The Magician & The Wheel of Fortune
The High Priestess & Justice
The Empress & The Hanged Man
The Emperor & Death
The Hierophant & Temperance
The Lovers & The Devil
The Chariot & The Tower
Strength & The Star
The Hermit & The Moon
Ones & Nines
Twos & Eights
Threes & Sevens
Fours & Sixes
In The Numerical Tarot:
The High Priestess is
THE HIGH PRIESTESS & JUSTICE
These two cards are probably one of the most obvious pair of correlating symbols that result from altering the 22 Majors into two rows of 1-9. Both have a woman between two pillars, with a fabric draped behind them. Both cards represent the number 2 and the balance and flux of opposites, as well as the vision of direction that tells us where the preceding 1 will go.
As we examine the High Priestess though, we encounter an icon that seems a bit misplaced when viewed against the balance, symmetry, contrast and consistency of the grid matrix used in The Numerical Tarot (see The Spine of Tarot elsewhere on this site).
Covered in veils, with the sacred scriptures of the Torah in her lap, the High Priestess usually symbolizes the concept of mystery and occultism, holding the Secret Laws for a Secret Church, or, sitting before the temple of Solomon as a veil in front of that wealth of wisdom. Unfortunately, in our system, such forms of mystery and occultation connect her with the concept of obfuscation, and so, the negative side of our grid matrix of inter-related ideas. That would make her mis-placed.
On the other hand, to some, she is also responsible for the idea of revealing her mysteries, as the waxing moon at her feet symbolizes, so we must also consider her connected to the idea of inspiration. Because of this we see how this one card actually pulls ideas from both halves of our matrix, making her placement at the very least, a bit imprecise.
In the Zohar, the torah is compared to an inspiration, or an inspiring vision that is only glanced for a moment, but lasts for a lifetime. Some describe the veils of occultation seen in The High Priestess card as hiding the light of the divine within. Perhaps these positive qualities of inspiration are why this icon is used in this position, who knows. Personally I believe that mystery - revealed or not - remains intrinsically mysterious and so belongs on the negative side of our Major Trumps.
Unfortunately, in the drawings of my deck, I only illustrate the bad side of the negative cards. That means that the High Priestess icon - with all her darkness, veils, occultation and mystery - is no longer usable as an illustrated icon, in my deck. She still exists as an un-illustrated icon, but not as an illustrated icon. Disappointing, yes, but unavoidable if we are to adhere to a balanced, symmetrical, contrasting and consistent design, rooted in patterns in nature, organized upon a matrix of inter-related ideas, capable of revealing the cumulative effects of the binary nature of our universe upon an individual.
At this point, people devoted to the High Priestess symbol, might well question the usefulness of this matrix idea, and all the logic that lead to its creation, as a way arguing for the preservation of this attractive symbol. To those people I can only suggest that the High Priestess be thought of as a symbol of inspiration, and not mystery, and be drawn in a less mysterious, less dark and less veiled way.
In early decks, this card is called The Popess, a female quivalent to the Hierophant who, in early decks is called The Pope. Some have suggested that the image of a female pope, who is actually dressed more like a nun, might have supplanted the missing virtue of Prudence, or perhaps Faith. If this were so, a Popes would be a much more appropriate symbol for a positive 2 than a woman of mystery. Prudence would also be much more appropriate for a positive 2, as Prudence, who some consider the most important of the cardinal virtues, gives us the foresight, and points the way to the the virtuous path that leads to the other virtues that are depicted elsewhere in the deck.
At her best the High Priestess, or Popess, or Prudence... would (or should) represent a clear path to understanding, and virtue, and the emergence of ideas from nowhere, via the spark of The Magician. At her worst she would be an impenetrable smoke screen, blocking your vision, like the fabric behind her. She would foil your navigational equipment and paralyze you, making you wait for the fog to lift (making her more appropriate to the bad side of a deteriorate 2) (my own subjective view of "good" and "bad" coming through there, or course).
Across from the High Priestess, we have the figure of Justice, obviously symbolizing the idea of balance and opposition. However once again, it's difficult to tell whether she is revealing the good or bad side of these concepts (subjectively speaking), and whether she is properly located with respect to positive or negative influence on our matrix.
Both the ameliorate and deteriorate sides of the Majors express the idea of balance. The difference between these two sides is between the open parallel balance that leads to immediate and direct action and clear lines of sight, versus the closed and crossed balance that leads to intermittent, indirect, or frustrated action or obscured lines of sight. The pillars, sword, balanced scales and unblinded eyes indicate to me a leaning toward the open and parallel, which would of course make this card misplaced. Perhaps this card is suggesting a NEED for open parallel balance in the face of crossed antagonistic balance. In any case, I feel a need for clarification, so...
IN THE ISOMORPHIC TAROT DECK, I choose to eliminate both of these icons. On the ameliorate side, I replace the High Priestess with a symbol of an unquestionably inspired, or insiring person, having absolute clear vision over an immediate and direct path. I title the card Inspiration, the Animated Visionary. While on the other side, the bad, negative, deteriorate 2 is symbolized by a blinded, frustrated lost soul on a crooked path full of obstacles. I title the card Obfuscation, the Frustrated Waif.
At its best the ameliorate 2 restates the idea of inspiration and a clear path to understanding. While at its worst it represents the idea of missing the obvious. On the other side, the negative 2 shows us the idea of obfuscation and wandering around in a fog. While at its best it restates the idea of mystery, and a meandering path. A High Priestess, keeper of mysteries, would be associated with the good side of a negative 2. I don't illustrate the good of the negative 2, but the concepts embodied by a "woman of mystery" remains intact within this system of balanced, symmetrical, and contrasting ideas.
NOTE: Go to the DECK section of this site, to learn more about the NAMES and titles of this deck and how they are picked to describe a gridded pattern that utilizes extremes and in-betweens. Each card in this deck is but one possible expression on a spectrum of possibilities. There is a lot more to learn, than what is being shown here.