The High Priestess

The High Priestess
The three main religions derived from Abraham, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, have all attempted in some way to exclude women. In some respects this is because the old religions were much more about goddesses than gods. The patriarchal approach of the newer religions sought to suppress this, though Christianity capitulated to some extent by elevating Mary. But even today, we still see the oppression of women as a key element of these major religions - forcing them to cover themselves, denying them basic rights etc.

Why this patriarchal frenzy? One idea is that throughout history, male society has been terrified of female menstruation. This monthly (lunar month) is completely natural, yet inspires an irrational fear amongst men. Some superstitions even state that a drop of menstrual blood will kill plants! Another is that men have been always puzzled and perplexed by the way women behave.

Our society is based on outer achievement, the accumulation of material wealth. Yet, as we have shown, life is incomplete unless we can connect with our inner and psychic selves. In this modern world, men feel that they are the active ones while women remain passive and mysterious. Passivity is linked to reflection which is linked to the spiritual side. Over time, women have come to stand for this dark and mysterious side of life.

The High Priestess represents these qualities of darkness, psychic forces, mystery, passivity and wisdom. She sits on her throne flanked by two pillars and in front of a screen. Behind the screen, you can catch glimpses of water. This sea represents the sea of our emotions, our inner self. Where the Magician dealt with external forces, the High Priestess is the guardian of unconscious awareness. As we are still very near the beginning of our journey, we are not yet privy to what is behind screen. We are not in touch with our inner side.

In readings, the High Priestess deals with the mystery in life, the things we don't know and the things we cannot know. It indicates a sense of darkness, perhaps fear, perhaps beauty. A period of passive withdrawal can enrich our lives by allowing things to awaken from within us. As an emblem of secret knowledge, she hints that the solutions we seek may be within us. Perhaps we instinctively know them, but can't quite put our finger on it.

While the High Priestess symbolises our potential, reversed it can sometimes be more negative. Too much passivity perhaps. Being passive for too long or at the wrong time, not trusting our instincts, afraid to open up to other people. It all depends on the context.

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