What are some key words and images that come to mind when you think of The Empress?
Write these down if it helps acquaint you with the concept.
How I think of it:
I prefer not to think of the cards in terms of good or bad, positive and negative. Sometimes they can be warnings, like STOP signs, and sometimes they can be predictors, or GO signs.
Ah, The Empress. Let’s begin by discussing the painting that comes to mind, The Birth of Venus. Venus is the planet that rules the Empress. Thus, she represents love and beauty— albeit through the archetype of “mother”. Aphrodite, too, is represented by the Empress. But what’s love got to do with it? When we pair the major arcana it twos, we begin with The Fool/The Magician, and ensuing is The High Priestess/The Empress. Both the former archetypes are the energetic or immaterial equivalent of the latter. The Fool is the potential which manifests in The Magician. The High Priestess is the vessel for the subconscious, which is manifested here on Earth by the Empress. This triad, or triangle represents the Holy Trinity. It is the essence of karma. What stirs within the conscious (light) and unconscious (dark) mind becomes one’s physical reality.
The Empress is associated with Daleth on the Qabala, which means door or womb. The way I see this is the way I perceive life in general. If the Magician is light within the dark womb of the High Priestess, then the Empress is the combination of these two— yet, she is her own. Thus she is universal love, woven through all physical creation. She is not birth, as yet, but impregnation. If the High Priestess is the empty womb with which anything is possible, the Empress is the version of her which has conceived with the illuminating seed of the Magician. She is the Virgin Mary after to her visitation from the Holy Spirit.
The world of form (ruled by Mother Nature or Gaia, both Empress correlates) is the intermediary that bridges the worlds of light and shadow. Any artist knows that light and shadow create form. So it is with science, mentioning again the theory of E=MC2. This is the essence of such popular notions as “good” (light) and “evil” (darkness), which is also essentially why in Gnosticism the world of form is considered “evil” and is ruled by a malevolent archon, the first “thought”. Form, or shadow is a consequence of light. I believe it is incorrect to separate the two, and this is the fault of most mundane Christian beliefs. An interesting aside: When we consider the symbolism of this archon being the first “thought” of Sophia, we have a clue as to why much of the suit of swords seems filled with cards of anguish despite their corresponding numerology. But I digress, as this warrants its own post.
In reality, there is no good and evil, as these are judgments created by the human mind. The Empress is dual in nature and represents both folly, indicating disorganization, or wisdom, representing harmony— depending on what has been set into motion in the realm of Magician and the High Priestess. Often, when seeking guidance, we begin with the physical, starting our work in shadow which is specific to the realm of Malkuth, and ascend toward the top Sephiroth, finding the source of our disorganization which we experience as manifest here on Earth. Rarely does one come to a mentor or therapist knowing what causes their suffering. Rather, the nature of the suffering is identified and the process involves a healing journey toward the source. What is the maladaptive behavior, evident in the physical realm, that calls for investigation? This is often why we tend to repeat behaviors which are unhealthy for us. It is a communication that something needs to be addressed under the surface.
Interestingly enough, this reflects the cognitive behavioral triangle indicating the connection between thoughts, feelings and action. Simplistically, thoughts and feelings can be considered seeds of the magician which swim around in the womb of the High Priestess and dictate our actions, made manifest by the Empress. When we are conscious of our thoughts and feelings, we attain control and are able to direct them to our advantage. By doing this, we are truly embodying the magician, by directing our divine will internally to manifest positive actions (and, as a result, opportunities) rather than allowing the process to remain unconscious. Essentially, we are changing the karmic response. We can also work directly from the source through dreams, visions, and meditation. This will bring us insight as to what is directs our physical experience(s).
Most people we encounter on a day to day basis are dictated by this triad, without even realizing it. This contributes to the distress we are currently experiencing in the world.
When we take the typology of the idea of thirdness, it becomes much more than a triangle. It is not, one, plus one, plus one equals three. Rather, it is the succession of two, from one, which creates the third. Thus, in society at large, we have the concept of the other, in which all three energies are alive and interrelated. To quote Winnicot: “Between the mother who is physically holding the baby and the baby, there is a layer that we have to acknowledge which is an aspect of herself, and at the same time an aspect of the baby. It is mad to hold this view, and yet the view must be maintained.” -1988 p. 167
Thus, with all two party relationships exists the third. It with in this dimension the transference in psychoanalysis lives.
The Number 3
The idea of the Empress can be indicated as the precursor to birth, hence “door”. A baby is born, or rather conceived— meaning the physical form of an idea has begun to take shape. This is the beginning of a manifestation. As I had mentioned in the High Priestess entry, and recently alluded to, The Empress shares the same twelve star crown that early depictions of Mary wear. This indicates both her connection to the High Priestess, and to the divine mother who gives birth to Jesus, a combination of body and soul manifesting the divine on Earth. When we think of the Holy Trinity, the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, we are really seeing the divine light (The Magician), plus The Holy Spirit (The High Priestess) manifesting in the womb of the Empress (Jesus as manifestation). Both Jesus and Buddha represent the power we all have to be like them, hence, we can all be Buddhas and we can all attain Christ Consciousness. As you may have gleaned given previous entries, I find it fascinating that some of these symbols reflect inherent knowledge of our bodies organs (as I had mentioned previously about the male/female chromosomes). According to Paul Foster Case, creation ensues when the veil of the High Priestess is penetrated, much like the vaginal hymen, the breaking of which is necessary for procreation: “The veil between the pillars hints that the High priestess is virgo intacta… only when this veil is rent or penetrated by concentrated impulses originating at the self-conscious level may the creative activities of subconscious be released and actualized.” -1947 p. 52
The wheat symbolizes manifold existence. A seed has the blueprint inside of it for what it is to become, and yet— it is the same blueprint encased in many seeds of its kind, leading to multiple manifestations of this ONE design. Thoughts work in this way as well. It is this idea that informs such popular concepts promoted in “The Secret” or the “law of attraction.” Again, we only need to look within science and biology to see how this works. In thinking about the word “blueprint” consider the Three of Pentacles. Three figures are working together to bring to life the blueprint that the The Fool holds in his hand.
Much of this is reflected in a Neo-Platonic philosophy, which I invite you to familiarize yourself with (and draw your own conclusions!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism#The_One
Careful, though! This does not mean the perfect and beautiful unconscious of the universe will always manifest for you. If you get the nine of swords followed by the Empress, it could mean that your fears and worries are dictating your reality. If you focus on what you don’t have in the subconscious (or what Psychoanalysis refers to as the unconscious), poverty will manifest.
In addition, the Empress may also denote too much fixation in the physical sense, at the expense of the High Priestess: Intuition. I choose not to read reversals (I prefer interpreting in the context of other cards), but this is potentially why a popular interpretation of the Empress reversed is an overbearing mother. If a mother uses her intuition, then it does not result in overfeeding, spoiling, or helicoptering. These things are done out of the fear of either not being a good enough mother, or fear of harming the child. This is an important concept in shadow work— Going inward to see what personal insecurities we have which we may be taking out on others (often without realizing our propensity to externalize). Smothering is another word for overprotecting, and is synonymous with suffocating. We are actually hurting our children when we our overbearing mothers, despite the behavior being the result of the very thing we fear! Now, your “child”, depending on your question, may be a work situation, a relationship, or your physical health. Ask yourself, whatever it is you need to take care of, are you nurturing in a balanced way? Are you listening to your gut, and willing to fix the foundation? Or are you focusing on patching up the exterior just to save face?
Try this activity:
Look at your tarot card, and determine what symbols in it resonate with you. If you are advanced, any tarot deck will do. If you're new to tarot, I suggest starting with a variant of the Rider Waite Smith.
Starry Crown - Twelve tribes of Israel, also the Zodiac (As above, so below). Astrology— the unalterable pattern of the cosmos within which we must exercise our free will.
Waterfall - The waterfall represents perpetual motion and abundance. Replenishment. If we personify Mother Nature into Gaia, this would be the sustenance that flows from her breasts. We need only to turn what is provided by nature for our survival. This also represents continual motion and change. Acceptance of change, the processes of the physical world, including life and death, leads to peace. We must accept that we cannot control our place in the ultimate design, yet know that we harbor the divinity to live a life of abundance and peace. The other day, I happened upon an old fortune I kept in my change box: “The situation is changeable, yet you cannot push the river.”
Vegetation - Lushness of the life all around us, sustained by the waterfall. Abundance.
Pomegranates - Reflective of the feminine symbol on her heart-shaped shield, the pomegranate represents, like the wheat, multiplicity. The Empress, according to Waite, is the “fruitful mother of thousands”. This is indicative of the cosmic womb or egg, within which things eventually populate. Paul Foster case states: “Psychologically, the Empress represents subconsciousness as the mother of ideas, the generatrix of mental images. The power by which she works is the power of subdividing seed-ideas, derived from self-consciousness. This is the power of deductive reasoning. The apparent multiplication of images is really the splitting-up of the seed-ideas into manifold presentations. This is symbolized by the multiplication of the original seed in the wheat-ears at her feet.” 1947 p. 61 (Note: “self-consciousness” refers to the Magician.)
Scepter - The Empress holds a scepter with a sphere, which is feminine. Think of the pointed wand of the Magician, which is phallic. A sphere does not penetrate, but can be penetrated.
Shield - Representative of Venus and what it symbolizes. A shield shaped like a heart bearing this symbol represents the Empress’s protective, motherly nature.
Instead of an image I will share with you a vision I had which reminds me of the Empress, and represents all that is discussed within this entry. I came into a mindset of healing when I envisioned the Earth as a goddess itself (Gaia), yet she was on her knees— a position of desperation, and her expression and energy were that of pain and anguish. She was in a cycle of addiction. Though her presence was inherently and visually beautiful, due to an unidentified flaw, her hands had morphed into war, famine, disease and suffering. This was the "food" with which she fed herself, and as she consumed this decay, her body began to lose its beauty. I realized that all that is unhealthy within each of us contributes to the imbalance that is currently destroying the Earth. I choose not to elaborate on this philosophically, as I also hold the belief that while we are in a state of chaos—hence change, the process will naturally rectify itself despite our agency. However, we have the freedom to direct our Will in one direction or the other, contributing to the imbalance, or contributing to equilibrium via deliberate action. Thus, we can sustain the life of the Earth as our home, or we can contribute toward it's ultimate annihilation. Both will eventually create order in the Universe, yet it can either be achieved through healing and regeneration or death. Right now, to balance the excessive destructive energy, we must choose love. We must choose the natural state of the Empress.