PART 1 – THE HIGH PRIEST SYMBOLISM
The High Priest arcanum wraps up the first of four major arcana subsets (lunar-yang, incarnation). In the post about Yin-Yang, Lunar Cycle and Solar Cycle, we defined the ten-major arcana lunar (unconscious) set (1 to 10) and the first five-arcana (1 to 5) subset (yang, incarnation). They are (1) The Initiating MAGICIAN, (2) The Incubating HIGH PRIESTESS, (3) The Seducing EMPRESS, (4) The Commanding EMPEROR and (5) The Mediating HIGH PRIEST (this post). The High Priest synthesizes the four previous arcana (1 to 4) and prepares for the second five-arcana (6 to 10) subset (lunar-yin, perception).
With hoofs in the ground and a bow aiming towards the sky, there is no better myth than the half human half horse Centaur to symbolize the High Priest role. The arrow is the link connecting terrestrial humans to celestial divinities. As will be described further, astrological Sagittarius (Centaur) and mythological Chiron (the eldest Centaur) are associated with the High Priest symbolism. The highest religious authority has received different arcana names: Pope, Hierophant, Preacher and High Priest. Since we are analyzing four separate tarot decks, we will use “HIGH PRIEST” that embrace all four designations. The High Priest role is the same in all cases, it is to receive divine wisdom and give it to humans. The High Priest acts as a mediator between the material earth and the spiritual sky. This is why Astro Tarology named him the “Mediating HIGH PRIEST”.
The High Priest arcana and Astro Tarology “Flower of Life”
Before detailing the High Priest symbols in the four previously selected tarot decks, let’s look at the Fool (#0), the Magician (#1), the High Priestess (#2), the Empress (#3), the Emperor (#4) and the High Priest (#5) positions in the Astro Tarology “Flower of Life”. That structure works for almost all tarot decks major arcana. We selected the Tarot de Marseille (TDM) where the Traveling Fool is called “Le Mat”, the Initiating Magician “Le Bateleur”, the Incubating High Priestess “La Papesse”, the Seducing Empress “L’Impératrice”, the Commanding Emperor “L’Empereur” and the Mediating High Priest “Le Pape”. All six can be seen in the following image bottom.
The High Priest represents the link between Jupiter (abundance and success) and the Heart (love and beauty). Jupiter gives the High Priest his leading authority and the Heart his divine love. Let’s note that the High Priest shares the central Heart with the High Priestess.
Let’s now observe the four different High Priest arcana.
Tarot de Marseille (TDM)
The TDM High Priest (“Le Pape” – The Pope) sits on a throne (high authority) whose back is like a ladder between two columns of blue sky color (moving up to and down from spiritual heights), held together by a red (life) connector (bridging physical life and spirit). The ladder works in both directions: from above to below (the High Priest receives the celestial divine message) and from the earth to the sky (the High Priest gives the divine message to earthy followers). On the bottom, we see two disciples with red (life) tonsures (religious), dressed with partly sky blue robes (already on some spiritual level) listening to the master teachings (his right hand two joint fingers indicate unity and blessing).
(1) In his left (receptive) blue sky (spiritual) hand he hold a gold (authority) vertical (up and down) crozier with a triple cross (holy trinity), (2) Both his flesh color (human life) right (active) hand and his sky blue (spiritual) left (receptive) hand are showing a Templar cross (equal branch length = union of horizontal matter and vertical spirit), (3) His yellow-orange-red (life intelligence) four-tier (physical, emotional, creative and intellectual worlds) tiara (spiritual crown) ends with a small orange circle (top spirituality) on the card’s edge (at the visible world’s end), (4) His white hair (purity) have red (life) barrettes (bridges), (5) His beard (wisdom) is white (purity) and sky blue (spirituality), (6) The yellow (intelligence) edges of his red (life) cape are held together with an orange (intellectual) and green (existential) circular (eternal) clip (unity).
To reach a higher awareness level, the TDM High Priest needs to bridge material and spiritual worlds.
The High Priest and High Priestess couple
Each arcana is a letter of the tarot alphabet. By combining two letters we will get a syllable. Let’s now look at the couple High Priest and High Priestess.
Unlike the Empress and the Emperor facing each other in the natural sequence (III-IIII), the High Priestess and the High Priest are now back to back (II-V). The Empress needs the Emperor to ground her idealism and the Emperor needs the Empress to loosen up his realism. Both the High Priestess and the High Priest are equally pure hearts with a powerful sense of devotion to others. The High Priestess (receptive) incubates the spiritual knowledge for the High Priest (active) to transmit it to the world. Their missions are to serve others and the last thing they should have is an individual attraction to each other that would deviate their energy from their natural life missions.
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (RWS)
(1) Like the TDM High Priest, the RWS High Priest (“The Hierophant”) sits on a throne (high authority), (2) With a triple cross (holy trinity) crozier in his left (receptive) hand, (3) And his right (active) hand showing two joint fingers (blessing, unity), (4) The RWS High Priest blessing right hand is at his head level (intelligence of the head) while for the TDM High Priest it is at the heart level (intelligence of the heart), (5) The RWS High Priest wears a three-layer (holy trinity) papal tiara (spiritual crown) on his head, (6) The two columns are now massive (tangible) pillars (paralleling the RWS High Priestess two pillars) and growing outside the arcana (link earth-sky), (7) The two tonsured disciples wear differentiated flowery robes: the left includes red roses (love) and the right white lilies (purity), (8) The RWS High Priest wears a red cloak (life, energy, action) with white borders (virginity), (9) Showing three crosses (holy trinity), (10) He wears white shoes (pure standing) also with crosses (Christianity), (11) His feet stand on a red carpet (material life) on which lie two crossed golden keys (spiritual unity of opposites: earth-sky, matter-spirit, known-unknown).
To reach a higher awareness level, the RWS High Priest needs to mediate opposites such as known and unknown.
Mythic Tarot (MT)
Represented by Chiron, the Greek mythology Centaurs leader, the MT High Priest arcana differs completely from the previous TDM and RWS papal association. We now see a mythic half horse (matter) half human (spirit) united in one creature (unity earth and heaven). Chiron mediation between matter and spirit, though, coincides with the TDM and RWS High Priest teaching message.
The MT arcana shows the following details. (1) Chiron lives in a dark cave (material home) with light coming from the roof (spiritual temple), (2) In his left (receptive) hand he holds a paper scroll (divine laws), (3) And his right (active) hand shows his index and pinky fingers up (ancient blessing sign, when also raising the thumb up the three fingers would mean “I love you” is sign language), (4) The cave (temple) entrance is made of two natural rocky (not man-made) pillars (knowledge), (5) Chiron has a beard (wisdom teacher) and wears a crown (supreme ruler) over his head.
To reach a higher awareness level, the MT High Priest needs to be seriously committed to seek the meaning of life.
More about Chiron in Greek mythology
Chiron was born from the sun (King Ixion, Ares son) and a raincloud, which Zeus created to look like his wife Hera (thus preventing Ixion to sleep directly with the Goddess). Unlike the other Centaurs, Chiron was intelligent and peaceful, as he was taught by Apollo and Artemis in his younger years. Chiron was a teacher, priest and healer. One day, his friend Heracles wounded him accidentally with a poisonous arrow from which he could never heal himself. Then, immortal Chiron continued to live in pain, renouncing to worldly enjoyments and dedicating his time to spiritual teaching. To put an end to his endless suffering, Zeus mercifully let Chiron die and gave him a place among the stars known as the Centaurus Constellation.
Symbolon Tarot (ST)
Very rare in human nature, the ST High Priest card image is totally symmetrical (accessing priesthood perfection requires discipline). He is a non-denominational preacher. His two hands are up (blessing a congregation, linking material earth and spiritual sky), and has a big cross (Christianity) on his heart (love), two seven-branch menorahs (sacred candelabrum used in the Temple of Jerusalem) fronting two stars of David (symbol associated with the Jewish people) on the altar cover (Judaism) and a circle-centered stain-glass Buddha (Buddhism, wisdom) over his head. The two pillars (knowledge) are now inside the temple and hold an ogival vault (religious architectural support).
In the top corner, we see the astrological sign of Sagittarius (symbolized by the Centaur myth uniting earth and heaven), its glyph as an upwards arrow (link between matter and spirit) and its ruling planet Jupiter (abundance and success) in the bottom corner.
Chiron is also the name of a comet orbiting between Jupiter and Uranus. It symbolizes the wounded healer and teacher. Astrologically, Chiron position would indicate where our healing powers are, more specifically those resulting from our spiritual wounds.
To reach a higher awareness level, the ST High Priest needs to be the inner therapist searching the soul with an open heart.
In a summary, we can say that to reach a higher awareness level, the High Priest needs to (1) bridge material and spiritual worlds, (2) mediate opposites such as known and unknown, (3) be seriously committed to seek the meaning of life and (4) be the inner therapist searching the soul with an open heart.
As a practical simple advice, your inner High Priest recommends that you mediate the material and the spiritual.
Click on 2 for the HIGH PRIEST Practical Exercises