The Pope Tarot card: positive or negative?


In the Tarot of Marseille, the Pope is one of the strongest masculine characters of the major arcana. His obvious geniality suggests this card is a positive one when drawn during a tarot reading. But is it, really? 

The Representation of the Pope in the Tarot of Marseille 

A white-bearded man, sitting down on his throne, donned in blue, wearing a red cape and bearing on his head a tiara with two crowns on which precious stones are set blesses two praying tonsured men with his right hand (his index and middle fingers are raised). These men are kneeling before him and adopt a specific attitude:

  • One raises his hand and keeps his head down,
  • The other one extends his hand toward the ground and lifts his chin.

They represent the two complementary and opposed aspects of Humankind as a whole.
The Pope holds in his left gloved hand the triple cross representing the three worlds or the three kingdoms:

  • divine,
  • intellectual
  • and physical.

The colors
of the Pope’s clothes are reversed in comparison to those the Papess bears.

The Pope embodies absolute masculinity

The Pope represents the glorified image of the father, but also spiritual wisdom or authority in its every form.
While the Papess represents the moral and spiritual feminine values, the Pope represents the moral and spiritual masculine values.
If you place the cards of the Emperor and of the Pope side by side, in the numerical order (4 and 5), from left to right, you will realize they sit with their back to each other.
Released from parental authority, we try to develop our own notions of masculinity and femininity. To become who we are, we will have to go beyond images and find our own path, our own truth.
Once this is done, next up is the Lovers card, the number of which is 6. This card represents the meeting of someone you will love in all its splendor…
We can therefore notice that the Tarot of Marseille is the story of the evolution of our lives, each arcanum being linked to another one in logical succession: we emancipate from our parents, we leave the nest to live our own lives, to make it take the direction we want to give it.

By the way, the Pope's number is 5, which - in numerology - is symbolized by a five-pointed star, a star that can be related to Man (a head, two arms, two legs), that is:

  • the number of human perfection,
  • the bond between Heaven and Earth.

The number five also represents movement, an often irreversible change.
We realize how impermanent things are and we become aware of everything that is alive. Nothing lasts forever. Whether you take this fact well or take exception to it, it is ineluctable. That is why we are made to learn wisdom through spirituality. 
The card of the Pope refers to the gift of teaching, of guiding. The Pope serves as intermediary, he shows the direction to follow. He can be linked to the image of a caring Father who guides his children. This card is a sign of protection.

The dark side of the Pope card

The negative aspect of the Pope when it is drawn during a tarot reading reveals a conflict with the spiritual power. The Pope, gazing at the man on the left, may be interpreted as behaving in a paternalist attitude, although he seems benevolent.
He seems to exercise great power over the men kneeling before him. This power is not necessarily positive for those who have to passively deal with it as it is exercised on them, especially when authority is overused. The guru ruling over his followers must also seem to be benevolent to attract his victims.
Religious and political fundamentalisms are also negative aspects of this arcanum that lead us to think about our blinded obedience to a man, a power, a system. Any person being in conflict with the spiritual power or with their masculine part will not greet this arcanum with open arms. The power then turns into helplessness, fatalism.
This tarot card can also unveil someone who loathes change, who refuses to become mature or to see time pass by, who tends to cling on to traditions, to everything that is, to a desire for immutability.
To know more about the cards of the Tarot of Marseille and their hidden meaning, I have written two articles:

But appearances can be misleading…