I’ve had a difficult relationship with this card.
I chose this card myself three weeks ago, rather than draw it randomly as I usually do. It had turned up in a reading I’d done that morning, and I wanted to spend more time with it. And although I’ve seen it a lot in my own readings and made sense of it there, I’ve always found it very hard to interpret for someone else…even feeling embarrassed when it comes up, because I’m never sure where to put it, and it’s so open to interpretation.
When I search around the net for a little clarity, I come back with two quite different interpretations. I’ll illustrate these with images from two of my own decks, as these show the breadth of difference between the many interpretations I’ve read.
The first is that this is a card for delusions, for madness, for being under the influence of frightening and intoxicating forces.
As the image above from the Deviant Moon deck shows, the two characters are like puppets, dancing in a tangled, crazy dance while a rather terrifying, stone-faced moon looks down, tugging the strings with its magic, eyeless and emotionless.
The keywords from the accompanying book are: ‘Brainwashing. Dark influences. Trickery. Illusion. Subconscious control.‘ Can the puppets break free? It’s not looking good. It’s like they believe they’re acting of their own free will, they don’t seem to notice the moon high up behind them, controlling their every move. Perhaps they’ve been under its spell for so long that they have forgotten what freedom or sanity is like.
In this sense, the card seems like The Devil…yet with The Devil, there’s always the opportunity for those in bondage to set themselves free. This card carries no such optimism. The little book refers also to the subconscious – to ‘subconscious control’. Again like The Devil, this is bondage, addiction – alcoholism or substance misuse are typical ideas associated with this card.
Then there’s the mystical realm.
The ‘behind the High Priestess’s veil’, the inner secrets, the world we inhabit in our dreams, sometimes terrifying, sometimes wonderful, but always fascinating.
The image below is from the Shadowscapes deck. In the accompanying book, Stephanie Piu-Mun Law spins a fairytale around the mystical moon-queen, suggesting that ‘The Moon is the realm beyond the known and comfortable and predictible. It is the otherworld, awesome and inspiring in its own right, and daunting and dangerous if ill-respected.‘
THIS is the idea that attracts me to the card, this idea of leaving behind the constraints of ‘reality’, of stepping out of that comfort-zone and discovering what lies beneath. Paying the High Priestess – our own subconscious – a little visit, and respecting what she says.
There is a lot to learn down there in the subconscious, and we need to be open to the messages our inner selves are trying to tell us.
Of course this isn’t always going to be easy. There’s a reason things sit down in the subconscious – we put them there because life would be simply unlivable if we were to carry that stuff around in our thinking, conscious minds all the time. If the High Priestess represents our subconcious, then The Moon shows a time when it is neccessary to visit it, or a time when we are already there and wondering what to do with it…or perhaps a time when we are spending a little too much time there.
In the one hand this queen holds a mask – a symbol of illusion and trickery. She doesn’t wear it…if she did, she would fall under its spell. With the other hand, she wards off evil spirits, bearing a glowing red heart in her open palm. She makes a choice: beneath the eerie light of the moon, which is so keen to distort and confuse, she stays true to herself, and this will keep her safe.
So we can see two very different sides to The Moon’s influence in our lives – we are either under an evil spell, deluded, lost and confused, or we are journeying into a hidden, mysterious part of our own selves. Writing on Aeclectic.Net, ‘Thirteen’ seems to sum up the differences between the two cards shown above, saying that:
The path the Fool was walking is now a river, and he stands hip-deep in the powerful pull of its salty waters. There is, on the nearby shore, a small boat, but it has no rudder, no oar. The Fool realizes he has only two choices. He can lose himself in this desolate, primal land of madness and illusion, howl with the wolves, be hunted down, or he can get into the boat and trust himself to the river. The moon will be in control either way, but in the boat his surrender to the powers of the unconscious will at least take him somewhere.
I think that pretty much sums it up for me. It’s about self-respect, and staying true to yourself. So you’ve found yourself in a terrifying, mysterious, strangely-lit landscape, your feet seem to carry you onwards, but you don’t know where you’re going.
Don’t give up on yourself – to do so will see you soon like the puppets of the Deviant Moon. Have faith in the journey and seek purpose in it. Above all believe in your own intuition, keep your eyes and ears open and trust that the experience will benefit you.
When I get this card, I let the querent know they’re in for an emotional and mental rollercoaster ride. They’re going to be moody, sensitive, and a little irrational. They can do two things, either wander through this crazy, lunatic landscape howling at the moon (get drunk, wallow in depression, alienate friends and family with wild, antisocial behavior), or get in a boat and go through it purposefully. Meaning that they should probably take up painting, writing poetry or some other creative endeavor where they can transform all they’re seeing and feeling into something beautiful.
PS – some time later – I have just stumbled across this lovely blog post, and thought I’d post it here – someone who embraces the eerie light of the moon and lets it take him where it will.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.