A path through a wood passes between two trees, an oak and an ash. A young woman sits between the trees, blocking the path, the branches entwinned above her. She holds an open book upon her knees. Beside her a raven perches upon a skull.
The High Priestess represents the guardian of the gate. She sits before the veil that seperates the known from the unknown. She is the mistress of secrets and the keeper of mysteries.
Qabbalistically her path is usually placed along the middle pillar, connecting Kether (the Crown) to Tipareth (beauty). Her path is singular in two respects. It is the only one that touches three of the four worlds. Rising in Kether, the only sphere in Atziluth (the archetypal world) she passes through Briah (the creative world) and ends in Tipareth, the central sphere of Yetzirah (the formative world). This is also the only path that connects too, and passes through, Daath, the hidden sphere of knowledge that lies upon the veil of the abyss between Yetzirah and Briah.
The High Priestess, the place in which she sits and the items surrounding her are all symbolic of the many gates or veils through which a person may pass in the course of their life, or through which a seeker may pass in their quest. She herself is young, a maiden, often associated with diana, the virgin huntress. The passage between innocence and experience, the step into the world of adult sexuality is a veil through which most will pass in the course of their lives. Yet it must be remembered that the High Priestess sits upon the threshold of that door. She has not yet passed through it herself, she remains a virgin.
The book that she holds represents knowledge. The knowledge that is needed to pass sucessfully through certain veils. It represents occult learning, secrets and mysteries. Thge book is open, showing that it's contents are freely given to those that ask the right questions. Yet all knowledge, all learning is naught but preparation. The veil is not pierced by the reading of the book, only by stepping across the threshold.
It is said that where a path passes between an oak and an ash (the two greatest trees of the British woodland) there can be found, on occassion, the door into another world, the gate into the land of Faerie, where all the laws of space and time, of science and reality, are overthrown. The path, therefore, symbolises all passages into other worlds and altered states of being, however they are achieved.
The skull upon the ground is a memento mori, symbolic of the last great gate, the final step into the unknown, the veil of death through which all must pass one day.
Although the Raven is the wisest of all birds he is also the trickster. He will guide the seeker through the veils of life and learning, but one must beware, for not all paths are good and not all veils ought to be pierced. Knowledge once learned cannot be unlearned, virginity lost cannot be regained, the book cannot be unread. Knowledge without wisdom and understanding can lead down dangerous paths, even unto the abyss itself and once the veil is passed there can be no return.
Secrets kept and secrets revealed. Study, knowledge, occultism. The brink of a great revelation. Book learning without experience.
Black felt pens on paper. resized and titled on a computer.
Lillie enjoys making things. She is currently creating a major arcana deck pyrographed onto wood.
Go back to the project index, read the traditional card meaning, or get a free automated reading with this deck.