The High Priestess | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

The High Priestess

Keywords for the High Priestess

INTUITIONSUBCONSCIOUSNESS
RECEPTIVITYMEMORY
POTENTIALPSYCHIC EXPERIENCE
INNER TRUTHMYSTERY
STILLNESSTHE UNKNOWN

In the image on the card, we see the High Priestess seated on her throne, dressed in long, silvery blue robes that shimmer in the moonlight. Her throne is simply made, a cube of stone similar to others we see throughout the tarot, which always refers to the same thing: physical, material manifestation in three-dimensional space. 

This, combined with the wave-like nature of her dress, which flows into and becomes almost indistinguishable from water as it flows over the moon, shows us that despite all appearances, it is actually subconsciousness which creates and constitutes the nature of the universe.

The High Priestess wears a triple crown, which alludes not only to her typical association with the moon and lunar cycles, but is also a reference to the Mysteries of the Egyptian Goddess Isis. The veil behind her is decorated with red pomegranates, another allusion to ancient mysteries, only this time pointing us to the Eleusinian Mysteries and the cult of life-death-rebirth of Demeter and Persephone. 

Although not all pomegranates on this veil are visible, we know that they stand in the same formation as the Sephiroth in the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah. 

Further reference to this Hebrew tradition can be seen in the scroll held by the High Priestess, which here reads “TORA,” a reference to the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses (typically transcribed in English as “Torah”). 

Behind the priestess, her veil hangs from between two pillars, one white and the other black. The letters B and J refer to “Boaz” and “Jakin”, the names of the two main pillars which once stood in the Temple of Solomon. Their black and white color is a reference to the apparently opposite dualities through which we experience our existence. 

Similar to the yin and yang symbol, each letter is written in a color opposite to the pillar, indicating that each extreme contains the seed of its opposite. The polarities we too often take for granted are truly only opposing ends of the same spectrum of our one existence. 

Interpretation for the High Priestess

Above all, the High Priestess stands for our subconsciousness, and all the mystery that lies beneath the reach of our normal, conscious awareness. It also speaks more generally to a sense of the mystery of life, of the vast wonder and terror that normally eludes us, but remains lurking beneath the surface, ready to rise to our awareness if the right conditions present themselves. 

The High Priestess represents one side of the archetypal feminine: that of the mysterious, nonrational, and intuitive elements of women’s being. She shows a part of the divine feminine which has historically been feared: dark, filled with mystery, unknowable through logic or language, connected to a deep wisdom beyond words. 

Due to its connection to the unconscious, this card also refers not only to our intuitive capacities, but even to psychic phenomena such as clairvoyance and other types of nonrational knowing. 

The High Priestess is also thought to refer to the passive quality inherent in the archetypal feminine (in contrast to the active principle represented by the previous card, the Magician). 

Due to the patriarchal culture of which we are a part, the term “passive” typically carries many negative connotations of inferiority, weakness, and is seen to lack value, purpose, or meaning. 

However, there is much power in the passive: it is not simply lack of action or existence. This yin quality is perhaps better thought of as being receptive in nature. It can be compared to the receptivity of the womb, which receives the seed of masculine, and generates within itself something new from what has been planted within. 

The darkness, receptivity, and inferiority of the High Priestess is the necessary precondition for all creation (as we will come to understand more of in the next card, the Empress). 

As such, this card refers also to the vast potential of the High Priestess. When she appears in a reading, the High Priestess may be asking us to pause, withdraw from the busyness and action of the outer world, and go within. She asks us to pay attention to the seeds of our future selves which have lain dormant within us, seeds which need tending to, in order that we may give birth to our highest selves.

The Magician | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Keywords for the Magician

CONSCIOUSNESSPOWER
ATTENTIONINTENTION
FOCUSED ENERGYMASTERY
ACTIONCONTROL
CREATIONMANIFESTATION

It’s late afternoon, and we see an intense, mysterious looking man standing alone in a secret garden. Dressed in long, flowing robes of red and white, his ritual attire mirrors the flowers blooming here on this sacred ground. 

The red rose we see represents our heart’s desires, the power of our subconsciousness, as well as the body.  It is our primal will, our emotions, feelings, instincts and drives.

The white lily, on the other hand, symbolizes our capacity to discern the truth, the power of our consciousness, as well as our mind. Where they bloom, so do reason, logic, truth, honesty and integrity.

Turning back towards the Magician, we see that he stands before a wooden table, upon which are inscribed various symbols and astrological glyphs. Upon this altar are set the tools of his craft:

A wooden wand, for the spiritual element of fire: that which is active, inspired, fast-moving, adventurous and expansive.

A golden cup, for the emotional element of water: that which is receptive, imaginative, peaceful, gentle and quiet.

A sword of steel, for the intellectual element of air: that which is logical, rational, discerning, and concerned with truth.

A brass pentacle, for the physical element of earth: that which is mundane, grounded, patient, stable and secure.

The magician now casts his circle, calling in the powers of the four directions, asking they be here with him now. 

He thanks the elemental forces for their power and their presence. Then with deliberate intention, the Magician holds a white wand up toward the heavens in his right hand, as he points down to the ground with his left. 

Fully grounded in his power, he connects the Above with the Below. With single-pointed attention, he repeats two words alone to himself as he works his magic. 

Solve: It is the death, decay, and destruction of the current form of being. Every death, every disintegration releases a powerful surge of energy. As the old form collapses, power is made available to be used for creation of something new. 

Coagula: The energy freed in death is transformed. Freed from its imprisonment in matter, it is now available to take on a new shape, to be reborn into new ways of being. 

The task of the Magician is to channel this powerful energy into what he desires to create. In this moment, he is between worlds. He is both passive and active at once. 

He passively receives inspiration and creative power from above. He actively directs what is received through his attention into the desired object or outcome. 

Like Thoth, the God of words, language, and magic, he exists at the crossroads. Similar to Hermes, the Magician acts as a mediator and messenger, communicating the will of spirit in the world of matter. 

The Magician Interpretation

When this card comes up, it often speaks to our capacity to make decisions and manifest change in our material world. It often indicates mastery, a certain level of skill and command of both our inner and outer resources.

This card is a symbol of mastery and controlled action, utilizing the force of one’s focused intent to cause a change in conformity with will.

The Magician also means acting as a channel for divine inspiration to flow through us into material reality. 

This card asks us to turn our attention to channeling our potential (in the form of ideas and inspirations) into something tangible, concrete and manifested in the physical world. 

It is a reminder that, with proper focus and intent, we can truly create magic in the world. 

5 of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

5 of Wands

Keywords for the Five of Wands

COMPETITIONCONFLICT
PLAYING GAMESMINOR SETBACKS
FIGHTINGIRRITATIONS
DISAGREEMENTSARGUMENTS
STRUGGLEFIERCE DEBATE

In the image on the card, we see a group of young men engaged in what appears to be a lively and playful battle game. Each of the five youths, armed with a wand of his own, has joined the fray and is enthusiastically wielding his baton in a spirited sparring match against his opponents.

Although it is clearly every man for himself here, their engagement with each other seems clearly to be more for the thrill of the fight. There seems to be little intent for physical harm. Above all, it is a fight that seeks instead to playfully show their skill in battle, to win out on top against their reasonably friendly opponents, and to develop their expertise and talent in battle.

Five of Wands Interpretation

When the 5 of Wands comes up, it can indicate challenges and some level of difficulty or interpersonal conflict.

In some cases, the conflict may very well be light-hearted and playful. In a similar vein, this card can indicate engaging in a lively and spirited discussion. We may be involved in a debate, a battle of ideas, a testing of arguments that is enlivening and intellectually invigorating.

On the other hand, this card can also signal a situation characterized by unhealthy competition. It may involve petty disagreements, lack of cooperation, and small but significantly irritating frustrations. 

The Five of Wands can symbolize feeling at odds with your environment, with days filled with minor setbacks that are not so harmful in the whole scheme of things, but which do serve as sources of profound annoyance and irritation.

While many might find themselves frustrated by the challenges represented by the 5 of Wands, there are some possessing a more competitive nature who might find the extra competition to be just the motivation they needed. 

Competition and rivalry are not always unhealthy. The powerful energies it unleashes can be the spark which lights a fire within us, one which burns intensely with a desire to succeed and win. 

When we see the 5 of Wands in a reading, we may wish to allow the powerful energy of this card to drive us to be our very best. It may not be easy, but we will often find that it has been worth it. 

Four of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Four of Wands

Keywords for the Four of Wands

LIBERATIONCELEBRATION
FREEDOM HAVING FUN
OPTIMISMGOING TO A PARTY
JOYEXPRESSING GRATITUDE
EXCITEMENTENJOYING LIFE

It is a warm, early summer afternoon, one of those days where the sun seems to be smiling directly upon you, and you feel blessed to be alive. The sun, the season, the fruits, vegetables, and everything else under the glorious solar rays seem to be at full volume, completely ripe and ready to burst with life. A palpable sense of vitality permeates everything–all is graced by the golden touch of the sun.

In front of us stands a flowery canopy: four wands stand connected by a lush green garland of vines and leaves, decorated with the best of the season’s fruits and flowers, the crown gems of summer’s harvest on display.

Underneath this canopy, two women appear, raising lush bouquets of flowers towards the sky in a triumphant gesture of celebration. We can see other guests mingling behind them, all dressed in bright hues that express in vibrant tones their cheerful mood. The thrill of partaking in genuine and joyful communion with one another is palpable in the air.

Four of Wands Interpretation

When the 4 of Wands appears in a reading, it often signals a time of celebration, a time where we are free to rejoice and express our gratitude. We may have experienced difficulties in the past, but when this card appears, we can trust that the worst is over, and our freedom and liberation from restrictions is now assured.

At times, this card can quite literally signify a celebration: we may go to a dinner party, a festival, wedding or other social event. In simple terms, this card refers to having fun, to getting out and enjoying yourself fully and without reservations.

On a more general level, this card refers to celebration as an attitude of mind, an inner state of being characterized by a sense of optimism, happiness and joy. On that note, the appearance of the Four of Wands in a reading can more simply signify an attitude of enthusiasm, of faith in what the future holds for us.

It can also represent a spontaneous, open and free response to our current lived experiences, one where we feel free of restrictions, and unbound from any limitations. When the 4 of Wands appears, it signals that we are now free to go with the flow. We can feel grounded in the present moment, trusting in our capacity to react spontaneously, responding to whatever arises for us with a light touch and an open heart.

Three of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Three of Wands

Keywords for the Three of Wands

REFLECTING ON THE PASTPLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
WISDOMHOPE
PRIOR ACCOMPLISHMENTSFUTURE GOALS
MEMORIESVISION
ACCEPTING LIFE EXPERIENCEEAGERNESS TO EXPLORE 

A man stands facing the sea, staring out at the ships passing in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. He contemplates their movements, watching as the wind fills their sails, propelling them towards their future destinations. 

On his back, he wears a patchwork cloak, made up of all the experiences of his past, containing evidence of everything that has led him up to this point.

The majority of the cloak is made of bright red cloth. It symbolizes desire, which is the primary motivating force behind man’s destiny.

The green is representative of his creativity, the imagination he possesses that is generative and productive, and can find new and original solutions to his problems.

Finally, the black and yellow patch stands for his past difficulties. Here we see the pain, the losses, the suffering and even the traumas that he has survived on his way to this point. Notice the similarity of this cloth to the image on Key 16, the Tower; it carries similar meanings. 

All of these colors and their related experiences make up an essential part of who we are. It is important to keep each in mind, to integrate and maintain an awareness of them all as we move forward in life. Each is an important element adding to our experience, and we would be wise to become conscious of them. For it is often what is found behind us that creates the structure and habits of mind which become the perspective from which we see our future.

Three of Wands Interpretation

When the 3 of Wands comes up in a reading, it often means that we have arrived at a turning point in our lives. We stand at a crossroads, one where we have the opportunity to weigh our options and make plans for the future.

The 3 of Wands often asks us to take a step back from our daily routine and our normal, everyday concerns, and to seek a higher vantage point from which we might access greater clarity about where we now stand in relation to our goals and aspirations.

More than anything else, the Three of Wands speaks to our capacity to think ahead. It is concerned with our vision for the future. It is not simply a matter of looking ahead, however. This card is concerned with utilizing the knowledge and wisdom we have gained from past experience in order that we may put our best foot forward as we step into the future.

Ace of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Keywords for the Ace of Wands

INITIATIVESTRENGTH
PASSIONPOWER
ENTHUSIASMINSPIRATION
MOTIVATIONSELF-EXPRESSION
CONFIDENCESUCCESS

It is a bright summer day in the countryside. We see a castle on a hill set against a backdrop of purple mountains, while beneath it, a river rushes forward relentlessly towards its destination. 

High above in the sky, a hand emerges from a cloud, tightly gripping a tall wand. This phallic object exudes so much vitality that green leaves literally burst forth from the top in an exuberant display of primal life force energy.

Ace of Wands Interpretation

When this card comes up in a tarot reading, it likely indicates an auspicious new beginning for us. 

The fiery energy of the suit of Wands blesses us with its passion, vitality, and enthusiasm. When we see this card, we can trust that we have the confidence, motivation and strength to move out in the world and make things happen.

This card can also indicate the presence of other qualities associated with the element of Fire, such as creativity, originality, and inspired self-expression. When the Ace of Wands comes up in a reading, it is safe to say that we can believe in ourselves and our capacity to find inventive solutions to any challenges before us. 

The Ace of Wands is, above all, a card of enthusiasm, excitement and adventure. When this Ace comes up in a reading, it can inspire us to have faith in ourselves and move forward. With this attitude of self-assurance, we are free to embark on whatever adventure is calling out to us, and trust that we will be met with success.