Actually, what I am interested in is understanding the original intended meaning of the Popess. So, not generically "some of the people some of the time", but the inventor of the trumps, when he added this card to the deck. I think that the interpretation documented by Michael and Ross, who see in the Popess and in the Empress two allegories taking part in sponsus-sponsa couples with the Pope and the Emperor, is the one that makes most sense. Moreover, as you write, it was a popular subject in the Middle Ages.
First, I did not include the Pope-Church relationship as husband-wife as part of what was "popular". I only said that church documents could be found then that supported this relationship as a legal entity; I am not sure what exactly, but I think it was between the Pope and the property of the Church as an institution. There is perhaps also a contract of obedience between the Pope and his bishops, priests, nuns, etc. But that is not a marriage. And property isn't a sponsa. Please explain. And if you have any pre-1450 pictures showing a Popess and a Pope in marriage, please share them. I only know Christ and the Bride, mystically the ascended Mary or the human soul. I know of 15th century pictorial representations of Mary as the Church. But there is no marriage to a Pope in such pictures, just an implied relationship to Christ.
I understand the relationship between the Emperor and Empress as a marriage. I understand the relationship between Christ and his Church as a metaphorical or spiritual marriage between Christ and the community of believers. I do not understand the relationship between the Pope and the Church as a marriage in any real or metaphorical sense (except as a legal contract). Your quotes have the Pope as the vicar of Christ, that is, his representative. In relation to marriage, the analogy might be with the proxy that Emperors sometimes sent to stand in for them to legalize a marriage when the bride was too young for anything else. But the bride is not married to the proxy. "Legal representative"--or even "spiritual representative"--and "allegorical representative" are two different things.
Perhaps it will be clearer if we look at the relationship in the context of the "inventor" of the Popess card, who may not have been as picky as I am about understanding relationships.
Someone might say that the inventor of the tarot made the Church the Pope's wife simply to suggest the close bond between the two, Pope and Church, and nothing more. What is the merit of such an idea? To answer that, we have to examine who the inventor might have been and how he might have thought, not in terms of what makes the most sense in our own post-Renaissance terms, but in terms of the actual facts of the milieu of the earliest known tarot and of the interpretive schemas current in that milieu. "Common sense" is no substitute for facts, however complicated they might get.
I presume the invention to be sometime between 1410 and 1462, with the earliest known being the PMB, sometime between 1552 and 1462, If you want, we can stipulate that it was created between 1438 and 1462, although I myself would not make that assumption. I am not clear whether by "inventor" you mean the inventor of that card, the inventor of the trumps as a whole, or the inventor of the Popess plus other cards, but not the whole. I will assume the first of these, but in the context of other trumps before and after in a sequence.
What can we say about the inventor's intentions? All we can do is extrapolate from known facts of that time. We know that in 1440 a notary named Giusti paid a shop in Florence for a deck that he had had made for a condottiere and lord of Rimini named Sigismondo Malatesta, who married a daughter of Francesco Sforza in 1442 and in 1460 was declared a heretic by the Pope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigismondo ... _Malatesta). We know that sometime before 1447 Filippo Visconti had a deck made with at least 11 trumps (the Cary-Yale). Something similar (the Brera-Brambilla) was made for someone else, but without heraldics. We know about 14 figures in Jan. 1440 (1441, new style). We know about a deck of trionfi purchased in Ferrara for the d'Este court in 1442. We know that a deck was purchased by a notary in 1453 Florence for his own use. We know that the PMB first-artist deck was made for the Sforza in Milan. We are pretty sure that the Catania trionfi were made for Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, in either the early 1450s or early 1460s, probably in Florence. We know that decks of 70 cards were made in 1457 for the Ferrara court. There is speculation that in Bologna and maybe Florence there was a deck with 4 similar looking figures representing authority-figures and assumed all male, looking much like the later Bologna cards; if so, the second figure has a wimple, which is a female-only bit of attire (so how anyone can say that it preceded the Popess card is a mystery to me [see http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/taro ... ries01.jpg]; it seems to me more logical that they left the wimple and the key when they got rid of the Popess, so that people who really wanted to could use the new cards to play the old game). In the early 1460s the Charles VI deck was commissioned, probably for a wealthy family such as the Medici. I think that covers the time up to the first known Popess card.
There is a clear pattern here, namely, a courtly and humanist milieu, and certain families, especially the Visconti-Sforza but also the Estensi and maybe the Medici. Notaries were the rank and file of humanism, as Ullman says in his biography of Salutati. Florentine governmental bureaucracy was dominated by humanists, starting with Salutati as Chancelor 1375-1406, then Bruni and Poggio. The Milan and Ferrara courts, known commissioners of decks, also had leading humanists to tutor their children and serve at court. There is no indication of Church involvement. In fact, documentation from Church sources suggests that many Church people, at least Franciscans (like Bernardino) and Dominicans (like Savonarola and the author of the Steele Sermon) were against cards in general and tarot in particular.
Who in this situation would be the "inventor" of tarot trumps? It seems to me that it would not have been the actual artist or artisan who painted the cards. While they would have had images from various sources in their model books, they were not skilled in the techniques of allegorical composition. Also, they would not have spent time making a new series of images if they didn't know if anyone was going to pay for them. Art was by commission. Commissioners were in the beginning people with extra money, but neither the time nor the expertise to develop sophisticated visual allegories. They had humanists for that. We have the example of Marziano to look at, with the game he proposed in 1420s Milan. He submitted a plan to Filippo Visconti and Filippo paid Michelino to do the work. Michelino was not the inventor. The inventor was Marziano, a humanist, as approved or modified by Filippo. That is the way it went in Renaissance courts, unless the proposed art was for a church. Then the program was probably determined by a Church appointee and most steps along the way approved by church authorities.
There is no question but that the Popess was conceived as in some way related to the Papacy, and hence the Pope card, due to the Papal tiara on the PMB figure.The only question is what the relationship was understood as. That it is the same as Emperor/Empress, or that of sponsus/sponsa in a Christian context, is not a given. In fact, Also, when it is trump 2, the Popess is rather distant from the Pope at trump 5, giving play to other associations, namely with the Bagat and the Matto.
The Popess card, given that there was no real person with that title, likely falls into the category "allegorical". But "allegory" meant different things to different people. Realizing that I didn't know much about how allegory was conceived at the time, I started reading The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, 2010, a rather long and dense book from which I will try to extract short selections. I apologize for the length, but I don't know of any previous discussion on the subject here that I can assume people know. What follows took me a long time to research and write. But it at least makes sense to me.
First there is distinction between two senses of "allegory" that were current (from Denys Turner, "Allegory in Christian late antiquity," p. 79 of Companion). (I am repeating a quote from an earlier post):
Here it is important to remember that the word allegoria transferred from Greek into Latin, carried two rather different meanings. When used in late antique Greek sources, it bore a theurgic value, relating to the concealment of divine or cosmic meanings, close to its value as "symbol". But in Latin, it had acquired a restricted literary or rhetorical sense of inferring another meaning than what is said. The word in Christian theological contexts carried the force of the Greek theurgic meaning, but was still susceptible to interference from its Latin rhetorical meaning (see in this volume Most, "Hellenistic Allegory" and Struck, "Allegory and Ascent in Neoplatonism").
So what meaning of "allegory" would have applied to a humanist construction of the meanings of cards? Here we have the essay "Renaissance allegory from Petrarch to Spenser" by Michael Murrin. He explains this topic in relation to Petrarch and Boccaccio (p. 163):
At the end of Book One of his Contra medicum (1352-1353) Petrarch argues that poets veil truth and in so doing fulfill their particular role. The Bible has many allegorical fictions, but all poetry is allegory. [footnote: in the Opera Latine, ed Antonietta Burfano, vol. 2, p. 844] Boccaccio agrees. ...he concludes: "mera poesis est, quidquid sub velamento componimus et exaquiritur exquisite" ["Whatever is composed as under a veil, and thus exquisitely wrought, is poetry and poetry alone".]
Murrin concludes that for Petrarch
All poetry is by definition allegorical. The Florentines, picking up from the late antique Neoplatonists, would later concur with this view. Poetry essentially requires obscurity.
Of course this is poetry. But the same would have been applied to images, I think, at least in a secular context such as a game. Murrin continues (p. 163f),
One's approach to the hidden meaning, however, varied, depending on the lapse of time that separated the interpreter from the text. Boccaccio assumed he could recover Dante's intention in the Commedia, but both writers agreed that an ancient poet's intention could not be recovered. In that case, Petrarch said he would not give the opinions of others. New readings are acceptable as long as the letter brings them and they are true. One must allow the possibility that the author had another reading in mind... Boccaccio will state ancient opinion and, where that fails, his own. He adopts the learned approach.
Petrarch and Boccaccio used specific traditional methods of interpreting allegory. One was the ethical/psychological. In a letter to Federigo of Arezzo, Petrarch analyzes the events in the Aeneid in such terms. He focuses on conflicts and battles, skipping over the parts that other commentators had found symbolic. Murrin continues (p. 165f) :
It is further a drama of Everyman. For the Iliadic Aeneid Petrarch drops all personal names. It is not Latinus, Amata, Turnus, and Aeneas but husband, wife, local, and stranger.
Petrarch reads these figures psychologically, as symbols of passions that Aeneas must strive to control. In his flight from Troy, Aeneas loses his wife Creusa, that is, he loses the habit of pleasures. At Carthage, Aeneas dozes on the poop of his ship, a situation which indicates that his mind sleeps till he makes a firmer choice and sails off. Dido then cremates herself, or shameful pleasure perishes by itself...High places signify reason...Darkness indicates mental and moral ignorance, and death signifies the extinction of a passion in the soul.
Here for Aeneas we are entitled to read "Everyman"; so the whole poem is allegory.
We don't have a commentary on the tarot, but we do have one for another game that was quite similar, Marziano's explanation of the game he proposed to Filippo Maria Visconti. For Marziano the gods are grouped in four categories, virtues, riches, virginities, and pleasures, conceived in terms of more and less esteemed qualities. The higher, meaning virtues in relation to riches and virginities in relation to pleasures, overcome the lower, in regard to gods of otherwise equal rank. An allegorical difficulty is that riches, a less esteemed quality, overcomes virginities, a more esteemed one. Also, the gods' ranking does not seem to have all the gods of one category above those of the less esteemed category, but only one each in pairs; rank takes precedence (http://trionfi.com/martiano-da-tortona- ... -16-heroum).
The tarot can be seen as having the same principle except without a division into four; in its 22 card version, there are cards suggesting vices and adversities (e.g. Time, Fortune, Death, Devil, Tower) as well as virtues and favorable situations. In relation to the Popess, we have just had Foolishness and Deceit (on this level of allegory). The virtue associated with books is Prudence, sometimes Wisdom. However the place in the sequence, second out of 22, might modify that assignment. It might be, for a young person, teachings needing to be taken on faith, and perhaps, in response, treated merely as formulas to be memorized, so as to satisfy one's teachers. But for a humanist the teachings would seem to be more than just those of the Church, even for a young person. Moreover, the Church tended to communicate orally, in preaching and in the confessional, rather than in books. I wonder how many visual representations of the Church at that time had her with a book. I will have to check.
A second method Petrarch and Boccaccio use is interpretation in terms of actual individuals. Murrin writes:
Petrarch and Boccaccio incorporated euhemerism into their notions of allegory. A historical event or series of events became one of the secrets hidden behind the veil of fiction. These secrets were either elusive and personal or historical and public. In the way he read some of Vergils eclogues Servius provided the model for the first category, and Petrarch and Boccaccio would give similar explanations for their own Latin pastorals. So in Petrarch's Bucolicum carmen (346-57) Silvius and Mincius in Eclogue One stand for Petrarch and his brother Gherardo. [Footnote: Petrarch so explains this eclogue in a letter to Gherardo (Familiares 10.4, in Le Famliari ed. Vittorio Rossi (Florence: Sansoni, 1926).
Another example Murrin gives is a comment by Spenser, where he explicitly says that in his Faerie Queen the figure of Gloriana "shadowed Elizabeth as queen" while Belphoebe shadowed her "as private person" (p. 175).
For historical personages, there is the example of Boccaccio's reduction of the gods and goddesses to actual historical persons, Isis as a queen of Egypt, Ceres as Queen of Sicily, etc. (http://books.google.com/books/about/Fam ... j04ULC0s8C). Marziano does the same in characterizing his cards. The figures are not really gods but deified heroes, corresponding to real persons in the forgotten past noteworthy for particular qualities.
I think it is reasonable to expect that the same kind of meaning might attach to certain tarot cards: the Popess, the Hanged Man, the Lovers, and the Hermit might have personal meaning in the family of the Visconti-Sforza, as well as the lady on the Chariot card. That is especially suggested when there are family heraldics on or near them. So might a Knight of Batons on a White Horse, and the same horse and ride on the Justice card; such a combination also appears most famously in the Medici's Processsion of the Magi, another good place for applications to particular real persons. If the young man on the horse is Galeazzo Maria Sforza, then Justice would be Bianca Maria.
I think it is interesting that Boiardo's game-poem easily fits the same structure as the Marziano. Besides a trump suit (this time with 22 cards), there are four suits, two "good" and two "bad", with accounts of people in the thrall of passions and overcoming them or not with virtues. It also designates specific historical personages, Biblical and Greco-Roman, as subjects. That suggests to me that Petrarch and Boccaccio expressed a standard humanist way of thinking about allegories. Not surprisingly, Murrin finds Boiardo's Orlando Inamoranto a good example of Renaissance allegory (p. 170). But that comes later than the invention of the Popess card, so I will skip it.
The two methods of interpretation, ethical-psychological and are not exclusive. Both can operate at the same time, as obviously with Marziano and Boiardo's game proposals.
What is not allegorical is personification by itself, i.e. Justice, Fortitude, etc. seen in isolation. As Murrin says (p. 176):
In all cases where they were used, personifications functioned in a manner opposite to allegory. A figure like Excess, who sits at the inner gate or porch of Acrasia's garden, requires no interpretation.
It is the necessity of interpretation that makes a personification allegorical, in the Renaissance. (I have quoted the whole passage in my preceding post.) What makes Justice, etc., allegorical in the 15th century tarot is its hidden meaning as part of a narrative defined by the sequence; in Spencer "it was the story, not the personifications, that made the allegory" (Murrin p. 176).
A third type of allegorical interpretation that Murrin discusses is the Platonic. In the early 15th century, this method is defined in Chapter 2 of Macrobius and is the basis of much pre-scholastic philosophical allegory, of which the first part of [i[Romance of the Rose[/i] is a late example (Companion p. 119f) and, in one way of looking at it, the Divine Comedy. Marziano's game fits this model only vaguely. For each pair of gods, there might be an ascent from pleasures to virginities (chastity) and from material riches to heroic virtue. But that isn't much; also, from virginities the sequence ascends to riches; and then after a god representing a heroic virtue we are back to pleasures again. Tarot doesn't have this division into four and perplexing hierarchy; it starts in lack of reason, ends with judgment day, with virtues and adversities in between. That is rather like a Macrobian/Ciceronian ascent, or perhaps descent and ascent, through the planetary spheres.
In this model the Popess could be seen as part of the descent of the soul into this world, the imparting of Wisdom that will be forgotten at birth. Or it could be seen as part of the Hell of this world, as the first stage of Dante's poem, and the Church and one's tutors as oppressive institutions which nonetheless contains a germ of Wisdom in the message they convey. (This is an application of Landino's analysis of Dante, which I will talk about next.) After these early figures (trumps 1-5 or 0-5) comes the overcoming and purgation of the vices, making the soul suitable for its heavenly destinations (seen in the last five or six cards).
In the Renaissance, the Platonic approach was felucidated as an interpretive schema by the Florentine Landino in 1480 (p. 166).
Landino found two senses to the Aeneid, the literal or political, which concerns the active life, and the allegorical or purgative, which concerns contemplation. Dante presented the two senses successively, the political in the Inferno, the purgative, of course, in the Purgatorio, and then added a third in the Paradiso: the virtues of the soul already purged. The purgative sense is original and redefines the moral virtues in a Platonic fashion, Man is mind, but the body poisons the soul through its passions. Hell, therefore, is this world, which explains why the Inferno concerns political virtue, since a trip to hell is really a study of humankind here on Earth.
That such a Platonic schema was in the mind of the inventor of the Popess card is not excluded; it depends on when and where, and knowing more about the humanists then and there. 1438 is a pivotal year, when Plethon gave his lectures in defense of Plato over Aristotle in Florence. If the Popess card was invented after then, a Platonic interpretation is more likely than if it was before. If the card was invented in 1450s Milan by Filelfo, a Platonic intent is quite likely, even Neoplatonic, as Filelfo was a reader of Proclus (who followed Iamblicus) and most likely also of a certain trend in medieval Christian theology (which Dante supported, according to the Cambridge Companion authors, and Aquinas opposed--I can explain if needed). Although Filelfo in the 1450s spent much time away from Lombardy, from Sept. 1451-January 1452 he was in Cremona, and again in Dec. 1452. (For references Google "Filelfo Cremona".)
Filelfo knew Proclus from his years in Greece and had the relevant works in his library (as Woodhouse documents in Plethon). In such a post-Iamblican Neoplatonic framework, an image is a symbol of something much higher, and may even have magical properties relating to divination. I am not making this up. Here is a quote from Peter T. Struck, "Allegory and Ascent in Neoplatonism" (Cambridge Companion to Allegory, p. 64):
Macrobius is the key Latin figure in transmitting a distillation of the Greek traditions of allegorical reading and divination to the Western Middle Ages.
And then about Iamblicus (p. 66):
Iamblicus' use of the term symbol, to mean a representational device that exceeds simple imitation and operates instead by synecdoche, borrows from two ancient contexts: the symbol as a magic talisman (such as is widely attested in the surviving magical papyri), and as a passport to higher states of being in the mystery religions and Pythagorean cult, a use which dates back to the classical period.
Could the Pope and the Popess allegorically be Christ and the community of believers? (That is a question I at least understand.) That depends on how these figures are interpreted allegorically in the sequence, Here the numbers are important. 2 and 5 are different orders from 4 and 5. It depends on what makes sense in an allegorical narrative. which includes Emperor and Empress, not simply as human beings married to each other, but as allegorical signifiers (for e.g. material nurturance and material authority, as opposed to spiritual nurturance and spiritual authority). For more on this topic see Decker's The Esoteric Tarot and my posts at viewtopic.php?f=12&t=971&start=10#p14194 and the two following.
Then we have Proclus, who applied this theory to poetry and other artistic expression. Struck writes (p. 68):
In closing it is important to note that this theory of the symbol is the only strictly literary theory attached to the term that survives from antiquity...The Stoics use it as a synonym for enigma (aenigma), the most powerful conceptual engine of ancient allegoresis, and Porphyry, as was also mentioned, used the symbol as his central concept of figuration in his treatise. But no literary thinkers before Proclus document their theories of it. I have emphasized the Iamblichean background, but Proclus also refers directly to the Pythagoreans, magicians, and mystery religions that lie behind Iamblichus.
This saves Platonism from banishing poets like Filelfo from its Republic. But any relationship, or lack of it, to 1450s Milan is quite speculative.
In fact, more generally, the issue of the inventor's intent seems to me highly speculative, and in part irrelevant to the meaning of the card. I do not think the inventor's intent is the whole of what gives a card meaning; for me something else is needed, not participation of the cosmos but rather a social milieu using the cards with a shared system of references.(I am in that sense an Aristotelian; but there is a part of me that is also Platonic: in a psychological sense, meaning can outstrip such shared references.) That Bianca Maria and her children were up to snuff on their Proclus I doubt (and it might have been dangerous for Filelfo to promote such things). The conditions probably didn't exist until Ficino.
If an inventor wishes to control the interpretations, he can write a commentary such as Marziano and Boiardo did. However these games didn't prove popular. It is precisely in not having such a commentary, yet also with obvious familiar meanings up to a point, that the deck is most interesting to humanists and the general public alike.
There is admittedly the possibility that the commissioner of the cards that first included the Popess did not use a humanist at all. In that case the meaning might have been less sophisticated and grounded in established methods of allegoresis. If he liked the Pope, he might have included the Popess as the Church so as to indicate the close bond between them, and allegory be damned. If he didn't like the Pope, he might have had a less reverential intention, to imply some mistress, or to refer to a female on the throne of St. Peter, either historically or as something in the future. Such possibilities are not those most indicated by the facts, which indicate a humanist milieu and intention. They are merely possibilities. And once placed in a humanist milieu, they would have been quickly displaced by the humanist perspective.
For all these reasons, given that we really don't know when, where, or by whom the tarot started, including the Popess card, what the inventor's philosophical background was, what his attitude to the Papacy was, and given that the inventor's intention is just one factor among others more knowable, I am more comfortable talking about particular manifestations of the Popess card in particular places at particular times than speculating about its inventor. Yet given that the card came into being in a very limited frame of possible times and places, it is indeed possible, thanks to some scholars' researches on allegory, to make some generalizations that would likely apply, indeed testable and confirmed in Marziano and Boiardo, and for that I am grateful to Marco for raising the issue.