The High priestess or “The Popess”. Who is she ? A character. A tarot card. A major arcana. An indomitable energy. The High priestess comes right after The Magician in the Tarot, a set of sublime playing cards that appeared around the 15th century in Europe. These have obsessed humans ever since. Fertilizing arts, culture, psychology.
Did you know ? A special tarot deck was commissioned for James Bond Live and Let Die. Created by the illustrator artist Fergus Hall in 1976, The Tarot of the Witches or the James bond Deck was originally to be conceived by Salvador Dali!
Mystical, profane and mysterious imagery? Stunning aesthetics? Divinatory properties? No one can really comprehend the intense fascination behind this variety of characters, symbols, colors, and numbers. So perfect that they seem forged by some God; or by a man/woman in the midst of an epiphany crisis! The craze for Tarot is not limited to a small group of initiates. On the contrary:
• 58% of French people say they believe in at least one of the parascience disciplines, namely astrology (41%), palm reading (29%), witchcraft (28%), clairvoyance (26%) , numerology (26%) and cartomancy (23%).1
• ¼ of French people have already consulted a specialist (26%) at least once during their life, including 18% for astrology, 14% for clairvoyance, 10% for cartomancy, and 6% for numerology.2
• Sales of esoteric books have increased by 60% and this ‘literary’ genre attracts 25-30 years old unlike previous decades. Interesting fact: the esotericism section supplants the religions section in bookstores.3
This phenomenon also affects:
• Central and Southern Europe
• Latin America (Argentina/Chile)
• United States
• Japan: 38.9% of Japanese prefer palm reading while 20.4% of them favor tarot cards as their favorite divinatory tool! (Mystic mag, September 2022).
As for the “African tarot” (it is only African in name) it is more a game than divination itself. Few data exist on the penetration of the tarot in Africa although some, like Antoine Court de Gébelin in the 18th century, make Africa (Egypt) its cradle.
Is it a sign of the times? A desire to re-enchant the world and search for new forms of spirituality and meaning in the face of the ambient chaos? Is it a need to re-establish a connection with archaic wisdom/sacredness? One thing is certain, the tarot displays an insolent permanence.
Quite a feat, you will agree, in our time of short memory!
Tarot and archetype, archetarotype.
I will not explore the divinatory dimension of the tarot here. (I actually offer my clients, at the end of each project, a tarot reading! Just to share a passion that I have nurtured for more than twenty years; to acculturate them to this universe as colorful as it is symbolic).
So what ?
Tarot cards (78) bring characters to life. These resemble us despite certain unexpected attributes and features. (You do not walk for example with a falcon perched on your shoulder or gigantic coins in your hands). If so, message me: firstname.lastname@example.org 😊
Joking aside. These characters are archetypal.
I say archetypal and not stereotyped. The difference between the two? Archetype, “primitive type, model” vs. Stereotype: fixed, frozen image.
“An original image,
existing in the unconscious”
As we know, the idea of archetype is associated with the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. According to him, archetypes constitute universal symbolic representations rooted in a collective unconscious.
In a terminology filled with deep semantic and poetic richness, Jung thus evokes the Sun, the Divine-Child, the Self, the Great Mother, the Animus, the Anima, the Tree of life, the Shadow, etc. These different archetypes are/will be interpreted in the form of multiple cultural motifs and according to various time periods in human history.
Jung archetypes are the origin of archetypal branding in the 2000s via the following 12 figures: the hero, the jester, the innocent, the caregiver, the sage, the rebel, the ruler, the creator, the magician, the lover, the explorer, the everyman/everywoman.
Each of them has a vision of the world to defend, a problem to solve and personal strategies for action.
A hero archetype? Obviously think Nike: heading for victory through surpassing oneself. GoPro? A fine example of the Explorer archetype. Harvard Business Review borrows its character traits from the Sage whose ultimate goal is knowledge of the world. Coca-Cola serves us the candor of the Innocent. The Sandbox is an ode to the Creator. (I’m simplifying) I could multiply the examples ad infinitum: thousands of brands have these characters as their founding base.
And you, what is your brand archetype?
You probably haven’t escaped this question. I have asked it too😊
In fact, archetypes enable us to broadly outline a brand framework.
To understand the brand energy.
To define the brand intention.
As long as we don’t fall victims to a contrived formalism, unsuitable for grasping all the complexity of a brand personality. (I actually make the archetypes play with each other; I associate them in order to obtain a richer material).
However, we have another phenomenal tool for this: the tarot.
If there are direct correspondences between the 12 brand archetypes and certain major arcana of the tarot (the magician and the magician, the emperor and the ruler, the fool and the ‘jester’, the lover, etc.), other figures emerge and remain untapped.
When, for example, will a brand be built on the archetype of the High Priestess/the Popess? Let’s discover this fascinating character. The world needs its/her energy more than ever!
She is a woman, the first to appear in the tarot deck. Not just any woman. Her name “The popess” has a double meaning: female pope. Until the 16th century, in fact, the historical existence of Pope Joan was commonly accepted. Pretending to be a man, she would have held pontifical functions between 855 and 858 under the name of John VIII the angelic before dying in childbirth during a procession. The definite article “The” highlights the fact that she is one of a kind.
Second meaning of “popess”: a woman of high moral authority and at the head of a movement. A leader.
The popess = a leader. A woman of power. What power is this? Let’s move on.
I invite you to dig deeper in the alternative English naming of this major arcana: the high priestess. Fascinating!
Her headdress, a pontifical tiara, reveals her high rank and dignitary status. (Visconti-Sforza’s version also attributes a kind of papal rule to her). 3 floors, 3 crowns make it up, it is the “triregnum” (the popes actually carried it up to Paul VI) symbolizing the power conferred on Saint Peter by Jesus Christ: temporal power, spiritual power, power over kings and Christianity. (a power that supersedes all others!)
Her high headdress also protrudes from the frame of the card. As if all the energy of the character was contained in the top: the mental, the spiritual, the consciousness. The intuition. The divine. The unseen. These are the privileged places of her power and her action.
“She lives in a shadow world… the unconscious, the imagination, the moment between sleep and reality. She does not rule over the material things of everyday life, she rules over what influences us. She is a figure of immaterial power”.4
Her whole body – including her feet – hides from view, except for her hands and her face. Her imperceptible hair disappears under a veil, typical of the hairstyle of noble women of the Middle Ages, whether they were religious or not.
The popess rises above matter and materiality. Above the sensoriality and sensuality of her body. Its carnal dimension.
The card shows her seated : she is anchored in a reality that she seems to dominate. Placidly. Her stakes simply lie elsewhere. And she consciously chooses to show something else of herself. Not a triumphant motherhood nor a captivating sensuality. Not a conquering power nor an absolute virginity. Not a hysterical holiness nor a magical bewitchment.
The popess indeed affirms and embodies another sort of femininity. Which one?
The white egg behind her tells us more. It symbolizes the nest of all possibilities. The popess is pregnant with herself. With the world. In the meditative solitude of the bedroom. Where her secret transformation is being elaborated. The popess or high priestess is the primitive creative matrix.
The book placed on the lap of the popess is open. She doesn’t look at it though. Is she lost in a moment of reflection, of contemplation? Or does she already know the content of the book? Is she simply bored or does she think true knowledge is not just to be found in the book? Rather in intuition? Hence her gaze on the right, as enigmatic as the smile of Mona Lisa…
The popess/high priestess holds the keys to knowledge of the world. She goes beyond appearances. Beyond the obvious. “She is the archetypal great mother, the woman who has not lost touch with ancestral truth or with the fundamental laws of wilderness.”. She rhymes with gestation, intuition, silence, meditation, comprehension. In a word: substance!
But why was she kept away
from the brand archetypal world?
The popess does not give herself up straight away. She is demanding, requires time and reflection. She refuses the easy way. So many elements that put off in our society of “right now”. Of what is Immediately visible. Spontaneously understandable.
There is more.
The popess suffers/has suffered from all the stereotypes associated with women. Indeed it is/was nearly impossible to see in her a sexual icon, a ‘power woman’, a mystical priestess, a feminist… as she defies tried and tested definitions. Plus how to work with this seemingly austere character, offering no retribution or instant gratification?
The popess is a very bad candidate for likes!
“People today look to consume immediate excitement and information. The popess does not meet this need. She does not touch any form of excitement. The devil is sexy, the angel dazzles us with a thousand lights. The popess… is a little sepia, a little grey. With her, there is a sense of initiation, self-surrender, renunciation of ego, etc. she requires to take the time, to dig deeper… the opposite of what people want! Besides, the popess, wrapped up in her veils, is not the woman as we imagine her to be.”5
Time for the Popess.
• Yet the Popess/High priestess contains within herself all women. Or more precisely precedes them.
• Therein lies the difficulty. She doesn’t fit in any box. Unlike the figure of the empress who is the wife of the emperor, the high priestess/popess is not the spouse of the hierophant (another tarot male character with the number 5). Unsubdued, she answers to no one. To nothing. No law subjects her except that of the universe. In which, she sits, waiting patiently to hatch. To give birth to something powerful. Something untamable.
• Archetype of the grand mother par excellence, the high priestess embodies the energy reservoir, in connection with nature and the cosmos.
In this sense, the famous “sacred feminine” that has been in vogue for some time seems to borrow some aspects from her. It somehow seeks to reconnect with her ancestral lesson…
Is the world readier today for the High priestess?
For this intemporal matrix force?
For this meta-archetype?
“We are too much in an anti-popess mode, she must be reintroduced in a certain way. It is necessary. She contains all the information, all the contradictions, all the secrets in her book. For me she is the meta-archetype. We must lift the veil of the high priestess/popess and a thread of what we are will appear”.6
1, 2 and 3: February 2020 survey. Institute for opinion and marketing studies in France and abroad. (FIFG)
4, 5, 6: Samer Zakharia, Creator MAISON FLAMEL, Maison Douze
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