My Staff hath Murder’d Gyants,
My Bag a long Knife carries,
To cut Mince-pyes from Childrens Thighs,
With which I feast the Faries.
– Mad Maudlin, to find out Tom of Bedlam, transcribed by the National Library of Scotland.
The Papess is based on the character “Mad Maudlin” as well as Mary Magdalene, from whose name “Maudlin” derives. Mad Maudlin was the narrator of an 18th century sequel to the song “Tom O’ Bedlam” (see V. The Pope). Like Tom, Maudlin is a crazed, wandering prophetic figure. She makes many wonderful claims in her song. My favorite is the one quoted above.
There are two relevant legends of Mary Magdalene. First, after Jesus’s death, the story goes that Mary Magdalene wandered the desert until her clothes fell away and her hair grew to replace them. Second, Mary Magdalene created the first Easter egg. The egg, which is guarded by the Papess in the Camoin-Jodorowsky deck, is also symbolic in the clown world: in the 1940s, clowns began painting their unique faces onto emptied eggs to claim their identities. The Clown Egg Register lives at the Clowns Gallery-Museum in London. (It gets even better, the museum is in an active church popularly known as “Clowns’ Church”!)
A clown dressed in a suit made entirely of colorful hair leans on a bloody staff. The top of this staff is pointed and red, with two red ribbons twisting around it and red drops falling into a puddle at its base. She holds a white egg in her left hand, in front of her chest. Behind her, three small and distraught clowns are stuffed in a black cauldron over a fire.
The ground is sandy brown, and she has dirt on her bare feet and on her cheeks. Her nose is painted red. She smiles, but she has a pale blue tear painted on each cheek. Her outfit covers her head, arms, and legs, and is made of long straight hair in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and white. She also wears a white cross in the center of her chest.