Major Arcana titles: Le Pape


This is one title which seems both clear, yet rich with meaning.

Etymologically, there seems little doubt that it stems from an appelation of the head of the Church as 'Father' - as priests are still often titled.

What is not as clear is why this should have been so. There are common descriptions as to why this may have come to be, and in monastic settings, 'elevating' one of the brothers above the others made him as their father. An older brother, thus, may also have been referred to as 'father'.

Another aspect of the Pope is as Pontif. As bridge. One which unites both sides of a divide - in this case, the terrestrial and spiritual domains.

I would be interested, of course, to read other insights into this quite interesting of titles...


jmd: The "Father" root of the word is new to me.

The Pope is as you say the Pontif and I interpret him this way very often in my study of Tarot and my readings.

In the Tarot there are two fathers: - the Emperor, who is the father of the more human aspects, and the Pope who is the father of the more spiritual aspects.

Knowing the struggles that have always occurred between these two powers, it is not surprising that they are placed next to each other in the Tarot. And it seems to me that the designers of the Tarot gave a little bit more importance to the Pope - the spiritual father - especially those who gave him the Number 5 - the number of Man and the Microcosm.

(yes, I know.. I'm going off-topic.)

Major Tom

Interesting that the Pope is still also called the Pontif on news programmes.

Just a couple of questions on details. I've look at several examples of the card from the Marseilles tradition and none of them seem to be holding the same staff. In some, he's wearing two gloves, in others one glove and yet others no gloves at all. And what is that on top of the heads of the the two figures in front? Sometimes these figures wear contrasting colours sometimes the same. The figure on the left as you look at the card has a hat on his back - it appears in different colours. The Pontif doesn't always wear the papal crown.

So far this card has the largest number of discrepancies of any traditional card I have studied. :)

Edited to add: One of the titles I've encountered is El Sumo Sacerdote. :confused: