The High Priestess
By Seamus Anthony
The High Priestess tarot card is rich with symbology relating to the unconscious mind. She sits in front of a veil that separates us from this vast sea of thought, memory and feelings related to our past. Some psychologists say each of us have in our life an ocean of the mind that we do not ordinarily feel aware of even though its influence is strong in our daily lives. You can see this ocean illustrated in the card, just behind the High Priestess’ veil.
The High Priestess comes to tell us that we can access and explore this part of the mind if we are prepared to and that there are good reasons to do so. She also serves as a kind of gatekeeper, not there so much to stop us from entering into the unconscious realm but to gently warn us as to the gravity of the undertaking. For once we begin down the road to self-discovery, once we push aside the veil and explore these previously hidden aspects of ourselves, there is no turning back. You cannot undo self-awareness; rather you must then persevere until you come out the other side as a self-empowered and whole person, healed and self-actualized (as represented by The World card).
The High Priestess Tarot Card = No Free Lunch
The thing is, before we get to the unified whole that is the ideal result of this inner journey we must pass through such trials as the Tower, the Devil and the Moon. By this it is meant you must face your demons and explore the pain body that you carry around with you, sorting through its contents and finding methods to release the pain that you carry with you until it is healed.
People who never step past the veil may never become self-aware. They may go through life with no clue as to their urges to self-medicate, their inability to be happy with their lot or why they live re-actively, finding fault with others everywhere and acting out from a place of fear.
Those who do step through the veil and explore their own inner existence begin to understand their motivations, why they are how they are, why they feel how they do. But this does not make healing easy, and in all probability the psycho-spiritual wounds they seek to heal will feel worse before they get better. They are like a man who does not feel any pain until he looks down and notices that he has been seriously wounded and is suddenly engulfed in agony. I am not saying that ignorance is bliss necessarily, I don’t think people with low self-awareness are very happy, but neither are most people who do have a strong measure of self-awareness and I think this is because their healing journey is incomplete, possibly stalled.
Pomegranates and Palms
Once I was studying and meditating on the High Priestess and I came across some information about the symbology that is on the veil. Decorating her veil is nothing less than a very major and important “secret” to your successful journey to healing and indeed to any major achievement in life: the pomegranates and palms. The pomegranates represent a determined will to see an idea through (a feminine energy trait – see also the Empress tarot card) and the palms represent the action needed in the real world to make it happen (a male energy trait). A definite major purpose backed by relentless, focused, persistent action.
At the risk of flirting with old fashioned, sexist ideas, it reminds me of the archetype of the man on a mission backed up and driven on by a powerful wife. Without the woman’s clarity of mind and determination of purpose, the man would not have the ability to stay the course long enough to see a result. Like most clichés, there’s a lot of real world truth in this. I think most men, me included, would get a lot less done without the strength and clarity of purpose of a feisty female partner. Of course there are always going to be plenty of exceptions to this rule (he hastily added, before moving on).
I would suggest that by choosing material patterned in this way, the High Priestess is handing to us some major advice to help us to make this journey through the murky, often confusing and certainly quite emotional realms of the unconscious. She is saying to you “Look, if you decide to go past this point, you cannot just turn around and go back when the going gets rough. You cannot simply “un-know” the truths you will discover in here. So go in with a clear purpose and then support this mission with the wherewithal to follow through until you are done, no matter how rough the seas get as you journey through to healing and wholeness”.
The High Priestess’ Message To You
If you came to the High Priestess looking for a sign that you are on the right path, the pomegranates and the palms are telling you to approach your challenge with clarity of mind and purpose backed up by determined effort. Note: there are no guarantees – but this approach greatly increases your chances of success.
If you came to High Priestess looking for healing or personal growth you may be receiving a message that it is time to “look under the hood” as such (via meditation, therapy, healing modalities, etc.) and explore how your unconscious mind is affecting your happiness, health and success in your day-to-day life. In order to heal, explore how you can access and work on the issues you will find there, but do not expect the journey to be easy or quick.