone who holds secrets. It can also represent the querent themselves, suggesting a need for introspection and trust in one’s intuition.
  8. How does “The High Priestess” relate to feminine energy?
    The High Priestess is often associated with feminine energy due to her connections with intuition, receptivity, and the moon – all traditionally linked to the feminine. She embodies the depth, mystery, and nurturing aspects of the feminine divine.
  9. Is “The High Priestess” card linked to any specific zodiac sign?
    Yes, The High Priestess is commonly associated with the zodiac sign Cancer. Both share strong ties to the moon, intuition, and emotional depth.
  10. What advice does “The High Priestess” offer in career-related readings?
    In a career context, The High Priestess advises the querent to trust their instincts regarding job opportunities or decisions. She might also hint at unseen potentials or hidden factors in one’s career path. It’s a call to rely on inner wisdom and not just external advice.
  11. How does “The High Priestess” card relate to dreams and the subconscious?
    The High Priestess is a bridge to the subconscious mind. Her presence in a reading can indicate that dreams or subconscious insights hold essential messages for the querent. She encourages exploring dream symbolism and paying attention to inner feelings and hunches.
  12. Can “The High Priestess” indicate secrecy or hidden information?
    Yes, given her association with the unknown and the mysteries of life, The High Priestess can sometimes indicate secrets, hidden information, or things not yet revealed. It’s a prompt to look deeper and trust one’s intuition to uncover the truth.
  13. How should a beginner approach “The High Priestess” when learning tarot?
    For beginners, it’s essential to understand that The High Priestess embodies intuition, inner wisdom, and the mysteries of the subconscious. Engaging in meditation, journaling, or intuitive exercises can help one connect more deeply with the energy of this card.
  14. Are there any crystals that complement the energy of “The High Priestess”?
    Moonstone and selenite are two crystals that resonate with The High Priestess’s energy. Both stones enhance intuition, connect with lunar energy, and aid in accessing the deeper layers of the subconscious.



  1. Waite, Arthur Edward (February 1926). “The Great Symbols of the Tarot.” The Occult Review. 43 (2): 85–86.
  2. Andrews, Evan (September 2018). “Who was Pope Joan?” A&E Television Networks.
  3. Moakley, Gertrude (1966). The tarot cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza family: an iconographic and historical study. The New York Public Library. ISBN 9780871041753.
  4. Waite, Arthur Edward (1910). The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. London: William Rider & Son. pp. 13, 76–79.
  5. Burke, Juliet (1985). The complete book of tarot. London: Pan. p. 35–36. ISBN 9780330289740.
  6. For more information about Tarot checkout the Ultimate Guide to Tarot.


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