The Empress (Tarot card)
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Description and symbolism
Arthur Edward Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations. However, not all interpretations follow his theology. All Tarot decks used for divination are filtered through personal experience and standards.
Some recurring keywords include:
- Mothering — Fertility — Sexuality — Abundance
- Material prosperity — Pleasure — Comfort — Power
- Nature — Delight — Desire — Physical attraction
- Health — Sensuality — Beauty — Satisfaction
The Empress sits on a throne wearing a starry crown, holding a scepter in one hand. The Scepter is representative of her power over life, her crown has twelve stars representing her dominance over the year, and her throne is in the midst of a field of grain, representative of her dominion over growing things. The Empress is representative of the productivity of the subconscious, seeded by ideas. She is meant to be the embodiment of the growth of the natural world, fertility, and what one knows or believes from the heart.
The Empress seems to have had a rather uneventful five centuries. Waite and the other occultists are responsible for the starry crown, the emblem of Venus, the waterfall, and the vegetation and wildlife. In 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.
According to Waite's The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, The Empress is the inferior (as opposed to nature's superior) 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: she is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word, the repository of all things nurturing and sustaining, and of feeding others.
The Empress is mother, a creator and nurturer. In many decks she can be shown as pregnant. She can represent the creation of life, of romance, of art or business. The Empress can represent the germination of an idea before it is ready to be fully born.
- Gray, E. (1960). The tarot revealed: A modern guide to reading the tarot cards. New York, N.Y.: Bell Publishing Company.
- A. E. Waite's 1910 Pictorial Key to the Tarot
- Hajo Banzhaf, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero (2000)
- Most works by Joseph Campbell
- G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., The Owl, The Raven, and The Dove: Religious Meaning of the Grimm's Magic Fairy Tales (2000)
- Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1987)
- Mary Greer, The Women of the Golden Dawn
- Merlin Stone, When God Was A Woman
- Robert Graves, Greek Mythology
- Juliette Wood, Folklore 109 (1998):15-24, The Celtic Tarot and the Secret Tradition: A Study in Modern Legend Making (1998)
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