The Empress Tarot

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The Empress is a powerful symbol of abundance, fertility, creativity and the wonders and sensuality of the natural world.

The Empress embodies a powerful feminine energy and she may be seen as synonymous with Mother Earth and everything that she symbolises.

The nurturing that the Empress speaks of is not only directed outwards towards manifesting success and abundance in our external lives, but is also directed inwards, taking the form of self care and self love.

What does the Empress mean in Tarot?

The Empress is the third archetype of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. She carries a number of connotations, most if not all of them positive.

The primary meanings of this powerful Major Arcana Tarot card have to do with abundance, fertility, creativity and nurturing.

In the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck the Empress appears as as an embodiment of Mother Earth, confidently seated on her throne in a flowering garden. She is the giver of life, the force that sustains ongoing success in anything from business to the crops of the natural world. The primary function of her energy is to bring things to fruition, to see that seeds are tended to and nurtured, so that they eventually bear fruit.

Is the Empress the most powerful Tarot card?

The Empress, when she appears in a Tarot reading at exactly the right time and is addressing the right issue, could be the most powerful Major Arcana Tarot card.

The Empress reminds us of the spiritual laws of rhythm, and of cause and effect. The law of rhythm decrees that everything in the universe has its seasons, and that we must work with the natural ebb end flow of energy within and around us. The law of cause and effect dictates that what we sow we will also reap. The Empress knows and embodies this – she is sat in a flowering garden, with plants and golden crops growing all around her. They are the manifestations of what she has planted and brought to fruition. She appears as a reminder that you, too, have what it takes to manifest what you desire.

The Empress symbology

Elements of the Empress card vary between different Tarot decks, but there are some symbols and meanings that are almost always present.

The Empress

The Empress is the namesake and primary feature of the Empress card. Usually seated on a lavish and luxurious throne, richly dressed and holding a sceptre aloft, it is clear that she is a very powerful ruler.

The archetype herself has multiple facets of meaning. She is the embodiment of Mother Earth and everything this powerful feminine energy represents; abundance, femininity, beauty, fertility and pregnancy, motherhood, nurturing, creative ability, wealth, sensuality, the goddess.

The Empress is of indeterminate age, but it is clear that she is a woman in her prime. Her hair is golden and time has not yet left its mark on her features, yet her calmly confident demeanour and regal expression suggest that she isn’t young. She is confident and at at home on her throne, used to the weight of her regal accoutrements. While not intimidating, she oozes authority and sovereignty. She is a benevolent monarch, but you do not want to cross her.

The throne

In the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the throne the Empress is seated on is carved out of stone; it is as solid and eternal as Mother Earth herself. It is draped in luxurious velvet fabrics in red and orange hues. Next to the throne also carved in stone, is the female gender symbol, signalling that The Empress is the ultimate sign of feminine strength and empowerment.

The crown adorned with 12 stars

The Empress carries a golden crown beset with 12 stars, symbolising her dominion over the twelve signs of the zodiac; she is a ruler of the havens as well as of the natural world, its rhythms and seasons.

The scepter

In her right hand, the Empress holds a golden sceptre, a sign that she is the ultimate ruler.

The shape of the sceptre is inherently phallic and represents the independence of the Empress. Although an Emperor exists in the Tarot, the Empress is complete without him and does not depend on him.

The flower dress

The Empress is wearing a long, flowing white dress with a pattern of roses. The dress has a golden collar befitting a queen.

The dress is a further symbol of femininity, and may suggest pregnancy. The pattern of flowering blooms mirrors the garden in which the Empress is throned.

The flowering garden/crops

The Empress is surrounded by golden crops and flowering trees, suggesting that her throne is placed in a luscious garden, or simply in nature. This is significant, as you would expect a monarch’s throne to be indoors, shielded from the elements rather than part of them.

It is clear from the ripeness of the crops and the flowering trees that it is summer, it is flowering season – harvest is coming soon. The flowering garden and the crops represent growth, material success, and the materialisation of the seeds of ideas.

The Empress and Emperor of the Major Arcana

The Empress and the Emperor are the feminine and the masculine power couple of the Tarot. Each is a complete archetype in and of themself, but at the same time they represent two sides of a coin.

The Emperor and Empress are equally powerful; they are like yin and yang, representations of the archetypal masculine and feminine powers of creation.

Universal Empress Tarot card meanings

Like any Tarot card the Empress has many layers of meaning – which one comes to the fore depends on the context of the Tarot reading she appears in. Here are some of the key interpretations.

Abundance

Everything about the Empress Tarot card oozes abundance, from the golden diadem crowning her brow to the flowering garden around her. In her universe, there is never any lack.

Often, the Empress Tarot card appears as a reminder of the inherent abundance all around us. Nature and the material realm offer countless gifts and opportunities. In order to partake of this abundance, we need to connect to it in our inner feelings.

If we have been conditioned into a mindset of lack, it is important that we begin to create and discover our own connection to the divine source, and learn to trust that the universe truly is abundant, that there is enough money, enough love, enough compassion and enough opportunity to go around.

Power and success

The Empress reminds us that our natural state is one of abundance, wealth, empworment and opportunity. We live in a rich and bountiful universe – why shouldn’t we step up and collect?

The Empress Tarot card is nudge from the universe, telling you to go ahead and reach for your dreams. By enriching and enhancing your own life, you are in no way being selfish or taking anything away from anyone else. By reaching for success in money, career and in your life generally, you are only tapping into the magic that is your birthright as a spiritual being.

The Empress Tarot card often works as reminder of your inherent strength and worthiness.

Fertility, birth and nurturing

Fertility, pregnancy and motherhood are often implied.

In some Tarot readings, the appearance of the Empress may suggest literal pregnancy, but pregnancy can also be understood in a more symbolic way. The querent may be pregnant with ideas and creative potential, or a business endeavour is about to take off after a necessary period of gestation.

Fertility, pregnancy and birth a cycle, and any project and endeavour works in a way similar to physical pregnancy. There is conception, gestation and finally manifestation.

Motherhood can be understood literally as the nurturing of a child, but it can also mean the nurturing of a career, a creative endeavour or a love relationship.

Creativity

The Empress represents creativity and the creative forces within us all. Carrying a creative idea through from conception to birth and beyond is a thrilling experience, and the creative drive is one of the most powerful forces carrying humanity forwards.

The desire to create is what drives to explore, discover, grow and create art.

Sensuality

Another important Empress card meaning is sensuousness and even hedonism.

The powerful ruler seated on her luscious throne in her flowering garden is very obviousy in touch with nature and all of its rhythms and driving forces. She reminds us to relish the gifts of nature. She encourages us to relish life and to nurture ourselves on the gifts and pleasures of the physical realm.

The Empress Tarot Card Reversed

The Empress reversed may become a smothering mother figure, a micromanaging boss, or a lover drowning you with their constant nurturing.

With the Empress reversed, there is a sense of the otherwise positive aspects of the Empress being taken too far, or alternatively being blocked and repressed.

Lack and Deprivation

Upright the Empress beckons with wealth and abundance, but the Empress reversed she may imply lack and deprivation, whether imposed externally or from within.

Sometimes, what may be pointed to are the ingrained mindsets of lack and self-deprivation that you may have picked up as a result of your upbringing. If you were taught that the universe is a place of lack, most likely, this is what you have come to believe on a deep level. It is time to start unravelling these negative patterns and open yourself up to receiving the abundant gifts of life.

Infertility

Upright the Empress can mean fertility and even pregnancy, but reversed she can imply infertility, whether physical, mental or emotional.

Mental or emotional infertility can manifest as a loss connection with your inner creativity and magic. What is being pointed to here is that it is time for you to look at how you can nurture, strengthen and replenish yourself. Infertility can be a sign that you have given and given of yourself, to the point of exhaustion. Look at how you can restore your balance and health, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Creative blocks, manifestation blocks, life blocks

The reversed Empress often points to blocked energies in our lives. Often, what is blocked is our creative drive, our authenticity, or ability to manifest or even our lust for life.

The message here is to practice self love and compassion in order to reconnect with your inner spiritual force. Our external abilities and drives are only blocked when the connection we have with our inner guidance and creative drive are obscured or lost from sight.

Nevertheless, that inner voice is always there. Sometimes we simply need to rediscover it.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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