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