The High Priestess is such an incredible, powerful card. She is the initiator, the guardian of the threshold, the one before whom we must pass if we are ever to attain higher knowledge. (Wow, I just reread that passage after a couple of days away from this draft. I sure do sound pompous, don’t I? Might as well be Aleister Fricken’ Crowley.) But I’ve always been curious: Does she have a consort? Does she have a partner, a complementary card that balances her energy the way the Emperor does for the Empress, or the Sun for the Moon and Star?
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while. I think it says really interesting things about the way we perceive the structure of the Tarot, and the way certain energies are paired in the Major Arcana.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, answer to my question is a simple “no”. The High Priestess stands on her own; she does not need another card to define her power. This is especially true because she is a card of female empowerment. To demand that she have a consort (read: husband) to define her seems, well, contradictory to the core of who and what she is. You might worry that pairing her off with another card, especially a male one, would reduce her awesomeness to a decorative bauble attached to some male energy.
Nevertheless, I have a tendency to group cards together. Some cards, I feel, belong together. Not just the Empress and Emperor, which are clearly a female/male dichotomy, but also groupings like the Star/Moon/Sun, or the Fool and the World (which are both fairly androgynous cards). There are cards in the deck that make sense together, and that balance each other out in important and meaningful ways. I’ve written about some of these balances before, and I think they’re really important to the way we understand the structure of the Major Arcana. The High Priestess is a powerful card in her own right, and I would never want to deny that, but I think there are also other cards that go with her in the same way that these other groupings belong together.
The first candidate for Mr. High Priestess, I think, is the Hierophant. The Hierophant and the High Priestess are very similar cards to each other in many ways. They both represent the relation between the mortal and the divine–her through individual transcendence, and him through ritual, social ties, and tradition. They flank the power-couple of the Empress and Emperor, representing spiritual power that counterbalances the earthly power of the latter. Both cards attempt to bridge the gap between the individual and the divine, but they do it in opposite directions. Where the High Priestess will give you secret knowledge in order to bring you closer to the gods, the Hierophant is preaching to the masses: he is going to bring the gods to you.
Moreover, in the TdM tradition, the Hierophant is Le Pape (the Pope) and the High Priestess is La Papesse (the Popess). It seems pretty clear that in some sense, at least, these two cards go together.*
Now, let’s complicate the picture a bit.
In the Golden Dawn tradition of Tarot, the High Priestess is used as a significator for a woman. But the complementary significator for a man is not the Hierophant; it is the Magician.
In many ways, the Magician can just as easily be seen as the Priestess’s partner in crime. Just, perhaps, a partner in different crimes than the ones where she works with the Hierophant. Where she is transcendence and liberation from the material world, the Magician is manifestation and agency within it. The High Priestess frees the human spirit from the earthly plane. The Magician, on the other hand, draws that spirit down into the earthly plane in order to effect change.
In her essence, the High Priestess is about transcendence. However, she can represent many different kinds of transcendence. She can be a spiritual transcendence and a connection with the divine. Conversely, she can be an individual, psychological sort of release, a moment of personal apotheosis and emotional release.
Both the Hierophant and the Magician represent forms of drawing-down or manifestation to match the different aspects of the High Priestess. The Hierophant is a spiritual manifestation, bringing the divine into this world the same way that the High Priestess releases us into the realm of the divine. The Magician, on the other hand, is a psychological manifestation, taking our aspirations and making them concrete the same way that the High Priestess liberates us and enables us to have those aspirations in the first place.
In a way, then, I think both the Hierophant and the Magician are consorts of the High Priestess. Maybe the two cards are different faces of each other, collectively representing an archetype of the High Priest that isn’t quite captured in the Major Arcana. Or maybe the High Priestess has two consorts to satisfy her different personalities. She’s a modern gal, after all. Maybe one consort isn’t enough for her. Who’s to say she can’t be in a polyamorous V?
This is a shorter post than usual, I know. I apologize for that. I’m still crazy busy and crazy stressed, more so than I think I’ve ever been. I had a couple of free hours this week, so I wanted to eke out some semblance of a post, even if it’s shorter and less thoroughly considered than an interesting subject like this really deserves. I’m going to try to keep this blog alive in the months to come, but it’s not ready to come off dialysis yet. In the meantime, as always, let me know your thoughts on this matter. Does the High Priestess have a consort? Is my assessment of the energies of these cards (and the way they balance each other) fair? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!