Night of Joy
677 Lorimer Street (Street View)
Brooklyn, NY

One of the most noteworthy details of the Waite-Smith High Priestess is the moon pressed into submission beneath her left foot. While it is often noted that its crescent geometry represents the horns of Hathor, or the bow of Minerva, the image also obviously reflects depictions of Mary as she appears in the Book of Revelation. Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Madonnas began to routinely depict her standing atop a crescent moon as in the Book of Revelation, including her legendary image impressed upon Saint Juan Diego’s tilma by the apparition at Guadalupe.

Marian apparitions tend to be more diverse in their initial tellings than official literature often suggests. Jacques Vallee (via the work of Evans-Wentz) noted that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance coincided with the feast of Tonantzin, the local mother goddess predating the arrival of Catholicism in Mexico, and that the figure witnessed by Juan Diego was, by his account, a small Mexican girl who appeared to be around fourteen years old. The apparition seen by the three children in Fatima was never described by them to be the Virgin Mary, but instead, a “small, pretty lady” reflective of old Iberian tales of the mouras. There is enough consistency in these experiences to suggest some common nature, but also, contradictions informed by place and folklore that defy all attempts to establish universality.

The art of the second Waite-Smith arcanum places her Marian image between the twin pillars of Solomon’s temple- a historical paradox- and further, places the Egyptian sun disc upon her crown: a historical melange resulting from Theosophy’s dead-end journey to identify some primordial root religion. The aftermath of this project is a nameless and secretive being who reflects multiple traditions and beliefs spanning all latitudes, longitudes, and histories, yet remains squarely outside them- much like the apparitions previously described. It is through her nature that the known and unknown are synthesized into one reality, and the mysterious can be interacted with, though never understood.

The High Priestess is everything that resisted Catholic (and other colonial powers’) attempts at global spiritual conquest (in this, it cannot be forgotten that she is also Pope Joan), as well as Theosophy’s attempts at historical spiritual conquest. She is inherently subversive: her domain is the space beyond the limits of humanity’s ability to map or control, in contrast with the Magician, whose domain is that which mankind has seized from the unknown to project onto the world.

In 1907, three years before the publication of the RWS Tarot, Miller Brewing debuted the logo that they’ve now had for over a century: a girl in anachronistic, ornate robes (of the variety we now associate with witches) resting atop a crescent moon. To this day, the model and design of the ad are not public knowledge: press releases tend to insist that she is simply “a woman of mystery.”

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There is, however, one highly-circulated tale about her origins that ought to raise an eyebrow to anyone familiar with the history:

“According to company legend, A.C. Paul, Miller’s advertising manager, was alone in the northwoods of Wisconsin—lost by one account—when he had a crystal-clear vision of the High Life Girl perched on the crescent moon. What’s not known is exactly how his vision became the actual Girl in the Moon shown in Miller advertising.”

It’s possible this is simply a tale from the break room at Miller headquarters, but it fits patterns of Marian apparitions: the image of a mysterious small girl, atop the moon no less, appearing to a lonely traveller in his passage through the wilderness. Any other details are lost to time. If true, in quintessentially American fashion, Paul did not see a miracle in this apparition, or a new spiritual path for himself: instead, he saw a marketing opportunity. Perhaps it is best that the magic of it slipped through his fingertips.

We may never know what happened in those woods, if anything happened at all- that’s how we know it’s her.