Above all things, know thyself!
Thoth-ATU 2-The Priestess
For self is a sea boundless and measureless. -K. Gibran, The Prophet
The golden Tarot-Key 2-The High Priestess ( La Papessa )
#2. Through me it's unfailing Wisdom takes form in thought and word.
Key/ATU 2, THE PRIESTESS/HIGH PRIESTESS, is the image that represents an androgynous universal principle of intuition, independence, self-trust, self-knowledge and self-resourcefulness. This is the androgynous figure that represents balance known to Chinese scholars as the female magnetic force, curved, soft and receptive, that is Ying. From the navel down, this androgyny is all straight lines, strong, dynamic, electric Yang. The Ying Yang symbol is shown in the seed shield of the Thoth- Princess of Disks, for souls begin in the Knowledge of the Priestess and Manifest in the work of the Princess of Disks. Therefore, this card reminds us that we are all composed of the receptive female magnetic and the strong assertive electric forces of male.
The Thoth Priestess, wears a sun and moon crown to remind us that we are all are committed to have and achieve an equal balance in strength and softness. The faceted crystal background of the Thoth Deck card reminds us of the multifaceted aspects of intuition that are present at each level of consciousness:
- Mental intuition (the triangular crystal);
- Emotional intuition (the round crystal);
- Spiritual intuition (the diamond crystal);
- Physically noted information (the octagonal crystal).
Intuition is the Great calm Lake of the Universal Collective Unconscious, that is reflective, deep, contained and always present, waiting to be accessed and trusted---A Womb with a View. However, we must first trust and love ourselves to be aware of this quiet power. The Priestess is a powerful symbol to use as a visual skrying affirmation to enhance self-trust, independence, and resourcefulness. This symbol reinforces the trusting of one's intuition.
The Priestess is not a literal return to the warm enclosure of the Cosmic Womb, as is THE EMPRESS. Rather, she represents the Supreme Mother, without her smiling mask, revealing a True face of cold yet beautiful countenance. All veils are removed, all illusion is dispersed, and we must face the crystalline reality of our own absolute free will; a task not for the weak. This Supreme Mother was easily shown in early Tarot as La Papessa, "the Popess" who was Sister Manfreda, a relative of the Visconti family, whose tarot deck is represented here as The Golden Tarot. Sister Manfreda, was a member of a small heretical sect called the Guglielmites who elected Sister Manfreda as their pope in accordance with their belief that the male-dominated papacy was soon to be replaced by a line of female popes. Hence, male authority which we know as the Patriarchy was to end. History has proven this to be a bit overly optimistic.
Her planet is the Moon, her Path is assigned the Hebrew letter, Ghimel, meaning camel, which is most appropriate, as she is the one who carries our Personality across the vast desert of the Abyss. She is often compared to Diana the huntress or a Norse Goddess such as Freya of the or Bridgit of the Celts. Whatever the mythological image, there are 3 Qabalistic Paths that represent the same energy, although as different but similar aspects, they are;
- The Paths of Ghimel (THE PRIESTESS),
- The Path of Samekh (THE ART).
- Path of Tau (THE UNIVERSE) which together make up the devotional middle pillar of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The Indigo Middle Path color in Atziluth (the highest of the Four Worlds) is Indigo, a deep-dark- water blue that suggests the Moon, as all three Paths relate to the Moon.
The pure state of Intelligence that is The Path of Gimel, will carry those cleansed of desire thinking, across the longest and most important Path on the Tree of Life; A path which radiates down from the Supernal Triangle (The Archetypal World), composed of unimaginable potential, to the Ethical Triangle, the "actual" (Briah), also making this the path a position between God the Father in Kether, and God the Son/Sun in Tiphareth, a Path of the Highest Initiation.
The common description of the traditional High Priestess is that she is the most pure essence of consciousness, symbolized in Tarot as the very source of all Water (Consciousness); However, to the initiate, she is considered The Lower Chokmah (Wisdom), wisdom is being expressed here as both masculine and feminine (The Goddess Sophia of the Greeks-means Wisdom) When applied to Chokmah, a female noun in Hebrew, the word Wisdom is masculine, for here it is "sent forth" and as the Seed of wisdom is ejaculated, it expands outward, in this action the seed of expansion contains its own limitation.
Therefore, She is the Diana who shoots his captured force out into the universe and it is her “sight” (imagination) that limits the expansion of his “seed”. The Feminine Force is Formative. Here Wisdom is taken into the most Spiritual manifestation of the feminine and formulates it into herself as any geometrical point into which to contemplate any possibility, i.e. the “All Seeing I Am” of the Original consciousness. Now I know this concept is an impossibly difficult one to understand and the most descriptive of Qabalistic terms may seem nonsensical, but the Priestess is the Womb of Consciousness, and yet she is both Male and Female.......much like a Hermaphrodite (Hermes-Aphrodite) that can impregnate itself. The human brain is a copy of the hermaphrodite phenomena as it both male and female in its approach to thought and can impregnate itself with logic that gives birth to feelings.
The Higher Chokmah is a specific Sun (left brain), and the Lower Chokmah is a specific Moon (right brain). Thus when viewing THE PRIESTESS Thoth Tarot card, you will see a slight feminine figure with arms raised, behind vibrations of light and a strong lower masculine leg section with the Diana's bow across the knees. Yet she is a virginal force, because no "Outside" Male force fertilizes her. Thus the myth of Diana adds understanding to this card. From her, the source of Water, is the idea behind the idea of form, I think the great western Qabalist Dr.Paul Foster Case said this best in saying that,"... no matter how many forms develop from it, the virgin substance is itself unchanged. Like Water, which holds matter in suspension or solution, this substance remains over itself. Here is one key to the alchemical mystery of the First Matter. Here, too, one may find a clue to the inner significance of the Virgin Myths of all Religions."
The (High) Priestess/La Papessa is often called the Prima Materia, or Root Matter (First Matter) as she can be considered the result of Eheieh, "I Will Be", the birthing of Self-Awareness/Consciousness. In his text, THE THIRTY TWO PATHS OF WISDOM, Dr. Case calls the Path of Gimel, the Uniting Intelligence, because it is the "Essence of Glory" and/or "The Grace of God". No matter the terms, the fact is that your personality must be shed of all the reality and desires that our indoctrinated conscious has constructed before she is able to carry one across the Abyss, into Daath (Knowledge) that is the invisible Chakra of the Tree of Life which resides below Kether, on the Middle Path of the Tree and into the Dark Abyss of the Universal Collective Unconscious. It is that Knowledge that our conscious essence/Soul "consumed", so that it could become the operator of the Images of God. [Daath is no longer invisible to one who has entered the Garden of inherited Knowledge that resides between the Mother named Understanding and the Father named Wisdom.]
Now the MAGUS, (Will of Kether), symbolizes a condition prior to Unconscious thought called "Will". This powerful condition acts upon THE PRIESTESS in such a way, that the Path of Gimel becomes the mind capable of carrying the thought forms (information) of which the Universe will eventually be composed. Being that she is the source underlying all vibratory patterns that compose form, she is shown on the Thoth Card as a figure composed of vibratory waves of energy. A further example of this Trinity Goddess format, is that, nothing can grow in the Garden of the Empress without this wave structure that underlays energy. It is for this very reason that the Moon is assigned to this path, for it is a pattern of waxing and waning, fluctuation, dualities and tides, just as the waves of energy in a vibratory pattern. Here, the Goddess is both Force and Form, and as a Moon she controls the tides of consciousness.
Now if you wish to skry this card, remember, she is Pure Virginal Conscious and without empathy; she is as Durga, the Hindu Destroyer Goddess or the Ice Queen, Hel, of the Norse. Unless you have a mentor who has been through the initiation of THE HIGH PRIESTESS, you may find her Cold Beauty shockingly destructive to your sensibilities. For she strips your personality of all that is not worthy of Pure Self Conscious; Pure I AM. Oh, by the way, I know her as Elizabeth (Chosen of El), as She is permanently aware of her initiates and often renames them, she calls me Prometheus which I translated into the Qabalistic Eli Serabeth ( Temple/House of the Fiery Daemon/God-man) She is a scary Beauty who will assist you in self-dissection....often without permission when familiarity is gained. To those who think bravery is an ego trip, don't try this, ever, if you wish to hold on to your ego ! Ask a Mother of many children, what bravery is, then do your best to incorporate that idea into your heart, you as a Soul may then survive the ordeal of the "Dark night of the Soul" where you must face the falsehood that is you and lose all desire, before you have shed the veils of lies and/or mask of words that compose your identity. In other words, she will strip you of all Identity, and then reestablish the Pure Identity of the Sun/Solar Self of the Divine Creative.
The Wisdom of THE PRIESTESS, is in regulation, as her fluctuation establishes the direction for the First Matter as it descends into greater and greater density. Thus she is THE MOON that regulates the tides of the Waters of consciousness. As before stated, the four paths rising into the Supernal Triangle, each represent a Alchemical element, each a composite of the "Garden of Eden". THE (HIGH) PRIESTESS, is the Uniting Spirit, the Fifth element, symbolized as the top point of the Pentagram. THE HIEROPHANT= Earth, LOVERS= Air, THE CHARIOT= Water, THE EMPEROR =Fire and THE HIGH PRIESTESS= Spirit. Overall, THE HIGH PRIESTESS, is the vessel for all operations of the Supernal Triangle, she is the crucible where the Alchemical activity of Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt take place. She is also the source of the Four Rivers of Paradise, The Pison (River of Fire), The Gibon (River of Water), The Hiddikel (River of Air) and the Phrath (River of Earth), which goes a long way in describing her fluctuating nature, as rivers are often waves of serpentine flow.
As I have mentioned before, the journey up the Paths of the Tree of Life, is about Remembering our beginning, a critical part of "Above all things, Know thyself”…the Qabalistic axiom. THE HIGH PRIESTESS/PRIESTESS, conceals within Her Vibrations, all the knowledge/memories of the Race, as well as, those of the Cosmos. She is the circle/sphere in which all is created; the Womb of the Supernal Trinity. Behind her resides Daath (Knowledge), invisible because of Vibratory Veils as well being subjective potential. These veils, are shown as Light in vibratory form, on the Thoth Card and curtains of light rays full of stars on the Triple Goddess Tarot Card. The Qabalist knows that it is Light that conceals the True Spirit---the one we've called "The Fiery Darkness", because Dark Energy is the True Light, as it is the substance of Supernal Potential and has no measurement, making it eternal. It is said that to look upon the Light of the HIGH PRIESTESS, one must become Virginal in the nature of consciousness (2=0). For it is a Light so bright one of mundane persona or material consciousness, cannot look upon it, and will be shocked right back into their Malkuth realm of Race sponsored consciousness. If the desire conscious is conquered, the Light of the Priestess is welcoming, and brilliantly beautiful...but without heat, thus it is a cool light resembling the dazzling brightness of Ice in full Sun or Moon Light. Passing through the "Light", one enters the Abyss of Dark Matter/Dark Energy of non-space where the only sense is the original "I" sight of the One who is All; also known as “the seed atom” (Theosophy) of your beginning as consciousness. Think of this as being comparable to reentering the womb and returning to the original "egg" of yourself.
Obviously, when considering Light, the Qabalist must rethink the essence of Light. It is apparent to the researcher that all religions which stress "the Light" as a high state of consciousness, are based on Tiphareth-The Sun/Son. For instance, religions based on the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Apollo, Osiris, Ahurda-Mazda, Mithra, etc. However, the Gnostic Mysteries, unlike organized religions, states that Light conceals, rather than reveals, by its very brilliance. Thus, visible light is measurable (186,000 miles per second) and finite. As does the Moon, so does the PRIESTESS go from brilliant light to absolute darkness. Hence, the Mythology of the Moon and her deities, such as, Dianna-Artemis, Hecate and He- el-Aine (Later as Helen, Elaine and Eleanor), better known to those of Celtic origin as Elaine the Moon-Goddess and to the Norse as Hel the Goddess of the Underworld.
The Thoth Deck Card Shows THE PRIESTESS as Hecate-Selene (The Triple Goddess as described by Hesiod) which means -The Far Shooting Moon, and is an aspect of Artemis. Artemis is also known as the "maiden of the silver bow", suggesting the lower aspect of THE PRIESTESS, (The ART card), which is Sagittarius, the archer. That is why she is illustrated on the Thoth card, with a bow across her knees. Artemis is the triple Goddess, represented as the Maiden, then the Orgiastic Nymph, then the Old Crone. As some say, Maid, Mother and Crone. The Triple Goddess Tarot, shows 3 images of the Goddess, the Maid on the pillow, the Mother as the Pool and the Crone as the Moon reflecting in the Pool.
To reiterate, THE PRIESTESS acts upon the First Matter of the MAGUS, causing it to function in the pattern of a figure eight lying on its side (lemniscate). This represents a total unified energy cycle of both opposed and duplicated vibration; the infinite. This holding, enclosing, unbroken and duplicating function is that of the first female womb quality on the Tree of Life. Making 0 equal 2 and/or the duplicating of Binah and Chokmah in all things.
When the HIGH PRIESTESS or PRIESTESS, is thrown during a reading: for the non-initiated (who haven't experienced the dark night of the Soul):
- The querent is experiencing the principle of self-trust, indicating an easily working state of harmony and inner independence.
- A self-knowing.
- Accessing hidden Knowledge from the unconscious.
- Self-sufficiency, self-trust, and intuition.
- Platonic love.
- Spiritual evolution.
- To the initiated male;
- She represents the Spiritual Bride of the Just man (The Prince, no longer of this world) When he reads the Law, she gives the Divine Meaning/Understanding.
- The Arcana is revealed, the Mystery is unfolded, and futures are seen.
- To the Initiated Female;
- She is the Papess, associated with St. Mary Magdalene, or the Great Shakti of the triple Hindu Goddess Kali, or the Greek Gnostic Sophia, the original Mother of the Holy Trinity.
- Considered one of the Highest and Holiest of the Major Arcana. Complete development of the Creatrix Feminine Powers (Womb rite) that go deeper in meaning than the words, intuition or insight, can convey.
- She is the Law of inherited Wisdom.
If ill defined by the surrounding cards:
- A time for action.
- Escape from reality.
- Existential dread.
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