“It’s all how you set it up with the guys upstairs”
— Wendy, my first Tarot Teacher
I took my first course in tarot reading thirty five years ago when I was 18. In the first couple of classes that we took the teacher, Wendy made us learn the strict book meanings of each card. She told us tho that while having that basic grounding was important, we should not get too caught up in the memorization because as we became more experienced, our own interpretations would supersede the book meanings. She pointed out that various books and sources would have different often contradictory spins on each card. “It’s all how you set it up with the guy’s upstairs” she would say. She of course did not mean this literally. Wendy was telling us in her rather airy new age way of speaking that if we had an understanding of the basic force behind each card, the interpretations that made sense to us would be the ones that would work best in our own readings. This advice has served me in good stead not only with tarot but with any form of symbolic work including astrology, runes and ritual work.
When I do a reading for someone, what comes through has a lot to do with the communication between my intuitive self and my conscious self. A given card can have several meanings based on a combination of the card’s base meaning(s), placement and type of spread and an X factor that often supersedes the rest. This X factor can be conscious or unconscious communication from the person receiving the reading or it can be an intuitive (I dislike the word psychic) flash of insight that in this particular case the card means this. I have learned to trust this feeling for it has seldom steered my wrong. Then again, I guess this would indicate that the communication with ‘the guys upstairs’ is two-way.
Holding her secrets
All that anyone may seek
she carries within.
She holds mysterious beauty
bathed in moonlight
I long to know
what lies beneath her veil.
I have lost my way
and need to continue
tho I know not where
I have so many questions
she takes them all
Will she ever speak?
Are answers to be found
in her book
and will she share them
with this bedraggled fool?
Yet we remain
and she remains
untouched and untouching
contained and content
Without her I cannot go on
yet within, within I find my way
across the void desert.
— G A Rosenberg
The High Priestess is feminine to the Magician’s masculine. Where the Magician is active will, she is passive intuition. The Magician gives forth and the High Priestess takes in. She represents the lunar current which ties into the subconscious. When our mind is silent and still any and all answers can arise from us from the abyss which links us to the all.We may not be able to consciously carry the answers back yet the knowledge remains.
Tho the High Priestess represents the feminine, the card also represents the balance between all dualities. After all, everything is contained within the temple of the subconscious. She is at the entrance to the temple between the two pillars, the dark and the light (each which like the yin-yang sign contains a bit of its counterpart). From the interplay of duality almost anything can come forth. She is a figure of devotion, receptive to all. The number 2 (represented by the pillars among other things can be seen as symbolic of the vagina. In silence she accepts all and in silence she answers. Because we can’t hear them spoken, we often believe these answers to come from our own minds.
Astrological Attribution – The Moon (☾) – The astrological moon relates to the unconscious and the messages that come from there. It casts no light of its own but reflects whatever light strikes it (and in turn reflects that light onto whatever it touches). The Moon lights our dark night and shows us what we need to protect ourselves. It goes through cycles of casting greater and lesser amounts of light and influences tides (both in the water and our bodies which are mostly water) and emotions. It is the part of us that knows on a deep intuitive level whether or not we can communicate our knowledge.
Runic Attribution – Pertho The appearance of this card suggests a dice cup (notice the receptive feminine appearance of it) and represents both psychic information, intuition and secrets. The goddess attribution is Freya (the all-mother). As a talisman, it heals mental dis-ease and disquiet among other ailments.It is both a revealer and concealer of secrets. It also represents initiation.
Other Runes connected with the High Priestess are Uruz and Orthilla.
Path on the tree of life: Path 13-Gimel: Gimel means Camel and just as a camel conveys one across the desert, Path 13 is the first path that crosses the abyss linking the spheres of Kether and Tiphareth on the center pillar of the tree. It has been called the Path of highest initiation and is the gate between the soul and the spirit. If Tiphareth is the light of the soul then it can be said that Gimel unites that light with the darkness of all-being. It is also referred to as “the unity directing consciousness”
When the High Priestess turns up in a reading it indicates that this is a time to be silent and tune into our own unconscious and listen to what it is trying to tell us. It tells us to pay attention to dreams and other symbols that may be appearing to us. This may be a time of incredible spiritual growth happening beneath the surface, not yet ready to manifest in the physical. Changes are coming if we but open ourselves to them. In a reading, it may also represent the need for us to turn to our feminine side and the understanding that that gives us. We may have grown inattentive to the Goddess force that lies within all of us (men included). The card may also represent a romance that we may wish for but will not manifest in a sexual way at least. At its most essential tho, the card means to be open to whatever intuitive messages are coming through in whatever area is being asked about.
When the High Priestess is reversed or badly aspected it can mean that we have not been listening to the guidance we have been given and are suffering because of it. It may mean that we are blocking our subconscious and need to find ways to open ourselves up to it. It is a good time to meditate and clear and try to reestablish connections with our inner self. It may be that while the querent is usually well tuned to their inner nature, events of late have felt too rushed or too chaotic and so they have been blocking that voice. Nothing is ever so busy that a time out to reflect and meditate is not a good idea.
“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”
Which head is answering the question?
Which key will fit this lock?
Am I a parent or a child?
Do I represent my gender? My Orientation?
Do I represent this spiritual or psychological perspective?
Do I represent this economic class or political leaning?
Do I have to make a choice?
In the end I represent a snapshot of myself in the moment. My perspective may be coloured by some of these things, all of them or none of them and the colour may be playing against type…
After all what are they but contradictory voices yammering… In the end tho its surprising how often it becomes necessary to speak, to say, to decide.
I try to cultivate a condition of intuitive arbitrariness at these times when an answer seems mandatory. I can always backtrack afterwards and see why it was the ‘right’ one. Of course being the king of second guessers (a title given me by my ever patient and loving partner) I can often see how the opposite answer would work as well…
It’s our choices in the moment tho that determine the rabbit holes we journey down.
“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”
― Ray Bradbury
I know if I shut up the words will come yet inside the yammering continues…so the field goes fallow and the beauty..may be there but it will show like a harlot’s illusion. Instead if i open to the beauty and type who knows what inner meaning may be expressed. I may show you my pain in all its glory, that radiating star that both colours and poisons but slowly heals through exposure to the air. I may show you inspiration, the candle lit from above that bypasses pain and encompasses it showing how to use it. Perhaps I will show you relationship, how we connect ourselves to ourselves and then to others.. or perhaps just a simple rhyme, beautiful in its simplicity. The two are not exclusive.