Bohemian Gothic-The High Priestess


Surja76 said:
Really I did not know about Ritual gloves. Thank you for your mentioning. I am Orthodox and our Priests do not ware gloves.

Yes, Alex is also Orthodox and so it was new to him also :)


baba-prague said:
Yes, Alex is also Orthodox and so it was new to him also :)

It is really pleasant to know that one of the authors is Ukrainian. My best wishes to him. :) Good work!


baba-prague said:
our intention with the gloves was to imply white Papal gloves.
The High Priestess is, after all, also La Papessa.
Ah! Nice tribute to the history of that card! Interesting that she is wearing them with a mix of colors as, according to the info there, the traditional Episcopal gloves are paired with the color of the robes according to the ritual--red gloves with red robes, white gloves with white robes (how fashionable ;) )

But then La Papessa is, by her very existence, a rebel against the traditional. We're heading into Da Vinci Code territory there :D The idea Jesus meant women to be leaders of the religion.

I note that the info on the gloves says that they're never black and never worn in relationship to death. They're gloves of life and purity. Which makes an interesting contrast with that vial she's examining. In this deck, it has to contain the secret of death. Which brings me back to that in between place. Everything is kept separate and untouchable. The High Priestess in her cocoon of robes, the blood (?) in the vial. The Pillars. Nothing actually touches or mixes. It's all kept carefully separate for when the time comes to mix it.

And now I'm seeing those gloves as ones a lab assistant might wear as she handles specimens! :bugeyed:


For the first time in some time, the first thing I notice in the card is a moment of hesitation in the High Priestess. Normally the card really pushes away from hesitation... act in the moment. But I know considering things going on in my life as of late, this pondering before actually making the decision to follow my instinct seems so significant.

Putting that all aside, is the High Priestess walking or sitting? The billowing of her robes makes me question both ways, but for me today it seems as if she's walking. Her robes are full and even a little bit impractical, even for a Priestess. I understand that she's supposed to be in authority and must even be slightly intimidating in her demeanor, but with her fragile hands, it really makes her seem considerably human to me. The very real and HUMAN expression on her face does nothing to make me feel more comforted in her; it reminds me of how even those who are in power can doubt themselves.

The pillars behind her are more than just the middle ground between "good" and "bad" or the opposites of positive and negative. Their decaying nature make me think that this position of High Priestess has been around for such a long time and that no matter the individual, the tradition must be kept.

Her hesitation and the vial of red liquid she holds makes me wonder how much control the High Priestess has; she seems subservient. Even though she precedes the Hierophant, is she in more or less control? And how does intuition play into it? The finger to her forehead just makes me think..."think". Or "use your noodle!" To be honest, it feels more factual than metaphysical or psychic or intuitive.

Maybe that's the impracticality of her robes or the tradition showed by the pillars behind her. Maybe the individual stresses thought and fact and the actual words that are said... but she's now bound to follow something more dated and primal than all that. There's something bigger and fuller to follow if she goes with her intuition and the energies in the world and she's being drawn into it as her new duty.


I'm doing my IDS on the Bohemian Gothic Tarot and I have spent the last week in journey and meditation with The High Priestess. Mine is a personal journey within the spiritual ways of my own spirituality, beliefs and instinctive knowing... My ancestral northern hemisphere ancestral ways taught in a country that is at the other side of the world, together with my southern hemisphere beliefs and experiences. All of which I see and feel no conflict with, even though my ancestral belief, (as can be seen in some other cultures), amongst other differences, sees the Moon as masculine and the Sun as feminine.

The leaves on the rich blue cloak are (white) oak leaves and what appear at first glance in some parts of her cloak to be flowers, are the oak catkins. The green edging of the cloak is like the branch of an oak tree linking the three worlds... The Underworld, The Earth and The Sky. Oak leaves are used in many ceremonies, including weddings, solstice festivals and funerals... The oak gives strength, endurance, long life and protection from diseases and other misfortunes in life.

Through the contact of oak leaves, the person receives the maximum possible amount of life energy. The oak tree when personified, has masculine energy and knows and has witnessed many things and is wise and humble. By going through the Oak Door you have access to the etheral planes, hence the use of oak leaves in a funeral. Sound reason why the High Priestess adorns her dress with oak leaves.

The High Priestess is secretive in her stance and in the way she is thinking. She shows potential, has a distinct air of mystery and is remote enough as to show that she knows how to avoid emotional entanglement even though her emotions remain hidden... Maybe they are hidden from herself... She is preceptive, self reliant and thus virginal, in that she belongs to noone but herself. In spite of the plush clothing, she is non material and serene, though she can be severe and untouchable if the need is there. It shows in her eyes.

She doesn't follow the dogma of any church or spiritual belief other than her own which is within herself thus she is isolated, but it is of her own desire. Because she follows no orthodox dogma it can be sometimes difficult to see and understand her spiritual beliefs mainly because she knows how to contain herself.

She covers her hands and wears white gloves for purity of spirit. She puts her hand against her face and places a finger near her right temple... it's the sign of thinking, going back recalling, locking into the unconscious which is in the background, rather than be actively obvious. Thus, she is in the process of recalling and thinking within herself.

The vial she holds with the red liquid is ruby red, a deep red rose colour... the colour of colloidal gold as created by alchemists. Colloidal gold has been known to be called the 'Solution of the Soul.' Historically, alchemists believed gold colloid cleared the mind, increased intelligence and will power, and balanced the emotions. Gold could possibly be the link between Science and Spirituality because it gives higher perspective and universal knowledge... Elixir of Life..

There is a bone on both the light pillar and the shadow pillar... ground bone powder, alchemist ingredient. In some instances the white bone powder from the bones of saints and mystics when mixed becomes a deep ruby red colour signifiying their blood, the life force. Could it be ground bone powder mixture she holds in her vial? Could the vial have sacramental red wine? Or could it be blood, but in many legends blood is stolen and stored in vials, but the High Priestess has no need to steal. It doesn't really matter what the red liquid is, because she is mysterious and her mystery remains within herself.

She appears to look at the vial but she isn't focussing on the vial itself, nor does she look into the eyes of the observer... She appears to be looking at something, yet she isn't focussing on anything specific. Her eyes do not focus into your eyes when you look right into them, yet you sense her eyes are clearly focussed into something. Could they be focussed into herself rather than anything in the world outside of her inner spirituality.

She appears to be immobile and serene... She is the Goddess, the female Pope, the spiritual Warrior Princess..... She is the one who gives the spirit flesh... The Mother of Life and Mother of Death, hence the light and shadow pillars of duality on either side of her... She evokes the light or the shadow side or walks the middle road between them both, depending on her situation. She's veiled in a mystical way and so her magic is hidden...

Turquoise, the mixture of green and blue is the colour of her head dress. It gives her a soft feminine look. Turquoise can be emotional stability, spiritual grounding, attunes the physical to the higher realms and is wisdom and protection. The turqouise aura is seen around poets and mystics, thus her head dress represents her aura colour and is free flowing... Blue is a natural colour... it's a universal colour... Blue is trustworthy and dependable... Green is the soothing and relaxing like the oak leaves.

She is the Australian Dingo... The Warrigal.... The wild dog... The Dreamtime is the spiritual past and the spiritual now of the Aboriginal people who I have close friends and we have over many years found similarities in spiritual understanding and ways... It is from here comes the belief that the Dingo can see into the supernatural, it is a watchdog, warning of the approach of spirits. In Dog Dreaming their ancestor was part human, part dingo from which all people came, this was the belief in some areas.

The Dingo can see into the supernatural. The Dingo is mysterious and secretive. A lean creature, not a pack animal but a loner, thus it follows it's own path and ways but will live and be part of a small clan if the need is there... The Dingo watches and observes everything, is reasoning, has knowledge, works on intuition and doesn't bark, but howls...

You can never be sure what the Dingo, same like the High Priestess is thinking or where the Dingo, The High Priestess, is looking... A regal spiritual creature, pure Intuition.



When I look at the High Priestess I see the highest form of femininity - ruler and giver of the life force - blood. She creates life through her own body and blood, a mystery unrevealed. The dark blue - communication with oneself, the turquoise - balanced heart/mind, the red - passion, violet - spirituality, white - purity. It looks like she is pointing to her left eye as if to say, "No one sees what I see." She is the embodiment of intuition; she knows every blood cell in the vial and can tell you what will become of it. I don't think the leaves are oak leaves - too masculine. They may be willow or pomegranate?
Even her throat is covered up to reinforce the passivity of the card. All things come to those who wait. She is balanced between the two towers of light and dark. In this instance it actually looks like the sun might be out and that isn't moon light on the right tower but sunlight and she has her back turned from the masculine of the sun but resides, passively between the forces of light and dark.
When I look at this card I get a sense of powerful, passive, knowing; aloofness; seclusion; initiation.
Alisa :)

Pam O

Thirteen said:
Our High Priestess is... in fact, covered from head-to-toe, only her face revealed, giving us that traditional feel of her as nun-like. The untouchable and likely secluded lady.
Thirteen said:
There is a "sleeping beauty" feel to her, as if she's being protected from cutting herself or shedding her own blood--and by doing so waking up, becoming a complete woman--or maybe not a woman at all. Maybe she's being kept protected for fear that she'll turn into something dangerous? I think of all those scary movies where if the innocent girl gets one taste of blood she turns into some fantastic monster.

In fact, given this deck, her layers of clothing might be protecting her from other things instead. Like the sun, for example. In older Vampire stories the vampires can go out during the day, but need to protect themselves from too much sunlight. Or maybe, like the Witch of the West, she doesn't want to get wet and melt ;)

Likewise, she might well be saving herself from being contaminated for other reasons. Young women who were going to be sacrificed were often kept bundled up and pure. Likewise, a person may go through purity rites and wear special holy clothing as they're working their way on up to some powerful level of magic...

I have another idea on the "face" of the BG High Priestess. What if the "face" we see is really a mask, and she is in fact, covered completely??? If this is a mask, then she would NOT be exposing any part of herself to anyone, the sunlight, etc?

I have attached a scan of this HP next to another deck showing a mask instead of a face. When the idea of the mask came to me, I thought of this particular Osho Zen card. FYI: Both faces in the O.Z. card are masks according to the companion book. Then I looked up the HP in the O.Z. deck, and it almost looks like a mask too?!


I doubt she's wearing a mask

Pam O said:
I have another idea on the "face" of the BG High Priestess. What if the "face" we see is really a mask, and she is in fact, covered completely??? If this is a mask, then she would NOT be exposing any part of herself to anyone, the sunlight, etc?
I had a feeling someone would say that. Masking the HPS is common to certain decks, as is putting a veil over her face. However, I think a mask would take away rather than add to the point being made by this card in this deck. So while her face can be taken as "mask-like," I don't think she is wearing a mask or that we're meant to think she is.

Don't get me wrong; I certainly would not put it past the artists to indicate that face was a mask if they thought it would enhance their point. But if she was wearing a mask that would be a very important point and I think the artists would want us to realize it--as it's easily noticed in other decks which have a masked HPS. I mean really notice it like having the face be on that stick instead of the vial, or have ribbons indicating it's tied on. The BG can be ambiguous about some things, but I doubt they'd be ambiguous about that.

Which makes me believe that they really do want us to see her as covered all over but for her face. This makes us feel that covering so much more. When someone walks towards you completely covered head-to-toe, you tend to look at the "costume" that is moving towards you rather than thinking about what or who is underneath. If you think about the person under all that, you think of them as either hiding or trapped. But expose the face and now you see the person as bundled up, cocooned. And I think that is the point that the deck creators want to make with this HPS. Not that she is utterly cut off or hiding herself from the world, but that she is wrapped up special; protected like a baby in a blanket.

That exposed face is also important because the HPS is not completely cut off from the world. If she was, she could not be the HPS. The whole idea of the HPS is her "in-between" status. If she is totally covered, including masked, then she is on one side. The cut-off side. Totally exposed and she is on the other side. Covered but still with one part "exposed" means that she is in-between. Not on one side nor the other. In a moment, she could cover her face, or she could remove more of her clothes and be more exposed. But at this moment, she makes no decisions, she remains between. This is a similar position to the Hanged Man and the Dancer in the World Card; cards that the Tarot often gives to those who do not "act" but in their stillness see what others cannot see. They gain insight into mysteries and secrets because they remain "in-between."

Finally, the BG deck has a lot of twists on Christian ceremonies and archaic/traditional elements (like girls in communion dresses). Given the Popish gloves, I think we can pretty well assume that the BG artists were doing a tribute to the Papess, the ancient original name for the High Priestess which referred to a female priest. Thus, it would undermine the image of her as a nun-pope in ancient Christian mode by masking her. She'd look more like she belonged at the Venice Carnival than seated on the Pope's throne in Rome. Look at pictures of Popes. They are almost totally covered but for their faces.

So while I understand the idea of thinking she's wearing a mask, and I applaud your point, I do not think she is wearing a mask. Some decks do use a mask for the HPS and it makes a point for that card in that deck. In this deck, however, I think it would take away from the point this card is trying to make rather than add to it.

Pam O

You have the most fascinating takes on so many cards Thirteen. I have this hope that you could write one of the MRP companion books someday with Karen & Alex. :) I know, that's probably just a silly fantasy.


Pam O said:
You have the most fascinating takes on so many cards Thirteen. I have this hope that you could write one of the MRP companion books someday with Karen & Alex. :) I know, that's probably just a silly fantasy.
I'd do it in a heartbeat if they asked, but I worry that I'd never finish it! There's so much to talk about and keep talking about with this deck and it's amazing images.