The Journey of the Soul
Lyon c. 1701
Marseille c. 1760
The Popess is the grandmother : the first adult model encountered by the infant. In traditional Medieval society it is not the mother, but the grandmother, who has charge of the children’s education until the age of five. Child mortality at the time being very high, it was not desirable for the mother to become attached to the newborn before he seemed reasonably likely to survive.
Besides, practicalities and household chores monopolized the time and energy of all active women, the mother above all. Thus the very small child first sees the world through the eyes of his grandmother.
The Popess incarnates the archetype of artisans and peasants. The earth is her element. She teaches that everything is alive. She leads us to perceive and understand the world through the body, in terms of flesh and blood. The volume she holds open upon her knees is the great book of the forces of nature and the memory of the world.
She wears the triple tiara. The path she traces for the child is physical, emotional and spiritual. Here is no contradiction: the contact with matter, the tactile initiation – to touch and be touched -is a spiritual teaching. During this period, the very young being plunges into the great book of matter. He learns by making contact with reality, discovering with his hands, legs, and skin, by trial and error, under his grandmother’s watchful eye.