When the High Priestess comes up in a reading, it can signify the start of a new spiritual path. It can also mean that all our wisdom is within us – it’s an encouragement to look within ourselves. This is a reminder to eschew the external routes to wisdom and listen to our inner guidance.
I feel as though this inner guidance can be exercised like a muscle – both in my everyday life and when reading in tarot. When I first started reading the tarot, I was reliant upon the textbook definitions and unwilling to recognise the times when images would tug at memories and personal meanings. However, the more experience I have in this respect, the more I am willing to immerse myself in my own personal symbology.
Additionally, new cultural associations may arise as time passes and our own history writes itself. For example, in the Voyager Tarot’s High Priestess, we can have more cultural associations with Nefertiti herself now than ever before, as a recent expedition has identified the so-called ‘Younger Lady’ (KV35YL) as, more likely than not, Nefertiti. However, the woman’s body was damaged, her mouth smashed so as to prevent her from speaking her own name to cross over to the afterlife. This is a kind of warning, reminding us that living our truth flamboyantly and in a way that affects others can result in criticism and a desire to destroy. This is not usually a reflection of ourselves, but rather a sign that they are unable to voice their own truth.
So, too, can our own personal experiences bring about these types of associations. And just because they are recent doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. Perhaps cultural influences have always dictated that the pomegranates on the cloth behind the High Priestess stand for the Fruit of the Dead. However, recent reading has also explained that the fruits are powerful antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. This added information can bring layers of knowledge and help indicate the most appropriate train of thought to follow.
This is just another way of reading the cards – bringing in our own connections to add depth to a spread’s meaning. Allowing these kinds of associations also helps us become more adept at listening to our hunches. Our inner voice usually starts quietly. However, I often wonder if this type of intuition has been bred out of us, replaced with hyper-reliance on other senses and more tangible signs. I know our dogs often sense something is unusual before we notice it – when a storm is coming, whether a person should be avoided, etc.
However, this is where the High Priestess shines: she is all secrets, intuition, and esoteric knowledge that is known in the soul rather than memorised from a book. With this in mind, our validation can come from within. Internal validation means that senses of superiority and greatness can be sloughed off as unnecessary – we don’t need an inflated ego when working with the Higher Self. In the example of the High Priestess, intuition reigns and the secrets of this kind of knowledge can be kept without the ego stepping in and telling us to show off.