Understanding Tarot: The High Priestess

the high priestess tarot

Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck

This article is written by Tarot Reader, Claire Chilvers. You can find out more about her insights and readings at @ClaireChilversTarot

The High Priestess is the second mentor that The Fool meets as he continues along his life’s journey. 

The Fool has already met The Magician, with his powerful masculine energy, who has explained the power of thought and intention.  

I often wonder how The Fool must feel when he is beginning to grasp this first lesson and then meets another mentor with a message just as powerful and difficult to master. 

The High Priestess opens up a whole new area that needs to be understood and experienced – feelings and intuition.

Feelings are as powerful as thoughts and can invoke all sorts of reactions in us. The High Priestess has experienced and understood them all and now intuitively knows when to use them.

The High Priestess is often referred to as Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. She was abducted by Hades to be his wife. Her mother, Demeter (who we shall meet soon as The Empress), was so distraught that she could not retrieve her beloved daughter that she halted all the growth of the flowers and plants in the world. 

The death of nature and a permanent Winter would have been disastrous for the world (and the underworld), so a deal was sought to return Persephone – as long as she had not eaten fruits from the underworld.

Unfortunately, she had eaten pomegranate seeds, so the compromise was that she return to the world for half of the year. She returns in Spring and stays for Summer, then retreats back to the underworld in the Autumn as the world begins to transition to Winter again.  

If you think about your own feelings as we move through the seasons, you can see why The High Priestess is so suitable for teaching The Fool about the many varied feelings and how to manage them successfully through his life.

This is also symbolized beautifully by the additional fact that this card is ruled by The Moon. It can be seen in full on her crown and as a crescent wrapped in her robe. 

The Moon, like our High Priestess, has to spend times in complete darkness, but has the opportunity to shine at its fullest too.  

Everything about this Tarot card brings us back to this message of duality and balance. Its numerological significance is the number two. The two pillars that sit either side of The High Priestesses throne, one black, one white – to symbolize the conscious and sub-conscious, the veil (adorned with pomegranate seeds) that is hung behind her throne, reminding us of the world outside but only giving us a glimpse of the view.  A peek to the side of the veil shows us the sea yet only our intuition can feel whether it is calm or not. 


This beautiful maiden and her intense feminine energy reminds us that we too all have cycles of darkness and light within us. 

There are times when we feel that we are in the darkest of underworlds with no chance of light shining on us, and other times when we are shining brightly like the Moon illuminating the world around us. 

Finding balance between the darkness and the light is part of the human experience and is one of the messages that The High Priestess brings us, along with the hope that we have the ability to harness these feelings for the higher good and with comfort that this is something we all experience as we go through our life’s journey.

So, how do we do manage all these feelings and not drown as they wash over us like the tides that are manipulated by the Moon? 

How do we learn to be in tune with our feelings and let them help us and guide us?  

By using and trusting our own intuition, and this is one of the key messages that The High Priestess passes on to us.

Our intuition is a part of all of us, it is our sixth sense, the times when we instinctively feel that something is wrong or right. 

When we see the High Priestess in a reading it can be to remind us of this wonderful intuitive gift we have and to either trust it or use it more.

If we are out of practice using our intuition or feel that we have lost our way, perhaps we too need to retreat into the darkness for a while like our maiden does.   

Like the New Moon, who we cannot see as it’s hidden from view, we can take time to retreat in order to re-energize and rebirth our senses. 

Dreams are often a way for our intuition to speak to us. Have you ever woken from a night’s sleep and a problem has been solved, or a new idea formed? Or when you can’t see the right path to follow, have you been advised to “sleep on it”?

Intuition is such a quiet voice within us and sometimes feels like it is hidden away from us and impossible to hear, but, we have to practice listening. 

Listening is often a skill that we all should practice more often – I know that is certainly true for me at times – my son often tells me!

With the holiday season fast approaching quiet contemplation can be almost impossible for some. 

Having time to listen to your inner voice which can guide us through the waves of feelings that wash over us in a busy and perhaps stressful time is important. 

We should not feel afraid to retreat from the world for a little while to gain some insight or perspective. Whether that be to catch up on sleep, meditate or taking a walk by the sea, or in the moonlight – make time to connect with yourself.

And if you need inspiration, take your High Priestess Tarot card with you as you dream, walk or reflect. 

She may well whisper some inspiration to you or provide a few helpful messages along the way.  She may reveal some hidden clues to help you make sense of your life’s journey.

Read More:

Understanding Tarot: The Fool’s Journey

Understanding Tarot: The Magician’s Message

About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com.