Monday, November 23, 2009

The High Priestess and the Fruit of Mystery

Late last night I had a cup of my favorite tea. I had just picked up most of the hundreds of seed beads spilled on the floor by my bad child known most often as “NO NO BAD CAT” who, in a fit of uncharacteristic sentimentality and affection, sought to sit on my lap upending my project, my beads and my attention. Since Larry the car, the replacement washer and dryer, and the replacement television have all assured that we will have a very merry LITTLE Christmas this year, I have been plugging away at handmade projects for gifts. Secretly, I like them better anyway. They are fun to make, fun to give and the stunned silence in which they are received is at least entertaining. Over that cup of tea and the late hour, I immersed myself in the comfort of the pomegranate.

Pomegranate is my favorite tea. The pomegranate fruit was a popular motif in 17th century English needlework and has made its appearances in mythology and symbolism. Persephone ate a few pomegranate seeds and depending on the Greek weather patterns, the number of seeds she ate corresponds to the length of winter. Pomegranates signaled fertility and good luck. Jewish tradition has the crown of the pomegranate as the model for Solomon’s crown. As a Christian symbol, it points to resurrection. In Ayurvedic medicine, per Wikipedia (, pomegranates are good for many things including “nose bleeds and gum bleeds, toning skin, (after blending with mustard oil) firming-up sagging breasts and treating hemorrhoids.” So if this works, I’ve got something really good to share with some of my friends in the pom-pom department. Lately, pomegranates have scored high on the anti-oxidant team for all of us who would just as soon not fall apart at the cellular level.

In tarot pomegranates are part of the RWS High Priestess card. The HP has always been a favorite of mine. Those of you who know me personally as a raving extravert may roll your eyes in wonder at my affinity to this quiet researcher who retreats from the hubbub of the outside world to bury herself in the coolest library in the universe. But my closest friends will recognize that, chatter on as I do, I love research, learning, libraries, reading, and digging through obscure sources for something both old and new at the same time. I think of it as the process of rediscovery and even more the process of receiving a message in a bottle, book, scroll, cipher or, in the case of old needlework, embroidery. Pomegranate is my favorite color, not the usual “librarian” color. The pomegranate has its red, beautiful, smooth and crowned exterior but the real mystery is inside.

And that, in a pomegranate skin, is what the High Priestess is about. Many tarot lovers identify themselves with the High Priestess. They see her as the keeper of mysteries, the holder of the scroll, enthroned within the pillars of learning. They focus on the power of her having the answer, somewhere. The rest of us are on the merry chase after her through the maze of learning that is intuition.

But I have a different take. I don’t think she is so much the mystery herself as leading the charge to chase down the mystery. She is not self-consciously powerful, full of the grade-school taunt, “I know something and you don’t!” I don’t think she thinks much about herself at all. Her focus is on the real mystery, not just the thoughts and actions that may be set down in the scrolls, grimoires, recipe books, newspaper clippings, love letters, chants, rituals, prayers, or even Elizabethan needlework. Those are just the skin of the pomegranate. She is completely absorbed with what is inside and underneath, that essence, that intangible spark of both consciousness and sub-consciousness that is the wonder of life.

She would be embarrassed to be considered the mystery herself. She would dismiss the notion as quickly as she turns away from the distraction of the outside world, all so much noise and bother. She ponders the secret of the seed.

Best wishes.

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