The High Priestess is, as I’ve said, my favorite card in the entire Major Arcana and in fact in the entire deck. I so fell in love with the idea of Priestesshood when I first encountered in through Tarot that I became a Priestess myself!
While the High Priestess is envisioned in a way that particularly evokes ceremonial magick traditions, especially in the Rider-Waite deck and decks directly inspired by it, I see Her as being about more than institutional authority or power granted by rising through the ranks of an initiatory tradition. The High Priestess to me is about the deep well of wisdom that we can access when we learn to explore our own unconscious, to move between worlds, and to descend into the darkest parts of ourselves. Like the Magician, the High Priestess represents power, but she also represents that ability to know when to receive as well as when to manifest. She is a repository of great knowledge, but also of great wisdom — and those two are not always the same.
This is why I love the rendition of the High Priestess in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Tarot so much. Waldherr has chosen to reinterpret the card as Wisdom, and has chosen the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, art, music, and spirituality as the core image. Sarasvati — “one who leads to the essence of self-knowledge” — floats on her lotus, playing the sitar, embodying all the beauty and wisdom in all the realms.
I love this vision of the High Priestess card. When the High Priestess arrives in a reading, I typically interpret that to mean that the querent is being asked to deeper their knowledge of themselves. This might be through spiritual pursuits — I particularly see this card as calling for Underworld or Shadow work. This might also be through arts, music, writing, or other activities which awaken creativity and encourage us to use our imaginations and connect with Spirit. In Waldherr’s discussion of Wisdom/Sarasvati, there is the added dimension that the querent is on a teaching and learning path — it may be that a wise teacher is about to appear, or that the person themselves is being called upon to be the wise teacher of others. On my own Priestess path, Wisdom/Sarasvati has shown up in my reading when it was time for me to level up in my Priestess work, by hosting open rituals, by offering classes online and in person, and even in starting this blog!
Wisdom/Sarasvati is a card of initiation for me, but not initiation within a formal structure. Rather, this card appears when there is going to be a significant breakthrough or move to the next level. Sometimes this means letting go of what no longer serves us, which can be difficult. However, Sarasvati assures us that we are moving on to a higher level of wisdom and self-knowledge, and that we will be surrounded by all the beauty, all the wisdom, and all the wise teachers we need in order to thrive on this next level.