Tara, the Tibetan goddess of compassion and protection, symbolizes New Beginnings in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Deck. If she appears, she will keep the questioner safe from harm as they begin their new adventure. In fact, Tara translates to “She who causes one to cross.” So, the first step of the Tarot Major Arcana journey is one of getting the courage and security to set out on your adventure.
Next is gaining mastery over the self and the environment, represented by the Magician:
And now, after there is self-control and external power, the adventurer becomes introspective, and looks to the abstract.
And we have moved from the Magician to the High Priestess. While the Magician is about skills, the High Priestess is about knowledge, especially knowledge of the Self, and knowledge of the Spirit. Kris Waldherr chose Sarasvati for the High Priestess of the Goddess Deck, and called the card itself Wisdom. Sarasvati is the Hindu goddess of wisdom, music, education, spiritual knowledge, and the arts. She floats on a lotus, a flower that symbolizes resilience. The lotus can grow out of the murkiest depths, and knowledge and enlightenment can occur in the most unlikely places.
Kris Waldherr added many wonderful details to her illustration. Look closely at Sarasvati’s arms, of which she has four. This shows the reach of wisdom; enlightenment can be found in all four corners of the earth. Also, to connect her to the Magician, I would say that the four arms can symbolize the four elements, of which the High Priestess would also have mastery. The four limbs can be spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional well being and balance, as well. The book is education and commitment to learning. The beads represent spiritual commitment and ritual, and the lute she strums symbolizes music, the marriage of both the left and right brain, showing both emotional and logical balance.
The Celtic Deck’s High Priestess is shown standing in front of the moon, a symbol of feminine intuition, wisdom, and the subconscious. The moon is full to show the fertility of her imagination. Her robes are those of a priestess, someone who has been initiated onto the path. The inside of her robes is dark blue, the color of the night and the subconscious. Her sash is gold, the color of solar or male energy, showing her ability to translate this knowledge from subconscious to conscious, abstract to concrete. She stands on a verdant green lawn, vines climbing up the bricks. This is a place of mystery. If the High Priestess comes into a spread, secrets may be revealed.
Since The High Priestess is shown outdoors, she shows an understanding and a closeness to nature, a potent source of wisdom, and a source as beloved and valuable to the High Priestess as any book.
Robin Wood’s High Priestess shows a woman wearing a robe in shades of blue and green, the colors of night and of water, both associated with the feminine, the subconscious, and dreams. She holds a book, to show her devotion to study, and a crystal ball, to show her sharp intuition. Her hair is black, in keeping with the mysterious colors of night, and is highlighted with silver, a feminine color because of its association with the moon (gold and the sun are masculine). Her necklace is, if you look closely, a pentacle. She also has mastery over the four elements. Her headband has a crescent moon, which is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, as well as the cyclical nature of life, as the moon wanes or “dies” and then waxes, or is “reborn.”
In a reading, the season depicted in the card may seem to be autumn/early winter, or early spring. The beauty of the Robin Wood deck is the careful detailing. One detail may stick out to you out of all the others on the card. What does this detail tell you? What does it mean to you? Why does it stick out?
Barbara G. Walker’s Papess is also full of exquisite detail. What stands out to me, right now, are the Alpha and Omega symbols on the pillars behind the Papess. Her knowledge is the beginning, the end, and everything in between. She studies the book in her lap, calm and alert, flanked by the ivory towers of accomplishment. These ivory towers may mean something else to you. On the ground in front of the Papess are two keys, which allow insights, foresights, and treasures of the subconscious to be yielded to the questioner.
At first glance, the Papess may appear to be wearing a Devo hat. This is actually meant to represent a beehive, and at the top is a crescent moon, the symbol of cycles and regeneration. The High Priestess/Papess, because of her wisdom, understands and accepts the cycles of life. The beehive is symbolic of devotion, for she is as intent on gathering wisdom as the bees are at gathering nectar. Just as bees instinctively go to the best flowers, she uses her intuition to guide her. She is wearing purple, the color of royalty, and the other dominant colors of the card are red and white–red is commonly associated with passion, and white with purity. What do these colors mean to you?
If the questioner receives this card, it could represent aspects of the questioner. The questioner may be going through a period where they feel passionate about learning. They may be having very intense, even prophetic dreams. They may be feeling very close to nature, or may have had a transcendent experience in a sacred place.
The High Priestess/Papess may also represent someone in the questioner’s life. This person may be very encouraging, intuitive, and/or intelligent. This may be a female teacher, therapist, or mentor, especially in a spiritual capacity, a mother in an initiator role, or a friend who gives good advice.
The archetype of a High Priestess, which can also be found in a male, is that of an intuitive, wise, spiritual woman, a woman who perhaps is close to nature. She may be mysterious, but nurturing.
In its reversed aspect, the High Priestess could indicate a stinginess with wisdom–the questioner or a person in the questioner’s life is choosing not to help a someone seeking answers. It can also indicate someone who thinks he or she is wise but is actually not experienced enough to give accurate counsel. It can also mean an estrangement from one’s own intuition or subconscious, or a refusal to follow one’s gut feelings. The High Priestess in reverse can also show that the questioner, or someone close, is having a full-blown spiritual crisis.