Monday, April 19, 2021

Tarot Tales: P is for the Priestess and the Pope (High Priestess, Hierophant)

Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My theme this year is Tarot Tales. I am making a selection of folktales, legends, and other traditional stories that correspond to tarot cards. Storytelling and tarot go well together. Do other stories come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

Today I'm doing two cards, because I couldn't shove the Hierophant in anywhere else. But at least they go well together.

The card: High Priestess

Meanings: This card is about the "divine feminine." Wise women, spiritual teachers, keepers of mystic lore. It is about knowledge, intuition, the subconscious, and liminal spaces only the initiated can cross into. It is about learning things, asking questions, digging deep, and listening to that hidden voice that goes beyond reality.

Selection process: I knew exactly what story I wanted for this card.

The story: Elena the Wise

Origin: Russia

Summary: A soldier is recruited to guard the three daughters of an evil spirit. He soon finds out that the girls sneak out every night in the shape of pigeons. He secretly follows them, and arrives to a meadow filled with girls. Suddenly, a beautiful woman appears on a carriage drawn by six fiery dragons, sits down on a golden throne, and starts teaching the girls magic. This is Elena the Wise. 
The soldier falls in love with her, and keeps sneaking into the nighttime magic classes. Eventually he follows Elena home. She wants to kill him when she finds out, but he manages to convince her to make a challenge instead: if he can hide from her, she'll marry him. She finds him twice with the help of her magic book, but the third time he turns into a pin and hides inside the book itself. Elena admits she was defeated by the clever trick, and marries the soldier.
(Honestly, I don't care for the latter half of the story, but I love the whole secret magic girl school thing. And the dragon chariot.)

Sources & notes: Read the story here.

The card: Hierophant

Meanings: While the Priestess is about intuition and mystery, this guy is about structure, learning, and tradition. It is often said to symbolize organized religion. But even beyond that, the Hierophant stands for established rituals, sets of values, institutions of education, and rules. It is about learning acquired by hard work and study, about wisdom gained from gathering knowledge. 

Selection process: I wanted to keep this card's connection to religion in some form, but once again, I wanted to relate it to a story I like. And I wanted it to carry the learning, knowledge-seeking and mentorship aspect as well. 

The story: Journey to the West 

Origin: China

Summary: Alright, so the character I most readily associated this card with is Xuanzang (Tripitaka) from the Chinese epic Journey to the West. He is a real historical figure, and also one of the leading characters in the medieval, epic. He is the Buddhist monk and scholar best known for traveling to and around India, and bringing the holy scriptures of Buddhism to China (with the help of some supernatural helpers such as the Monkey King). I have blogged about Journey to the West in detail in another A to Z challenge here. It's one of my favorite books. 

Who are your favorite teachers, mentors, and role models?


  1. I love the dragon chariot too ;)) And the meanings of the Hierophant.

  2. Elena the Wise started out reminding me of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The soldier was paying attention in class! I had no idea what a Hierophant was!

  3. I love the idea of a dragon chariot! That's got to be a lot faster than one drawn by horses, as well as a lot more interesting and memorable.

  4. Loved reading the meaning of the card of High Priestess. It reads like the perfect syllabus of a perfect course I'd like to study for life:)

  5. Nighttime magic school in a meadow - how fun. I'm definitely going to read Journey to the West. No doubt I'll enjoy the adventures of Xuanzang, but the trickster Monkey King is a real favorite of mine.

  6. Lovely stories, both. I especially like Elena and her magic school for girls.

  7. I love how the two go together. I'm going to say that Elena is immortal and marries mortals now and again while remaining forever free. It's my belief that our best teacher is the divine/our own inner self. Everyone else gives us the information/example but we decide if/when/how to make use of it. So, I'm very both/and in that regard, priestess and hierophant both, which is why I like the convergence!

    Anne from

  8. A dragon chariot would indeed be cool, but possibly the upkeep would be difficult.
    I'll give a shout-out to the teachers on my team when I started as a young, inexperienced teacher far from home. They were amazing mentors!
    Black and White: Q for Quentulus Quazgar

  9. I like the first half of Elena's story -- the second part feels forced, probably a societal thing that all women should be married?

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Paladin