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Tarot picture
No. 3

Gain a Tao

Tarot 3

La Papessa or a Popessa is a thoughtful female pope, a nunlike woman wearing a triregnum, a papal tiara. She may be a priestess. In some pictures she holds a key. Other variants on the card links the woman to Isis, Virgin Mary, and the legendary Pope Joan. The tale about her appeared toward the end of the 1200s. It is summarised into this:

Pope Joan was born in Mainz, of English origin. She disguised herself as a man to follow her lover, who went for studies. She then studied for some time, and was warmly welcomed and admired in Rome, where she in due time was elected pope. She was only discovered to be a woman when she gave birth during a papal procession from the Vatican to the Church of St. John the Lateran in Rome. The legendary Pope Joan was a favorite with common people. [Boureau 2].

Also, suppressed sect, the Guglielmites, was active in Milan about a century before the tarot cards were first made. They elected one of their members, Sister Manfreda, as pope.

At any rate, early makers of the card saw a women served as an emblem of this picture. In the old decks, you will not find the crescent moon or the black and white pillar, but the veil hung behind her, the book on her lap, and the triple crown of the papacy are there. In a few decks, she holds the papal keys. At the time the tarot was in the making, there was a custom of using female figures to depict institutions or abstractions, including virtues. Occasionally a female pope served as an allegorical reference to the papacy or to the church in art from that period, but probably such an allegory was not intended, since no caption for "the empire" is found. Also worth noting: the "High Priestess" is a later, alternative caption, but very little suitable historically. [Little]

LoProne to agile information exchange, also superficial ones, she can analyse and develop nervousness

To be warm-hearted is not everything in art and living.

Loose communication is not really adequate. But it may look that way to naive persons.

She can be adamant in debates, restless, and remain curious too.

Being alive is being alone.

A great cynical and satirical wit may pose as a pope without being so.

Fond of news or novelt, she can get torn by woman feelings.

Often witty and clever, maybe she expect too much from others.

The easy-gong professional is intelligent and should be good at adapting.

A little shrewd superficiality is for remaining. Later she may come to love it.

A hobby or five should be good for her - some things she can feel for.

She may not be the most profound thinker around, but perhaps prone to study, if not bogged down otherwise.

Her aim is to remain, and to that end be allied with wisdom and a little superficiality as fits.

Those who prove to be your best sources of information may express themselves.

Recognise what you can to draw benefit from, from others who serve as personal examples.

Some caution can be a good thing in a strange climate, such as that of the Vatican.

Agile and dexterous thinking can analyse well.

Dilettantes, losing, can develop nervousness and neuroses from it.

She may see some "twin side" (complementary aspects) to matters.

Maybe she has to limit herself so as not to be found out - nick-naming too.

The expressive partner may not be around for a long time.

Her luck and personality intertwine.

LoEfficient communication is not all there is to the papacy or a relationship

Adaptable, quick-witted, flirtatious and fun to be with, she is fond of pranks and can rise to be jolly good at handling more than one task at a time.

Her mental efficiency and power to think clearly is clearly praised.

Probing communication is not all there is to a relationship.

On and on, she may turn into a library if she is not mature.

She can be a versatile domesticator of arts.

LoCommunication passes; books tend to remain longer

She should get able to discriminate and announce very well, all in all.

She may be found to be fond of nailing up messages somehow, some way or other.

If anyone can successfully bend communication to his or her advantage, it is probably her. MM Remain alert: feelings pass; even good feelings pass.

She may go into debates quite skillfully if she is not picking daffodils or matures.

Gist: How to be a Pope


  1. Prone to agile information exchange, also superficial ones, she can analyse and develop nervousness.
  2. Efficient communication is not all there is to the papacy or a relationship.
  3. Communication passes; books tend to remain longer.

IN NUCE The "recipe" says: Exchange information first, get good at communication also, and make the most of your library skills. By the way, the Vatican's library is huge.


Tarot study, Literature  

Boureau, Alain. The Myth of Pope Joan. Tr Lydia G. Cochrane. Ill ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Farley, Helen. A Cultural History of Tarot: From Entertainment to Esotericism. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Helen Farley is Lecturer in Studies in Religion and Esotericism at the University of Queensland. Her book is a researched and well written study of tarot symbolism and the changing imagery in the cards. She explores ways in which the tarot reflects aspects of European culture from Medieval Italy until our times.

Greer, Mary K., and Tom T. Little. Understanding the Tarot Court. St. Paul, MI: Llewellyn Publications, 2004.

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