In our version of the High Priestess, the pillars of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot become trees at the edge of a dark forest.
The edge of the forest in fairytales is the threshold between the commonplace, the everyday, and the unknown.
Jung analyzed this as meaning that they are “essentially culturally elaborated representations of the contents of the deepest recesses of the human psyche” (Walker, Steven F. Jung and the Jungians on Myth. Psychology Press, 2002.)
Any character crossing that threshold, comes out the other side transformed.
The woods are dark and deep and there is no well-trod path to guide you. You must find your own way. It is a timeless, chthonic place where the collective myths, legends and primeval wisdom reside.
I’ve been reading the Mythago Cycle, by Robert Holdstock, recently. The novels center on the fictional Ryhope Wood, the last remnant of the primordial forest left in England. Entering Ryhope Wood is to experience layers of deep, Jungian time. Like Rip Van Winkle or any other good story about entering the realm of faerie, time passes quickly or slowly or not at all depending on where you are standing.
Ryhope Wood is haunted, inhabited really, not by ghosts from the past, but by the ancient memories that each person carries within them, all the myths, legends and archetypes. Remember…Re-member… a memory is a recreation of a moment in time, with the addition of an important piece of ourselves; the emotional content of our own experience - creating a new entity entirely. By entering Ryhope Wood, your experience not only transforms you, but you transform the Wood.
Whenever we face the scary unknown, we are, in essence going into the woods. By taking that first step across the threshold we begin a quest to discover our truest selves. The Tarot cards can be the tools and companions on that journey through the woods and back out the other side, however long it takes.