Card Meaning: III The Empress

The Empress
Element: Earth
Planet: Venus
Hebrew letter: Daleth, ך


   The Empress is another female archetype in the Major Arcana but unlike The High Priestess she is more down to earth person and represents principle that is far more approachable, more of a mother full of love for her children, she stands for love and mercy. Also, both cards stand for memory and subconscious but the subsconcious of The Empress is more based on creativity and procreation. Although she is motherly figure she also stands for sexuality, passion and beauty. With feelings as her rudder she puts intellect in the second place, feelings always come first. On the higher scale she represents Shakti, the Nature as a whole. She is ruling principle behind all life. This card leads us to more reflective, joyful and emotional behavior, so attention is advised when more intellectual analysis is required. She can represent pregnancy and fertility in physical sense but also a birth of a creative project or involvement with the nature. Numbered with number three, it is the first card that symbolizes material reality. Number three is a sum of number one (The Magician, animus, self-consciousness) and number two (The High Priestess, anima, subconscious). According to Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, The Empress is The Garden of Eden, The Earthly Paradise. Waite defines her as not being Regina coeli (the Blessed Virgin Mary), but rather a Refugium Peccatorum - a fruitful mother of thousands. The Empress can also be interpreted as Demeter, the goddess of abundance. She is a giver of earthly gifts, unlike her daughter Persephone (The High Priestess), who is a giver of the insight.


Throughout the history this card has been through only few changes. Waite is responsible for the starry crown, the emblem of Venus, the waterfall, and the vegetation and wildlife. In the historical decks, the Empress sits on a throne, almost always holding a shield or orb in one hand and a scepter in the other. The shield typically bears an eagle, the heraldic emblem of the Holy Roman Empire. The Empress Adelaide, beatified by the Catholic Church, seems a likely historical person this card may allude to.


In readings, The Empress encourages you to strengthen your connections with the natural world. Through simplicity and connection with the Earth we can gain true abundance. There is a strong sense of motherhood in this card but not necessarily wanted. Beauty and happiness combine in this card through a state of bliss and enjoyment. You can taste the sweetness of success. The card can suggest material reward, but only with the deeper understanding that riches go arm in arm with a generous and open spirit. This card promises fertility, progress and a happy home life. Negative aspects cover squandering and the dissipation of wealth that brings misery or discomfort. Stop losing energy through greed or depression.

heart shield, river, plants, twelve-spoked crown, abundance

  The Empress is holding a heart-shaped shield. It is a reminiscence of her former aspect of a virgin huntress. With number 3 as a significator of a card she is meeting point of The Magician - conscious mind (1) and The High Priestess - subconscious mind (2). Conscious and subconscious bring forth a manifestation which is further indicated by a stream behind her. The stream is falling into a pool symbolically representing meeting of our conscious and subonscious mind. One can feel the impression that stream is a natural progression of the stream that originates from the dress of The High Priestess showing us a role of subconsciouss in creation. There are twelve stars on her crown, representing the signs of the zodiac. These are twelve aspects of the universe that are behind the manifested world and the Nature she represents. The Hebrew letter for this card is Daleth (the door). She is the door for all living things before they step into this world. She is a conduit of life into our world. Her sceptre and her heart-shaped shield with Venus sign symbolize Venus. Venus is a female astrological principle and also aspect of a mother, but also one of the lover. This astrological principle is speaking to us through beauty, art, creative imagination and natural energies of The Empress. The symbols of fertility are all over the card in the  highlighted nature and plants that obviously grow in abundance, The Empress wearing the dress with pomegranates is another clue, the corn beneath her feet also gives us a tone about The Empress being connected with the old Greek goddess of fertility, Demeter. The fruits of the Nature are also visible on the red blossomed flowers on her robe. These are the same flowers that was in the garden of The Magician. Here, through channel of subconscious in The High Pristess card, they are manifested. We can think of her as the Mother Nature, a role that is so more natural for this card when we see the symbol of the all giving Sun in her right hand and we can also note the shy allusions on her pregnant status. Indeed, she is laying on the pregnancy pillow showing us that Mother Nature is in the state of constant action of giving birth, the reason why Qabalists call her "the Constant Becoming".

A stately figure, seated, having rich vestments and royal aspect, as of a daughter of heaven and earth. Her diadem is of twelve stars, gathered in a cluster. The symbol of Venus is on the shield which rests near her. A field of corn is ripening in front of her, and beyond there is a fall of water. The sceptre which she bears is surmounted by the globe of this world. She is the inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, all that is symbolized by the visible house of man. She is not Regina coeli, but she is still refugium peccatorum, the fruitful mother of thousands. There are also certain aspects in which she has been correctly described as desire and the wings thereof, as the woman clothed with the sun, as Gloria Mundi and the veil of the Sanctum Sanctorum; but she is not, I may add, the soul that has attained wings, unless all the symbolism is counted up another and unusual way. She is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word. This is obvious, because there is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman; but she does not herself carry its interpretation. In another order of ideas, the card of the Empress signifies the door or gate by which an entrance is obtained into this life, as into the Garden of Venus; and then the way which leads out therefrom, into that which is beyond, is the secret known to the High Priestess: it is communicated by her to the elect. Most old attributions of this card are completely wrong on the symbolism--as, for example, its identification with the Word, Divine Nature, the Triad, and so forth.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

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