In the most basic way the High Priestess is the number 2. One plus another. Division, contrast, other. Good and evil, male and female.
Sometimes things get so complicated with esoterics and such and I like to try to imagine what these are in just basic human experiences. And this card with the pregnancy and the dark water is in its simplest sense the ideas of mother, womb, safe dark place before birth. Also night (as opposed to day), Darkness (as opposed to light) Female (as opposed to male), Chaos (as opposed to order) and Subconscious (as opposed to conscious).
She is both the idea of 2, and the second, which are slightly different, but I think our own subconscious is ok with that slightly paradoxical idea. This is the darkness that allows light to be seen, defined and differentiated. And this is a very different feminine idea than the Empress. As this dark fertile water she is shown pregnant, lunar, connected to everything, and as with the Fool and the Magician – faceless as it is still unmanifest, still in the world of spirit in the world of the supernals and trinity.
Kabbalistically she is Bet/Beth, the hebrew letter that means ‘two’ and ‘house’. I love the Hebrew alphabet and Kabbalah because I think they are a glimpse into ancient thought that has been carefully preserved. Each letter doubles as a number and is based on an older pictograph of a basic idea. I like to think that at one time people needed to covey simple ideas in writing and developed these pictographs for the most common things they needed to talk about, numbers, staff, tent peg, fish, ox, eye, mouth, hand, house. These things all have their divine equivalent, because either we are made in the image of god, or we make god in the image of us, or everything is made in the image of everything….insert your own belief here, but for whatever reason there is a symmetry. The house is very mundane, but somewhere in us we also understand it is a symbol for our bodies, temple of the divine soul or life force, a womb that kept us safe and warm before birth, a dark void or chaos into which light, good, or god could be differentiated with every other thing.
As that sacred container she/it contains all of the wisdom of the universe. Chockmah is the second sephiroth in the Kabbalistic tree of life. It means ‘Wisdom” and it’s color is blue. Now, if we can imagine the supernal triad, the 3 sephiroth above the abyss, being in an idealized unmanifest world, we can, or I can, see it as the garden of Eden, a safe place where everything is perfect (again please take this as symbolic, I’ll never preach to anyone, but good symbolism is good symbolism regardless of source). In that garden is two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We can see the pillars of Mercy and Justice as the High Pritestess *Justice as the balance of the black and white pillars seen in The High Priestess’s traditional iconography, even in her Roman numeral II, Jachin and Boaz, even the creation of the pillars Justice and Mercy, this is where it is split. The Two horses of Plato’s Chariot, the two Lovers, the two sychophants in the Hierophant, the Tower (or two towers) the two snakes in the Caduceus the Sun and Moon, the birth of the main duality or ABILITY to contrast. Again it is 2 and second and everything comes from her pregnant womb, including the rest of the tree, its structure and contents.
Source of life. Head of the leviathan who’s tentacles reach through each of our diverse and ancient families and end with us and our children. Presently.
I hope this gives you a little insight into my ideas in the creation of the High Priestess. Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions?