The Empress card is one of the strongest in the Tarot deck and one that can easily be taken for granted. It is easy these days to look in a Tarot course book, or read the meanings from the little white book accompanying the deck. The full potential of the card, however, can be appreciated if a number of factors are taken into account.
- The type of Tarot used, together with its distinctive artwork, inevitably influences the way you read the card.
- The way the designer of the deck manipulates the archetype can bend our understanding of what the card is saying to us.
- Then the position of the card will affect how we read its significance. Furthermore, the cards associated with the Empress card will nuance our understanding of its message.
Firstly, the meaning of the Empress card can be partly determined by the distinctive type of deck that we have chosen to use.
The Classic Tarot shows us a glossy image of a richly dressed royal lady, together with some kind of sceptre and a decorated shield, sitting down, a crown upon her head. The basic meanings that come to mind will naturally be associated with abundance, strength, perhaps with motherhood and wisdom.
The Rider Waite Tarot, together with its many offshoots and copies, gives us a sense of a much more complex figure. She is a character more in touch with nature, more feminine, more likely to reflect abundance in a non-financial sense.
The Psychic Tarot does not even refer to her as the Empress but as “Fertility,” much more emphasising the motherly aspect of the archetype. The Druid Tarot displays a rather bloated image of Morrigan, the female goddess of war, and we are helped to reflect on a strong female character who bears little of the gentility usually associated with the Empress character.
There are so many themes and symbols associated with the Empress card that it is necessary to consider how the particular deck is influencing our reading and thus how to move in a certain direction. Of course, any depiction of the Empress can lead to any of the themes associated with the card.
It is vital, however, that we understand the difference between the interpretation of the card designer and the intuitive picture that is created by our own understanding of it. In other words, we should have at our disposal all the possible meanings that such a card can represent and not be narrowed down by the artwork. The Empress card is multi-faceted and can tell us about issues connected with mothering, abundance, experiencing the senses, responding to nature and much more.
Connected with this ability of the Empress card to include a wide variety of themes is the need to understand that the themes she raises are symbolic, are not necessarily literal, and thus require some effort in interpreting.
For example, the mothering aspect of the card does not just involve issues of human birth and caring for children. It is concerned also with nurturing on a fuller scale, and in a metaphorical sense. It could be concerned with caring for the planet, for the natural world, and for the nourishment of life itself. It is also a card that connects with the sense of parenthood in a non-gender sense.
It is possible that the card may be calling for the reader, who may be a man, to find that softer, gentler, more “maternal” or even feminine side. Similarly, the aspect of abundance may simply be connected with abundant living, with a newly-discovered sense of purpose and fulfilment. It could be about financial riches, but not all riches are financial.
How the Empress card narrows down the meaning from one set of themes to another does depend on the position it appears in the spread. There is, of course, the possibility of a one-card spread. In this case the card will burst through the deck to seek recognition in a more significant way than if it had a lesser role in a multi-card spread. As I said before, the Empress card is a strong card. If read alone then its themes of abundance, riches and motherhood will depend on the circumstances of the reader and the greater skill applied.
The cards associated the Empress card can also have an effect upon the potential interpretation. For example, if the Lovers card, or maybe the Nine of Cups, appears close to the Empress card then the abundance implied may be more concerned with sexual fulfilment or sensual pleasure.
If, let’s say, the Seven of Pentacles is associated then it is likely to be concerned with material reward. On the other hand there are some cards that can negate much of the positive aspects of the Empress card. Some of the Pentacles cards can suggest miserliness or possessiveness. The important thing to remember is that, although the Empress card is a strong card, the message may be coming through loud and clear through the support of other cards. The other cards refine the message and make the reading stronger by narrowing down the focus.
The Empress card is a favourite of mine. At the end of the day the most important factor in any reading is to rely on your own intuition. We all have an inner guide, whether it is God, or an angel, or a spirit guide. If we call upon that “other” in our readings we will be able to witness a powerful calling of that which the Empress card represents to embrace the abundance that is the genuine principle of life.