Weekly Tarot – La Papesse
La Papesse, called the High Priestess in some decks, appears as a cloistered woman sitting on an egg, a universal symbol of gestation. She represents purity and chastity, the untouched virginity inside of us, perhaps even the Madonna of the Madonna/whore dichotomy. But her features and hands are white and lifeless. She is not real.
No living woman is merely a Madonna (or merely a whore). She is an archetype, not a living being of flesh and bone. La Papesse is an image of a woman, a projected ideal, a cry for lost innocence, an icon that captures only a fragment of reality. Lifeless and rigid, she never lets the egg hatch, she is removed from the joy and celebration of the flesh.
She is holding a book with 17 lines in it. One of my teachers always used the number 17 when he referred to a countless multitude, in the way some people would use “a thousand” or “a million”, “I’ve told you seventeen times!” “It feels like you have been together for seventeen lifetimes!”. The book in her hands contains eternity in it. Is this, perhaps, the very Book of Life? Unlike her own lifeless skin, the book is the color of the flesh. While La Papesse is dead, her book is alive. She is not reading it, but if someone reads the Book of Life to her, will she awaken?
La Papesse may represent a mother who has handed down to us the ideal of untainted purity, morality and perhaps coldness. She does not know tenderness and is devoid of passion. When we complain of being seen as sexless and unattainable – do we see this ideal ingrained deep within our subconscious mind? Does it come from fear of getting hurt? From abuse? From projection? The question La Papesse asks each one of today is: Which part of me had died to life?
And yet the High Priestess points to a reality outside herself. She is a pure vessel, for in her nothingness she reminds us that there is nothing but the Source, that nothing exists outside and apart from the Source. She is devoid of her own life, so that she can serve the Divine. She passed the test. She allowed it to annihilate her Self, so that she can live for the Divine. Only a non-reactive ego can be trusted with power. And her power comes from outside herself. She is empty, because she is the vessel of the Divine.