Over the next few months, we’ll look at some books created for beginners. We’ll see some tips, ideas, and interpretations that may also be of interest to more seasoned readers. Almost every teacher or author has something to share that we haven’t heard before.

In Tarot for Beginners, in addition to exploring the traditional Rider Waite Smith meanings, we look at three other decks that follow the RWS tradition. We see how they are similar to and different from the RWS image. We hope that seeing these examples helps you interpret your own RWS-style decks with more confidence while recognizing the unique voices of these decks.

Let’s take a look at a card that is often a favorite of tarot readers, the High Priestess.

The High Priestess guards the threshold of an initiation. An initiation provides knowledge, insight, or wisdom that cannot be taught; it can only be gained through direct experience. Because she does not share this information, this card represents some- thing that cannot be revealed at this time. The High Priestess is connected with water, which, as author and teacher Kim Huggens points out, indicates her ability to understand the flow of the ever-changing future. The answer cannot be revealed because it is still changeable and depends on the initiate’s reaction. In addition, it is only by experiencing the events to come and not knowing about them ahead of time that knowledge, insight, and wisdom may be learned.

In the image below, the RWS image is in the center top position, the Legacy of the Divine Tarot is on the left bottom, and Shadowscapes is on the right.


The Universal Waite card reflects a mystery school or secret society initiation. The High Priestess sits between two pillars, indicating a very specific and controlled point of entry. The veil decorated with pomegranates represents Persephone’s journey to the underworld, or death. The water and the moon symbolize the subconscious, the unknown, and change. All these symbols together show that there is something specific that must be experienced, the details of which are unknown. The response to the experience will affect the outcome.

The Legacy High Priestess is submerged in water, symbolizing the importance of experience. The closed scroll indicates two things: this is not something that can be learned by reading or words, and it is a mystery. The pomegranate, again, speaks of Persephone’s journey. The owl flying above the scene is the promise of the wisdom to be gained through this situation.

In the Shadowscapes card, the familiar pomegranate is shown, as well as the owl: the journey and the resulting wis- dom. The crescent moons on her cloak show the mystery and changeable nature of the situation. The uplifted and spread arms of the Priestess represent fully embracing the experience at hand.

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...