The Papess Tarot card: positive or negative?


At first sight, the Papess appears as a comforting character in the Tarot of Marseille. Emblematic figure of this deck, is arcanum II totally beneficial? Doesn’t it hide some negative aspect?

What can be seen on the arcanum of the Papess?

Sitting down with a tapestry behind her, the Papess holds an open book in her hands. It is lying on her thighs. There is a yellow cross on her chest. Her head is covered with a tiara. The main colors of this card of the Tarot of Marseille are blue and, to a lesser extent, red.
The Papess, of course, represents in many cases a mother but, as is the case for every discipline enabling us to “decipher reality”, we should not make such systematic interpretations.
This figure seems dominated by the color of flesh. With a tiara on her head, she holds a flesh-colored book. Action is tempered by spirituality. The book she holds may be that of human experience. She does not look at it because she knows what it contains. Little by little, we develop our own experience in life.

The Papess card refers to absolute femininity

If you analyze the card of the Papess from the angle of the mother, the woman of experience who holds secrets, the book of life, she is the hurdle we have to clear to make our way to our own femininity (the Empress), or to our own masculinity (the Emperor).
We are not faced here with a “papess” in the religious meaning of the term since women cannot run the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, she represents “higher femininity”, inner knowledge, spirituality hidden in matter as her blue coat covering some red piece of clothing shows.
Her eyes look to the left, i.e. to the past. In Astrology, she corresponds to the symbolism of the Moon, the planet of knowledge, the past and what’s passive. She doesn’t emit her own light but she reflects that of the Sun, symbol of Life. This means it is impossible to become Enlightened without going through the filter of knowledge.

The Papess’number is Two, the first even number that divides unity. Double polarity that refers to the pair, the couple. The notion of duality comes from the aspect of conflict of the number 2 (contradiction, antagonism). Temporal forces are in opposition to spiritual forces but these two forces combine in the number One to give birth to life.The Papess is also Wisdom, the one that combats opposition, the one that makes oppositions disappear. 

The Papess and the Pope represent the emotional and visceral aspect but also the spiritual aspect of men and women in its greatest expression. They are Animus and Anima. These are the models that form our understanding of men and women.

What is the hidden meaning of the Papess?

Through its negative aspect, the Papess refers to the notion of women’s power. Depending on the relationship you had with your mother, the one who brought you up and taught you things, and with the fair sex in general, your attitude will be different when faced with the tarot card of the Papess: if you find it hard to deal with it, you will have difficulties getting over it and the conflict with your feminine part will persist.

This major arcanumun veils the conflicts that exist due to an influence or a moral authority you combat or to which you adhere but do not feel you measure up to.

It can also represent a feeling of guilt after having committed a mistake or when some inner moral conflict needs to be solved. It is in some kind of way a sort of moral consciousness, the superego.  

To further explore the Tarot of Marseille, you will find a lot of information on my website. To go further in this thematic, two articles must capture your attention: