The High Priestess is one card that idealists and advocates for a benign (or at least neutral) view of the tarot archetypes love to put on a pedestal as a lofty example of purity and virtue. She is obviously as pristine as the driven snow, never mind that she is also as crystalline as an ice cube and as abstemious as a Vestal Virgin. She is seen as an exalted feminine role-model to aspire to, remote like the Star but also somehow less abstract and more approachable at a mystically intuitive level (must be the lunar connection). Readers who value inductive over deductive methods are especially enamored of her, mainly because she keeps the higher truths concealed and only glimpses of insight are offered on which to base conclusions. They content themselves with meager scraps of knowledge and leave the difficult path of ascent to her altar to the more assiduous. One thing that is almost certain, though: our mundane objectives are almost never her immediate concern, so we might not understand her even if she did condescend to speak with us.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the High Priestess, mainly because she knows how to keep her mouth shut. She is the Guardian of the Veil, beneath which the uninitiated are forbidden to peek. The implication in a reading is often that the querent isn’t ready to receive her wisdom, and perhaps isn’t worthy of it because he or she hasn’t put forth an honest effort to comprehend the situation without demanding coaching or hand-holding. My impression has always been that she has no patience for slackers, and is exacting in her expectations for spiritual refinement in her supplicants. She will turn a deaf ear to the undeserving.
Some writers have described the scroll or book she is holding as the Akashic Record, in which the past, present and future of every human being are recorded. This observation makes sense to me, and it’s also understandable that she is the ideal custodian to keep it under wraps. Meditation, not petition, is the way to her confidence, and forbearance in seeking her favor is essential. She will impart her knowledge in her own good time. I see her pursuit as a kind of vigil, in which one must be alert (and grateful) for any hint of a momentary parting of the curtain. She will not open the gates without testing the mettle of the aspirant, and her standards are high. It’s vital not to misconstrue her shrouded insinuations as actionable advice without squaring them with other impressions from your own experience. You might only be seeing an artfully redacted intimation of the truth.
The High Priestess may express the “higher vibration” of the Moon, but – in the words of the Robert Heinlein novel – “the Moon is a harsh mistress” – or at least a confounding one. Her saving grace is that, although both instances of the Moon in the Major Arcana can indicate the likelihood of encountering surprises, those of the High Priestess are likely to be more enlightening and less unpleasant. But she still obscures more than she elucidates. Her mode of revelation is the slow drip and not the flood; the dawning realization and not the sudden epiphany; the insightful dream and not the lightning-bolt of illumination. Inspiration often comes by night and pales in the morning sun. Blink and you might miss it.