Golden Tarot - The High Priestess a.k.a. Pope Joan


It is funny how study changes my outlook, originally I didn't like this card as much as I like the others, but now....

Many cultures love to juxtapose female and male images, by having stories, some true some fiction of powerful women who take on male roles, either having to or choosing to wear male clothes in the process. I am a Chinese historian and we find those stories all the time, even American culture has stories of women posing as men to fight in the revolutionary and civil wars. This card depicts the legend of Pope Joan. It evokes an image of a strong woman, who keeps a secret. She has an outward manifestation and a private one. I once read a book for a history of woman in Asia class with the title something like Outward Faces and Inner Circles how women lead a double life when they are outside in public and when the are home in the inner circle. This woman is operating in a man’s world. She has a delicate curve to her clothes, her head, and hands are distinctly feminine, but she wears a papal hat/crown and carries a papal staff, and the coloration of her robe is masculine, and not overtly flowery or feminine in design (although I don’t know many men that wear birds)
I almost imagine her being outside, with a covered collanade behind her. Wherever she is it doesn’t seem to be in an inner “woman’s “ chamber. I find it interesting the use of architecture in Tarot. To me, especially with a HP, or for that matter any of the first 6 major arcane cards when the subject of the cards is enclosed in architecture it gives a feeling of rules, structure, formality, and formal teaching (vs. practical experience, and the like)
Her book denotes a measure of learning, and the subjugation of the cat maybe like the magician a power/coexistence with nature.
I was thinking that if the Magician is a Christ figure who else to be the HP and Hierophant but the pope a female pope (Joan) and a male.
The leopard at her feet? I was thinking how cats are associated with the female, while retaining vast power, strength, speed and hunting ability. Does anyone have any more insights into the cat?

I enjoy the fact that Kat returned to the roots of the card in her interpretation. It gives it power, and maybe will advise a querient to find strength

The following web sites have information about Pope Joan
The Story
Mysteries of History at U.S.News
Debate if it is fact of fiction?


Thanks for the info on that card Livia and keeping the study group alive :)

I never even knew there was a Pope Joan !
What I think is so beautiful in the card is the contrast between the serene and feminine face and the severeness of the headdress and the robe she is wearing.
The panther at her feet reminds me of the Strength card. It must have been a very exotic animal in those days, even more so than now.

When I look at the card I can't help but feeling of the sad way in which she ended. Maybe that is also a warning of the card: don't let your secret become too big or the wrong people will find out.
(Maybe, if she had confided in a friend in a monastery she could have secretly given birth there and noone ever would have known - just a thought).
I even think the clergy kept the story of her alive as a warning to women: know your place or only bad will come of it.

This is really a card that lives more the more you look at it. I think it is in the beautiful expression on her face.


I love, love the the High Priestess card in this deck. Here are some things that I notice:

-I love the use of color in this card--black, red, and gold are dominant. Red makes me think of blood, which is hidden but essential to life. Gold also makes me think of elemental things, valuable things hidden in the earth. Black makes me think of what is concealed, unexpected--not what is "bad", but what is unknown.

-The cat here is very significant to me. Cats are the strangest creatures :) They seem to have their own agendas and schedules.

-I love how the high priestess is wrapped in her gown, which almost covers her entire body, and how her book (red again!), is wrapped and hidden.

Overall, this card conveys the vibe of the high priestess for me--knowledge, hidden strength and wisdom, intuition

I love the Pope Joan story, by the way--the idea of a woman infiltrating a patriarchal position, creating life through pregnancy, and keeping her identity a secret.