Pope Francis and the Tarot

Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony

Not that Pope Francis reads the tarot, mind you!

You may know that I live in Rome. I first moved here 12 years ago so I have a very deep and loving attachment to my adopted city. Rome, in turn, has a deep and historically tumultuous attachment to its neighbor city/country the Vatican. And, as you probably know, yesterday history was made once again for the 2nd time already this century, as a new pope was elected.

When I first saw the new Pope Francis (in a photo as he had just stepped out onto the balcony) my intuitive reaction was strong. His energy is completely different than Benedict. And in fact once I read more about him, I understood why. He is the first Jesuit pope, from Latin America, and has a long pastoral background as opposed to a career as an intellectual insider of the Church. And above all, he is the first to choose the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a very humble religious figure with a social worker’s heart, in whom we’re now likely to see a revived interest. It’s a blessing for me to be able to visit Assisi and St. Francis’s tomb, an incredibly spiritually powerful place that many religious pilgrims may only visit once in a lifetime.

Now, to give you some context, I am a non-practicing Catholic. I would love to feel deeper ties to the religion I was brought up in, because the further I go along in life, the more I realize that a spiritual community is something that can bring great richness and sustenance to life. That being said, I have trouble accepting a lot of Church doctrine and aligning it with my personal views, so I’ve chosen to “pick and choose” aspects of various religions that resonate with me, and have resorted to creating my own hodgepodge of spirituality and religion to sustain me.

It’s interesting to mention the Catholic Church and tarot in the same post, especially because there are still those who believe tarot is a “product of the Devil” or “Satan at work” or other fear-based nonsense. The tarot, when used in a pure-hearted and consciously inspired way, is none other than a tool for personal growth and insight, which can work directly with higher powers, angels, and spirits of light.

Not to mention, historians have proved time and again that the tarot didn’t originate in Egypt as was popularly believed but rather in Christian northern Italy in the early 1400s. The belief of Egyptian origin came from a myth perpetuated by Antoine Court de Gébelin in his 1781 work “The Primitive World.” Interestingly enough, Court de Gébelin also told that the tarot was then brought from Egypt to Rome, where tarot secrets were supposedly given to the Pope there, who then transferred the knowledge to Avignon in the 14th century. While this is interesting folklore, the historical truth is that the tarot is a product of the medieval Christian world. A thought-provoking article by “tarologist” Enrique Enriquez, with more historical links, can be found here. For even more about tarot history check out this article by Mary K. Greer: Egypt, Tarot, and Mystery School Initiations, and also What Every Tarot Newbie Should Know About the History and Myths of Tarot on Greer’s own blog.

In any case, I felt inspired to do a 3-card reading about the new pope and the outlook for the Church under his guidance and leadership. I chose three cards for my reading:

1 – What we need to know about this pope
2 – Direction he’ll take the Church, his contribution
3 – Future outlook for the Church under this pope, potential outcome of this choice for pope

The cards came up as:


In terms of what we need to know about this pope, he is the Page of Swords for the Church. Despite his elderly age of 76, as a page he is bringing a youthful energy and drive to the position. There’s something blessedly clean and clear about him, and we need to know that he’s going to cut to the chase in terms of scandals, communications, and mystery shrouding the church. He’s direct and to the point, and he is going to clean house. He’s honest and there’s a spirit of innocence about him, a paradoxical wise naiveity that is most likely going to be a “breath of fresh air” for the Church. He speaks his mind and has lots of ideas and intellectual energy that isn’t bogged down by dogma or outdated concepts.

His contribution to the Church is shown by Temperance. He is going to be an excellent mediator for the Church, and he’ll be able to handle the most difficult task of taking opposites and blending them into a new form to produce something entirely unique. It would appear from this card that he is going to have a very significant impact on the direction of the Church and in a “new dawn” of the Church doctrine. He is solidly balanced in both practical Church teachings and protocol, while also being open to more intuitive and fresh, modern approaches.

I find it interesting to note the similar stance of the feet in both the Page of Swords and Temperance. Notice how in both cards, one foot is firmly balanced and stable on the ground, while the other foot is slightly lifted off the ground, and how in each card the opposite is reflected. In the Page of Wands, the red shoes show action and decisiveness, while the left foot is the one solidly grounded on Earth. Left-brain activities represent masculine yang energy: logical, rational, active and intellectual, like the energy of the swords, also the red boots here remind me of the Pope Benedict’s famous restoration of the tradition of wearing red papal shoes!

In Temperance on the other hand we have bare feet, showing humility and native intuition, with instead here the right foot, not the left, solidly placed not on the ground, but rather in water. Right-brained activity represents feminine yin energy: intuitive, “watery,” creative and non-linear. I think with this pope we’re really going to see some interesting diplomatic finesse and a fascinating blend of practical and spiritual. He’s really something unique it would seem, from this point of view. Also interesting to note that Temperance has angel’s wings. Perhaps this pope is going to be seen as a sort of “savior” or angelic force for good in helping the Church and its mission, coming as it is from a heavy, scandal-laden recent past that needs the purification shown in the card of Temperance.

In terms of future outlook for the church, and the potential outcome of this choice, we have the only reversed card in the reading. Interestingly enough, the 3 of Pentacles is often described as three men discussing ambitious plans for building a cathedral — by any definition, a massive undertaking requiring serious collaborative skill. It would appear to me that this pope has an intense drive to unite (as shown also by Temperance) and he has the diplomatic skill and finesse to effectively and clearly communicate his ideas, cutting through the crap, so to speak (shown by the Page of Swords), but at the same time, he’s going to face blockage and resistance to his attempts to skillfully find compromise and collaboration in “building his cathedral.” That probably goes without saying, but here I think it’s significant that the reversal is showing us that despite his best attempts for collaborative effort, it’s not going to be smooth sailing, and he’s going to have to seriously rely on those other two cards in order to “flip the 3 of Pentacles over” so that he can accomplish in the real world what he has in his plans or “blueprints” for the Church and where he wants to take it.

In any case, there’s a real sense of fresh energy about this pope and I think here we have someone who is skilled and gifted at diplomacy and bringing opposite factions together, which is going to be sorely needed in this particular moment in the Church’s history and development.

Any additional thoughts on this? Please share in the comments section!



  1. Shelley, I get the same vibe from Francis that you do! Very positive, very much turning a new page. I like the cards you drew (the energetic young Page, slicing through the BS, the patient angel Temperance working to achieve harmony but willing to mix it up to do so, and how prophetic is the 3 of Coins reversed?) and really enjoyed your analysis of the cards.

    • Cindy! Thanks! That’s neat to hear that you had the same vibe. You know who he reminds me of, now that I think about it? There was this pope from before I was born, here in Italy they refer to him as “Papa Luciani” but he was formally known as Pope John Paul I. Of course I’ve only seen him in documentaries on TV and in photos, but I got that same vibe from him. Sadly though his “reign” ended very quickly; he died after only 33 days. Of course, there are the resulting conspiracy theories. It’s such a sad story. Maybe here’s another chance at having “The Smiling Pope.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_I

  2. Hi, Shelley! This is the first I’ve read of anyone doing a reading on the pope. Interesting thoughts for sure. It seem’s to be pretty positive for this Pope. I was hoping one of our Cardinal’s would be chosen, from the state’s. Love you! Mom-E

  3. What a fantastic idea – to do a reading about the new Pope! I love the way you have read these cards and I fully concur with your feelings about this Pope.
    I am not catholic, but I do love to visit the churches and the rituals of my childhood – whilst I do not agree with the church on many things, the spirituality of those that spend their days filled with Spirit transcends boundaries. I feel he will be a great man of humanity into a church of rules and bureaucracy. I think he will challenge us – and in that shaking of the Tower rebuild the cathedral in the 3 of pents.

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