The Empress is a creative force—an archetypal mother who constantly generates new life. Perpetually pregnant, she's a symbol of fertility and growth.
Like the High Priestess before her, the Empress is a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. She doesn't station herself at a gateway, however; she is merely the gateway between spiritual and material existence. She glows with confidence and good health, and she's up to the physical demands of creation.
The Empress' creative energy is inspiring, and her enthusiasm can be contagious. She celebrates the excitement of new life—so much that she runs the risk of smothering her creations with love and affection.
Like every mother, however, the Empress has a dark and dangerous side: while she will fight to the death to protect her young, there are times when she can slip into the guise of the Dark Mother—the Creator-Destroyer, who can refuse her children passage into the world, or remove them from existence, even after birth.
Generally speaking, the Empress card signifies a period of creation, nurturing, and growth. In a story reading, the Empress may represent a pregnant woman, mother, artist, or gardener.
- Garden of Delights. The Empress' domain is a garden of earthly delights, where trees blossom with flowers and a clear blue stream ensures lush growth and a promising harvest. Her garden is a refuge and a paradise, where nature will tend to her young until they come to fruition.
- Zodiac Sign. The Empress' heart-shaped shield is inscribed with the symbol of Venus, the planet of love and attraction. She sits on a cushioned throne, another symbol of Venus' love of beauty and comfort.
- Crown of Wisdom. She wears a jeweled crown, a sign of her intellect and authority.
- Global Authority. She holds a scepter with a globe, a symbol of her earthly realm. It's also a phallic symbol that represents her ability to cooperate (and sometimes control) a male partner.
- Iconic Beauty. The Empress is young, blond, and beautiful—like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana. Like those lost icons, she'll never show signs of sickness or age; she is a perpetual symbol of youth and vitality.
- Rushing Waters. The waterfall and clear blue stream in the background symbolizes her connection to life, fertility, and emotional well-being. Her flowing robes reinforce that symbolism.
- Evergreens. The cypress trees are a symbol of eternal life, and the fruit-bearing trees represent fertility and growth.
- Pregnant Pause. The Empress is closely connected to the concepts of love, marriage, and motherhood. In a tarot reading, the Empress often represents the relationship between mothers and children.
- Wifely Duties. Because we can assume that the Empress is married to the Emperor (the next card in the Major Arcana), she symbolizes marriage, partnership, joint efforts, shared aspirations, and common goals, hopes, and dreams.
- Numeric Significance. The Empress is the third card in the Major Arcana. Threes symbolize creation—the results of two separate forces combining to create a third entity. A mother and a father produce a child together. A thesis and antithesis combine to produce a synthesis. The number three can also represent body, mind, and spirit, or past, present, and future. Many religions believe in a holy trinity, such as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or Maiden, Mother, and Crone, or the triple goddess of the New, Full, and Old Moon.
Upright: Fertility, creativity, productivity, pregnancy, potential, growth, abundance, comfort, beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, artistic ability, nurturing, sensuality
Reversed: Stubbornness, laziness, infertility, chaos, disorder, smothering affection, overprotection
Myth and Legend
Among tarot readers, the Empress is generally considered to be Demeter, the goddess of the harvest and the mother of Persephone. When Persephone was kidnapped, Demeter's grief almost destroyed the world.
According to legend, Persephone leaves her mother's side to pick flowers. Alone in a meadow, she was fair game for Hades, Lord of the Underworld. He reached up, pulled her down into his realm, and forced her to become his bride.
As Demeter searched desperately for her lost daughter, life on earth came to a standstill. At that point, Zeus stepped in. He forced Hades to relinquish Persephone—but not before Hades had tricked her into eating four pomegranate seeds, which condemned her to remain in the Underworld forever. After some negotiation, the gods decided that Persephone would simply be compelled to return to Hades for four months of a year—one month for each seed she had consumed. As a result, Persephone was allowed to spend eight months with her mother.
When Persephone is away each winter, in the dark and foreboding land of the dead, Demeter grieves and the earth grows cold. But when Persephone returns, Demeter—and the earth itself—springs back to life.
The Empress surrounds herself with beauty, graces her children with affection, and maintains a sense of passion for her husband. All told, she makes a home that reflects her romantic ideals—much like Venus, the planet of love and attraction.
Venus rules marriage, partnerships, and friendships, and its influence leads to strong attachments, both to people and property.
Venus represents stability and comfort, as does Taurus, the sign that falls under Venus' rule. Venus also rules the second house of the zodiac, where astrologers look for information about one's home and material possessions.
On a related note, Taurus is associated with the Hierophant card.
The Empress may embody any number of literary archetypes, including the anima, the artist, the creator, the earth mother, the goddess, the matriarch, the mother, and the queen.
The Empress and Your Writing Practice
The empress is the consummate card of creativity. She represents every writer who is open to inspiration and willing to serve as a vessel for new worlds to take shape. She is fearless and unbowed by labor and delivery, including the hard work that accompanies the birth of any writing project. She's willing to lose control of her rational ideals, and submit to the primal realities of the birthing process. It's a lot like writing a book.
When the Empress card falls in the course of your writing work, it could signify that you're in the process of gestating a concept or an idea. Great writing takes time, but the Empress demonstrates that you have both the energy and the inspiration to produce tangible works of art.
- a pregnancy—planned or unplanned
- labor and delivery
- the birth of a miracle child
- Demeter and Persephone
- a comparison between birth and death
- a living person's visit to the afterlife
- a "dark mother" like Kali, the creator-destroyer
- a crone, with her days as a maiden and mother behind her
Excerpted from Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner