5: the High Priest
The teacher. The text. He’s got the whole story and he’s ready — eager — to tell you. Embrace him in the darkness and you’ll hear all five sides of the story singing in your blood.
This is one of the ends of this deck – the last card drawn in the original burst of work, the last of the traditional 78. The other ends of the deck are the Sun (the first card that was finished), the Fool (the first card I sketched, though that rough was abandoned), the 99 of Swords (the last card I drew while completing the Fools, 99s, and Void Court) and Aleph(4), the last one added as it was readied for publication. That’s five ends, one of them right here in the heart of fiveness, decorated with the aperiodic fivefold symmetry of Penrose tiles. Magicians certainly do like their fives, don’t they?
This priest is associated with Chiron, the centaur of Greek mythology. The one bright shining intellect of what was otherwise a brutish and savage tribe of man-beast, this centaur was an endless fount of knowledge, and an eager teacher. He taught many of the great heros of that mythological cycle – healing, statesmanship, magical rites, all the great secrets of the stars. He was also wounded in the side by Hercules; that wound never healed.
You can probably think of another great teacher who was wounded in the side near the end of his life. He’s got a lot of cathedrals still dedicated to him. And that brings us to the darker aspect of this priest: is there anything to him under the text? How much of the direct experience of the transcendent is still there? (The High Priest is the Divine indirect and mediated through the edifice of a Church; the High Priestess is that experience had direct.) I mean, there are certainly people out there who do their best to behave sensibly to each other based on that holy book, but there are also a lot of people out there who use picky literal readings of it to justify treating each other in the shittiest imaginable ways.
Still, there’s got to be a key in all those words somewhere. Right? There’s so many to choose from and they’re all so shiny and enticing. But do you even know what the lock looks like?
Who’s teaching you in your life? Who’s abusing the trust their position of teaching gives them? Are they doing it in jest or by accident – and which one would be worse?
He wants to share his wisdom oh so badly. But so does a virus.
(Teachers can also be wonderful and giving and beautiful! It’s just that this cartouche-laden guy with the blood-colored sash is a bit creepy. Be wary of what you learn; you may become it.)