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5 The High Priest (Sage)


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My Herbal Tarot Deck studies continue with The High Priest and his very appropriate herb, Sage!  (I find it very appropriate also that I am currently enjoying a cup of Sweet Sage tea while I undertake my studies!)


4 The High Priest

The High Priest stands between two pillars - one light and one dark.  The herb, Sage, grows tall and proud in front of him and is flowering!  The High Priest himself wears a white turban (topped with red) and an under-robe of light blue with a purple hem (which reminds me very much of the High Priestess).  His coat is purple decorated with red and blue triangles from the shoulders to the hem and also a white stripe with purple dots around the armhole seams.  He gazes knowingly at the viewer.  His left hand is hidden, but in his right hand he is holding the ankh (a symbol which also appeared in the High Priestess and the Emperor).


In the Herbal Tarot, the High Priest symbolises our own inner teacher and our spiritual guide.  The traditional RWS meanings seem much less relevant here and he actually reminds me more of the RWS High Priestess (particularly with the two pillars).  The two pillars represent practical knowledge and spiritual knowledge and the High Priest represents the path that connects them.  His garment seems to merge together those of the Emperor and those of the High Priestess again, representing the connection between the masculine and feminine sides of each of us.  He is the guide who can harmonise our two sides together to make one whole.


I have never before seen this link between the High Priest with the Emperor and the High Priestess!



Family Name: Labiatae (mint, dead nettle, sage family)

Botanical Name(s): Salvia officinalis


The companion book calls this the Herb of Sacredness.  Even its botanical name comes from its repute as a powerful healing herb - salvia comes from salvare which means 'to save'.  Its power is testified in various proverbs and such like, here are some examples (found in my book 'The Complete Book of Herbs' by Lesley Bremness):

"The desire of sage is to render man immortal." (from a late medieval treatise apparently)

"How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?" (the essence of an ancient Chinese/Persian proverb)

Herb of Sacredness also attests to what is one of the herbs must common uses today - as a smudging herb used to cleanse and purify anything and everything - including to help provide clarity of thought.  Physically, it has been used to help treat and prevent indigestion, bladder infections, colds, flu and also to aid in the recovery of injuries and wounds.  A lot of uses for one herb!  And as a bonus, it thrives in the conditions in my garden with very little effort from me!

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Outside of my smudge sticks, and a good serving of burnt butter and sage with my gnocchi - I haven't considered sage much at all. So I had to do a little bit of research, which led me to see I need to do much more research! It seems there is a whole family of different types of sage out there - and the one most used in Chinese medicine is different to the one used in the Herbal Tarot. Not only do they differ in nature/properties between varieties, but the part of the plant that is used is also important in clinical practice (leaves vs roots). By how much they differ I also haven't been able to ascertain with much authority. The 'garden variety' we are accustomed to in the West (Silvia Officinalis) appears to be bitter, pungent, cool and astringent - which I would generally agree with. There isn't too much information about this variety in the TCM records I have access to, but based on the said properties - it would likely work on the liver, and possibly heart channels and be moving but maybe not too dispersing due to the astringent nature. More research needed!!!

How does it match with the High Priest? I have no idea. I need to think about this quite a bit more. Sage is definitely not a herb I am used to working with outside of the kitchen. I haven't used clary sage as an essential oil in a while either (which is different to Officinalis again). Would love to hear how others use it, and how you think it relates to this card.  

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3 hours ago, stephanelli said:

Remember that the deck creator has given their own take on some of the cards, so it may not be totally going with the High Priest as you already know him!

That's true. Because adding herbs wasn't complicated enough! 🤣

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2 minutes ago, stephanelli said:

Medicine Wheel (instead of Wheel of Fortune) and Pan (instead of the Devil!)

Gaaaaah! Whaaaat! That will be very interesting, looking forward to reading about them. Can't wait to get this deck. 

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