Secrets of the High Priestess revealed


In the Golden Dawn system, the path of Ghimel runs from Tiphareth to Kether. In Waite's Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, Daath is placed in the middle of this path creating two paths. As early as 1910 Waite is known to have been entertaining this idea. The following passages from his paper, "The Tarot and the Rosy Cross" are a couple of examples. Notice his description of Daath as the union of Binah and Chokmah. He also explains how the Portals aren't sephiroth but gates leading to them. He notes that the path of Ghimel goes directly to Kether bypassing Binah and Chokmah, but there should be a Portal in the path that connects to Binah and Chokmah, which in fact there is, Daath. He justifies the use of Daath as a Portal by noting that it isn't technically a sephira, but a sub-sephira. It's also a "centre of influence coming from Chokmah and Binah" so it's an ideal gate leading to them both. I've created a diagram that should make it easier to follow what he's saying.

Tree Diagrams

"It should be observed in the meantime that in order to reach Tiphereth the Postulant re-enters Yesod, whence he proceeds upward to the threshold of the Second Order; and so it may be gathered—by the virtue of another inference—that the point of departure for the entrance into the Third Order will seem to be Tiphereth of necessity. But if the Postulant enters Atziluth by the help of a Portal it is not assuredly that of Kether, which would involve overstepping Binah and Chokmah, as if these were not stages of his progress; and the Portal of the Third Order must be therefore in the Path itself. In certain delineations of the Tree of Life there is the indication of a middle point in the Path of Ghimel, which point passes under the name of Daath, or Knowledge, and one reason—though of an exceedingly presumptive kind—why it may be the Portal of the Third Order is that Daath—like the Portal below—is not a Sephira, but the centre of influence coming from Chokmah and Binah. It is that which they produce between them, and there is a sense in which it stands for them both."—The Tarot and the Rosy Cross, c. 1910.​

In another place in the same paper Waite explains further his point that the Portals aren't sephiroth, but "gates."

"Now, the Portal of the Golden Dawn is not a Sephira, but, as I have said, is the Court of Malkuth. The Portal of the Rosy Cross is not a Sephira, but the Gate of Tiphereth. And again, it is reasonable to infer that the Portal of the Third Order [Daath] is not a Sephira."​

That Waite was thinking of this in his design of the High Priestess seem pretty self-evident to me. In his "Tarot and the Rosy Cross" paper he says it plainly. Speaking of Shekinah he says, "As the Shekinah in transcendence she manifests in the vestures of a High Priestess"; and, "She is the Guardian of the Gate of Daath." Check out the following diagram.

High Priestess Diagram

It will be seen that the orb on her crown falls exactly over Daath, and the horns point to Binah and Chokmah; the central orb represents the union of these two. The image on the right shows the High Priestess' path in Waite's FRC system. All the sephiroth are labeled except Malkuth which I don't believe is illustrated. Yesod is the crescent, the Moon being the planet corresponding to Yesod. Its yellow color is the same as the yellow in the pomegranates which seems to connect it with the other sephiroth.

There's something else which connects the High Priestess with Daath. For Waite, Daath was the central source for the rivers of Eden. In the GD, the rivers originated in the Supernal Eden—which was Kether, Chokmah and Binah combined into one—then divided in Daath:

"The River Naher flows forth from the Supernal Eden and in Daath it is divided into Four Heads."—Regardie, Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic.​

Waite sees it differently:

"The Sephirotic Binah, or Understanding, has nothing to do with the river symbolism of the Sephirotic scheme, as this springs from the sub-Sephira which is called Daath, or Knowledge. . . ."—Waite's Introduction to Vaughan's Lumen de Lumine, 1910.​


"The Rivers of Eden flow from a central source in Daath, which is the Higher Knowledge."—FRC Practicus Initiation.​

This would explain the great body of water behind the High Priestess and the water flowing from the bottom of her robe.

Something else of interest is in the GD's symbol of the Supernal Eden. It was the "Woman clothed with the Sun and the Moon at her feet" as seen in this picture of "Eden Before the Fall" from Regardie's The Golden Dawn:

Eden Before the Fall

The Sun is located approximately in the same place as the Solar Cross on the High Priestess, and the crescent at her feet.


I found this picture that illustrates the Tree diagram on the card. It show her "throne" as Yesod. I can see the logic.

Yesod means "foundation" and her throne certainly looks like a foundation; and it's located where one would expect to find Yesod. I think there could be some Kabbalistic doctrine involved but haven't entirely sorted it all out.

The Moon does correspond to Yesod, but I'm not sure this is what Waite was going for here. The crescent also corresponds to Shekinah in manifestation and is associated with the Earth and Malkuth. This seems a good possibility seeing as how Waite made an uncharacteristic effort to explain the difference between Shekinah above and Shekinah below. :)


Here's a side-by-side comparison of the High Priestess and the frontispiece from Waite's The Holy Kabbalah. It seems to me they're basically illustrating the same thing, the main difference being one is sitting and the other standing; the pillars of Mercy (gray) and Severity (black) are also reversed in the frontispiece because of orientation of the view. The heads in both are in Daath; the arms and chest correspond to Chesed, Geburah and Tiphareth; the legs and sex organs correspond to Netzach, Hod and Yesod; the feet are in Malkuth.

Waite says something interesting in his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross Philosophus Initiation that helps explain what could be the meaning of this. In the description of the Great Symbol of the Moon he says: "I have said that the new Moon is on the side of Chesed; in the waning it is on that of Geburah; and at the full it is said to reflect the Sun of beauty and righteousness. These also are aspects of the mind, which in the glory of its fullness reflects the mind of Christ, thus corresponding to Shekinah, whom I have termed the vesture of Messias."


High Priestess and Da'ath

Within the Inner teaching of G.D., the A.O., the S.M. and probably, I believe, within Waite's two Orders, the significance of the High Priestess was pivotal to progress as an Adept. And the relationship with Yesod and the 2=9 Grade is also an important part of this. The Theoricus Grade has the Hebrew title "Baal ha-Da'ath" (this is first mentioned in the Cipher Mss.).

In one unpublished higher Grade paper (I here summarise) there is reference to the High Priestess being the Virginal source of the Waters of Spirit (residing in the source Binah- also equated with Mare/Mary- Sea). The task of the Adept is not merely to ascend but to draw down these Waters via the Middle Pillar into Yetzirah and even Malkuth. By "watering" the desecrated Garden (where the lower Shekina is in exile) it will reverse the Fall and allow the Garden (Gan Eden) to flourish again. In a sense the Virgin becomes impregnated with the Child of Spirit (becoming the Empress) and when her waters break they flow down- the Middle Pillar being in a sense a sort of umbilical cord which, of course, beyond Da'ath has to be "broken" once it moves from the Supernal Triune into manifestation. The adept is reminded that all three figures of the Middle Pillar- viz; Key 2 (High Priestess), Key 14 (the Angel in Temperance), and Key 21 (Angel in the Universe/World) are female. And when the ToL is coloured by the Minutum Mundum scale (Emperor Scale for the Paths) the Middle Pillar is blue- being the Path of Water (although the blue changes in its three stages). In the M.M. Scale the Sephiroth are Feminine but the Paths are Masculine. It is by the reciprocity of active/male seeking by going up the Paths that one elicits the response from the Feminine flowing down, thereby enabling the Sea of Binah to discharge her Waters of Spirit via the High Priestess of Da'ath. It should be noted that the importance of the Feminine (which Waite coyly hints at his brief description of Key 2 in his "Pictorial" Tarot book) is also underscored in the paper suggesting the Adept meditate on the Hermetic diagram of the Lunar Crescent surmounting the Sun which itself surmounts the Cross- reference is made also to the Alchemical "marriage of the Sun and Moon" achieved only when the Yetziratic World (Astral, subconscious, mental etc) is so purified that the Moon (in Yesod- the Foundation) completely reflects the Holy Light of the central Sun (Tiphareth) so that no distinction between Sun and Moon can be made. When this is achieved one becomes Baal' ha Da'ath- Lord of Da'ath.

Reference is also made to the fact that the Hierophant in the 1=10 Grade ritual represents at one point the "Great Angel Sandalphon.... the left hand Kerub of the Ark, and the Feminine Power". Within the 5=6 subgrade of Theoricus Adeptus Minor the ThAM was given material which explicated the deep significance of the relationship between the Feminine and Masculine potencies (Sandalphon and Metatron). One of these ThAM papers was considered so potent and sensitive that a later Chief of the S.M. and A.O. (held simultaneously), Dr. W.E. Carnegie Dickson, re-assigned it to the 8=3 Grade of Magister Templi.

Your reference to the "Woman Clothed With the Sun" also recalls Anna Kingsford who was so strong an influence on Mathers, Westcott and the G.D. She actually wrote a book with this very title and her work "The Perfect Way" (with an image of the Woman clothed with the Sun- i.e. Isis-Urania) places huge stress on the role of the Feminine in spirituality, and was required reading for members of the G.D. S.M. etc. Thus the Tarot Key and role of the High Priestess was/is considered integral to the process of proceeding (in Waite's terms) from the 0=0 in Assiah to the 0=0 in Supernis.