The Pope, being the highest person in the hierarchy of the Church, is the mediator between the spiritual and the physical spheres. In his activities as a sacred teacher, he is not only receptive (passive) to the upper realm – Heaven – but also active in the lower realm – Earth. Accordingly, the Pope marks the point where the two contrary principles (active/ passive) meet.
As both representative and mediator of those two realms, the Pope acts as a guide and teacher of spiritual values and beliefs. He receives spiritual enlightenment from the upper realm, and thus transfers it, using words and parables of wisdom, to the disciples and followers below him, in a descending traditional system. The word of the Pope is consequently a translated or transfigured word from the divine realm. The power of Heaven is concentrated in his words, following the precepts of the sacred books (namely, the Old and New Testament in the Bible).
Unlike The High Priestess, The Pope is linked to the pedagogy of sacred wisdom and divine knowledge put into practice in the physical or material world. The divine world, which is invisible, is made visible by the Pope’s words and knowledge.
The Pope, as we all know, is one of the maximum leaders of Christianity. His ecclesiastical rank is well defined by the papal sceptre with a triple cross, representing the holy trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. On top of his head is a golden Papal Tiara with the figure of Jesus Christ in ascension, leaving the physical world. This Pope, as an earthly representation of Christ, abandoned his carnal impulses by castrating himself, displaying his testicles in a bowl by his side. This abandonment of his sexual and biological impulses places him between the two realms. To undertake his divine mission, he had to sacrifice his most primitive and sexual instincts.
Despite his spiritual highness, he dresses in gold and green, two colours that are related to the materialistic world. In contrast, his hands, in a gesture of blessing, are covered by red gloves with God’s eyes on its palms. Red is a spiritual colour according to the principles of alchemy, and the colour most linked to the blood of Christ and religious sacrifices. This emphasises the Pope’s position as the one who unites Heaven and Earth.
However, this character has no free will. Instead, he is depicted like a puppet of God, as we can observe by the lines resembling the puppet’s strings behind the figure. His blind eyes could also be associated with this, for he upholds conformity and asceticism.
Nevertheless, this Pope is shown in an authoritarian posture, sitting on his throne, a huge temple interior at his background and two strong columns by each side. These columns symbolise the stability of the sacred institution and its conservative values. The Pope lives according to long-established regulations and demands a life of self-imposed limitations.
Like the Emperor, the Pope’s long white beard denotes wisdom and venerability. The people kneeling at his feet are completely devoted to him, bowing their heads while listening to his words of knowledge. At his right, a warrior seeks inspiration and courage for his missions (the active principle). At his left, clerics give heed to his holy speech (passive principle).
Some scholars state that the keys by his side represent the balance between the conscious and unconscious mind. Also, these are a reference to St. Peter, the first pope, who is depicted as the guardian of the keys of Heaven. In fact, the power of opening or shutting Heaven was granted by Christ to St. Peter, so the keys are the greatest symbol of papal authority and power.
Upright Meaning and Interpretation
Traditional Values, Reverence, Conformity, Obedience.
The Pope is a religious advisor who calls you to honour the family traditions or sacred rituals you might have neglected, like Christmas. This arcanum reminds us of the values that bind ourselves to the earth: our origins, our family, our education and traditions, or the convictions by which we must abide.
Alternatively, you are probably dealing with someone who is very inflexible, which might force you to adapt yourself.
The card by itself suggests conformity and that means you are repressing certain aspects of your own nature that are different from the others. You may have the tendency to join groups of people to feel integrated. Consequently, you may place too much importance on social and societal approval.
The Pope also indicates that you have the necessity to follow a process which has been well established. For you, the traditional ways are more trustworthy than a different approach, or one that is less frequently used. That means you are probably close-minded to some subjects that differ from your beliefs or convictions and you may feel uncomfortable working in a different area.
Reversed Meaning and Interpretation
Challenging tradition, Personal beliefs, Non-conformity.
When The Pope appears reversed it means that you need to break with convention. Your excessive firmness in your convictions and traditions may cloud your judgement, so you need to challenge the established way of doing things.
You need to seek freedom and liberation from conformity.
The Pope in reverse is generally a good omen, for it gives you a sign to dare to be unconventional and to ignore the approval from others. Instead of chasing the established processes, you may need to trust your intuition to go ahead with your journey. You may have been following the crowd lately, though it is time to think about what you need to change and pursue your own values and goals.
“Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it, or read it in books. Look for the truth in yourself, not without yourself.” P. D. Ouspensky
In less usual cases, The Pope in reverse may indicate a conflict with someone in a position of authority.