The high priestess is a channel for higher wisdom. Like the priests and priestesses of old, she metaphorically brings this wisdom down from above and makes it available to those whose connection is less clear. Her gifts are not for her alone, but in service of the greater good. She shares this function with Spiritual Leaders (card 5).
The priestess is sometimes seen as a feminine counterpart to the magician. Yet her concern is not so much manifesting in the physical world as it is playing with the magic of the invisible worlds. She is interested in archetypes and astrology and dreaming and all sorts of ways the invisible world enters into our lives. In these, she is accomplished. She is expert at opening herself to the higher realms and bringing this knowledge into the world. This may take the form of prophecy and divination, the role of sage or spiritual counselor. Aligned as she is with sacred purpose, her line to the divine is open-and her reception is clear.
She is both high priestess and follower, for she devotes herself to following the guidance and inspiration she receives and is thus a model for living in accordance with intuitive wisdom. She may use this in her work as healer, teacher, artist, or visionary, or she may simply be working with this in her personal life. It is important to her to pay attention and live in a “conscious” way. For her to go on automatic or to push too hard is destructive because it cuts her off from her deeper knowing. The more closely she aligns with this knowing, the better her life goes.
In a more general way, this card represents the feminine mode of consciousness. It is the receptive, intuitive mind, what we might call “moon consciousness.” There isn’t a lot of support for this in the modern world, but that doesn’t matter to the priestess. She is unconcerned with the ways of man; her loyalty is to universal laws that run much deeper.
Living close to the deeper rhythms fosters a sense of trust in the priestess. Like the fool, she feels held in a loving universe, but the priestess’s knowledge of this is more conscious. She knows the divine and has her finger on the pulse of unfoldment. It is no surprise to her when things happen as they do.
In the picture, she is lifting a veil. You might think of this as lifting the veil so that the mysteries behind it can be seen. It is twilight, which is the crack between the worlds and the perfect symbol for bringing mystical consciousness into daily life. If you look carefully, you will see several moons on her veil. Like twilight, the moon stands between darkness and light. It cycles between the two, and is a symbol of change. Change is much more of a central component of feminine consciousness than of the masculine. Rather than deal with fixed patterns, the priestess works with the change that flows through everything. This is also reflected by the spiraling galaxy in her womb, showing how great the creativity of feminine consciousness is.
When you draw or are drawn to this card, it is acknowledgement or support for (or a reminder to come back to) this feminine mode of consciousness. There is power here. Navigating the world without this can put one at a serious disadvantage. It is like only seeing the surface of things, not the deeper currents that shape life. The priestess knows that it is far better to harmonize with the way things are than to try to impose one’s own agenda. There is still plenty of room for creativity and self-expression, for the deeper “Way” holds many possibilities.
This is a good time to develop your receptivity to higher realms. You may want to take a class on developing intuition, intensify your meditation or prayer, work with divination tools, play with dreams, or read about the mysteries. It is also a good time to pay attention to your feelings. It takes practice and discernment to recognize where the feelings come from and what they point to. You can learn to identify when your feelings are a reaction to the past, perhaps replaying old themes in your life, and when they are a vehicle of guidance.
Guidance is very important for you right now. The priestess is calling you to live by a deeper wisdom. This is largely a matter of alignment, so any practice or ritual you might do to deepen that alignment will be useful. Obviously this requires freeing time for internal work. To accomplish this, you may need to let go of some of your outer activities for a while. Part of this internal work you will need to do alone, and part can come from participating in a group with a similar focus. It could be a dream group, a coven, a class. Feel for the way this energy can best be channeled through you.
Traditionally called the Emperor, this card represents the principle of power and leadership. It also represents what might be called “father energy,” although its presentation here is in a form that is not often actualized in our current culture. A third important thread, not common to other decks, is that the Green Man represents the intelligence of nature and bringing that knowledge to the human community. We’ll look at each of these in turn.
The Green Man leads not by lording power over others, but by encouraging others with a vision of the possible. He can empower others because he is secure in his own power and thus not easily threatened. He holds his authority lightly and leads by example rather than by command. The Green Man embodies a sense of balance, insight, and confidence as well as will and the power to make and do. Because he is in charge of his feelings and ambitions (rather than being run by them) and knows his own weaknesses, he can avoid many of the shadow issues that often trip people who are in positions of authority.
The Green Man is genuinely concerned for those he is responsible for and for the good of the whole. Like the Earth Mother/Empress, as “Earth Father”/Emperor, he avoids an “us-versus-them” mentality as gracefully as he avoids separating himself off from those he has authority over. What makes him an effective leader (besides his obvious analytical and motivational skills) is the fact that he truly understands the needs of his people. If he is in a political position, he has come to it not through might or privilege or the “old-boy” system of favors, but through his own significant abilities. He has a clarity of vision that inspires others and a compassion that engenders trust.
As a father figure, he is also to be admired. He can nurture, guide, and protect as well as provide materially. Because he is attuned with the earth and natural resources, he doesn’t support wasteful consumption but rather keeps the greater good in mind. He does not rely on material goods to substitute for more important emotional sustenance. In some interpretations of this card, it is said that this ruler/father can make things stable and secure. We would modify that to say that the Green Man understands that we live in an interdependent world that is in constant change and that security cannot depend on sameness, isolation, or narrowly defined self-interest.
The third element is highlighted by the name, Green Man. As author William Anderson asserts, the Green Man is an archetype that seems to reappear at various times in history and reflects our relationship with nature. The most common depiction of the Green Man is a man’s head made of leaves or with leaves coming out of the mouth. He is associated with the spirit of vegetation, yet here we are presenting a new image that includes more of the natural world. We might think of the Green Man as the living intelligence of nature shapeshifting into the various forms of man, elk, plants, and stars. Since it is hard for us to identify with something without set form, we utilize a human figure in the card to represent this intelligence. The crystal on his scepter symbolizes the Green Man’s alliance with the hidden power and wisdom of nature. He brings this wisdom to the human village seen in the lower part of the picture. In the contemporary world, the Green Man may be an urban person who is an eco-activist, like some forms of the Earth Mother.
When you draw or are drawn to this card, you are invited to deepen your alliance with the natural world. There are a number of authors and teachers who may help you learn to listen and feel nature spirits or tune into the larger Gaia consciousness. Yet even without the help of other explorers, you can let the Green Man inside you guide you to a deeper communion.
This is also a good time to “own” your power and authority or heal relationships with people in these positions. It may be that you are ready to take on a larger role as a leader or to change your style of leadership. What are your attitudes about power? Do you see how power can be used in good ways, or are you so concerned about the abuse of power that you stay away from it? Can you be in a position of leadership or authority without being on a power trip?
If you are male, this is a good time to confront your ideas and assumptions about what it means to be a man. If you are a woman, the invitation may be to cultivate the positive male qualities present in this card. This card may also signify “fathering” children or a new business or project. This is not a distant role but an intimate one. The Green Man is as tender and involved as he is wise.