Creative, Action, Powerful, Opportunistic and Growth
The Empress is the third Tarot card in the Major Arcana. She connects with creation, fertility, birth, and abundance. She is associated with the number three, the planet Venus, the element of earth. She sits comfortably on a throne with a scepter and shield. Her gaze is to the right which indicates action. She follows the High Priestess in the major arcana who appears pregnant and sits in a protective position. The Empress is more open and by looking at her seated position she looks as though she is getting ready to give birth or has just given birth. On her right, in the Marseille Tarot, we see what appears to be a yellow object that resembles a baptismal. In the Rider Waite deck, the Empress has a flowing body of water on her right. Water has many meanings, but in Tarot, we tend to think of the feminine power of giving birth. The top of her garment is shaped in a crescent moon showing the relationship with the High Priestess. We have the earthly power of creation, but the sacred and mysterious energy of the universe still is within us. The exposed neck of her garment indicates that she is more open and vocal with her feelings.
Other Symbols in the Empress Card
Number three (III)
two elements that come together and the result is something new; creation
a problem solved with two opposing elements meets
a solution to two conflicting points of view after a period of contemplation
a consequence that resulted from making a decision
birth of a child, business, project
an agreement made; contract, marriage
When we come across three, we think of a result or consequence, but on the other hand we need to understand that where there should be result there maybe stagnation. The Empress has the power to give life to new projects or decisions she can also have creative blocks.
Another name for scepter is a rod, staff or wand. In Europe, the scepter is given to the ruling monarch as a symbol of authority and royal insignia. Notice in the Marseille Tarot, on the top end of the scepter is a orb with a cross. The orb and the cross links the authority the ruling monarch has over their physical world and the divine, example: the Queen Elizabeth II ruling over the British Empire and the Church of England. Scepters were also used by Egyptian Pharaohs.
Empress card indicates her power and authority over others. When you see the scepter held in the right hand it indicates that the power is creating life (giving birth). She recognizes the laws of nature, of life and is a symbol of Mother Nature. She is a giver of life. Note that the Emperor, major arcana IV, the scepter is in the left hand (Marseilles Tarot) which represents that he is the ruler of the spoken word and powerful, but he cannot create life.
At the bottom of the scepter, notice the how the end is pointed at her navel and resembles a seed. This also indicates the power of life giving. In other Tarot decks there is a green leaf pointing to her pelvis that represents the nurturing quality of the Empress.
In the Mythic Tarot, the Empress is holding barley in her right hand which is a symbol of fruitfulness and nurturing. She is a symbol of birth and marriage. The Mythic Tarot major arcana is not numbered, however, the Empress does represent the element of earth and life giving.
In the Marseilles deck, Spanish Tarot, Rider Waite deck and the Visconti, the Empress is seated on a throne. The throne represents someone who is important in the querent's life such as a mother, female boss, a commanding female in the querent's life, or a strong female personality of the querent. In the Marseilles deck and the Spanish deck, the
Empress sits on the throne with angel wings mounted on the back. This is another symbol that connects her authority to the spiritual/religious realm. In the Rider Waite and Visconti, the Empress looks comfortable in her seat and therefore I note that this is a woman that is comfortable in an authority position.
In Rider Waite, Marseilles, and the Spanish Tarot deck, the shield is on left. The shield is an emblem representing a royal or an important family in society. The left side denotes the reflective and passive authority of family, but it also signals that the Empress is ready to defend her family against anyone or anything that is threatening. In some decks the shield is on the ground, but it is close and ready to be picked up when needed.
The eagle on the on the shield represents intellect, loyalty, vision, strength and the ambition to grow. It also can indicate the mothers that want their adult children to make them grandmothers, want their children to achieve, want their children to take on the family business or marry the "right" partner.
Notice the tight grip that the Empress has on the shield and how close she holds the scepter to her body. This indicates how important family and/or business and all those who live or work under her. We can interpret this as being very protective and ready to defend with the shield or attack with her scepter if anyone or anything comes close to threatening those she cares about.
In the Marseille Tarot, at the bottom of the garment, you can see a white or pale blue shape that resembles a snake. This is a symbol of rebirth, creativity, renewal, rejuvenation and a sensual energy. It can also represent a healer such as a nurse, doctor, or energy healer, etc., (snake venom used as medicine).
The crown symbolizes strength, power and the intellect. Putting thoughts and ideas into action. The intellect is not the most powerful force of the Empress as we see that the shield with the eagle is held close to her stomach with the eagle's gaze at the bottom of the scepter. This indicates that passion and emotion can be a bigger force that brings ideas into action. The crown of some Empress cards have 12 jewels representing the 12 zodiac signs reminding us of the importance of the universal laws of nature and the cosmos. In other cards, the Empress may be wearing a necklace with 12 gems. The crown can also resemble a jewelry box symbolizing status and/or the power of natural beauty as well as the power of glamour (made-up beauty) and the ability to use this in a working environment and society.
The ground or the floor in the Marseille Tarot's Empress is also a reminder that the Empress is not working just in a natural world, but also a made up world. We notice that the ground of the card shows growing wheat as well as a brick floor indicating that the Empress has to deal with life's challenges in both natural and human made settings. The challenge of balancing the demands of society with the nurturing demands of home life can be indicated when this card shows up.
In some cases, the empress card has a background that's abundant with wheat crops to symbolise the affluence and the harvest to symbolise birth. Water, vines and grass remind us of the peaceful energy that the earth gives us.
Trees symbolise life and energy as well as growth. Tall trees can indicate ambition.
Wheat, Barley, Vines, Acorns
All things that grow from seeds represent growth, birth, renewal and power of nature. Also to remind us that the Empress is the giver of life.
The triangle shapes on Empress's dress of the Marseille Tarot, are suitable to remind us of the power of the number 3. The Empress is the third mystery in the major arcana and three is represented by the triangle. A union of two positions rises to a conclusion, consequence or action.
The Empress also has masculine elements to her personality. Nicholas Conver put the Adam's Apple in the Marseille Tarot on her throat to remind us that she:
has the self confidence
she is not afraid to use her voice
she is not afraid to appear to be unfeminine to get her points across or show you that she is boss and is very protective of her status/role
The above are suggestions for reading the Empress card and are not the only meanings that this Card can have. You must look at the surrounding cards chosen by the querent in the reading. Whatever meaning you get from the Tarot card will be dependent on the deck you use, other cards in the spread and the question (the reason why the querent is having a Tarot reading).
Just a note: When reading the Tarot cards for yourself or anyone else, you should take your time to look at each card. Note the direction of the human figure's gaze, the symbols, numbers and backgrounds. Tarot Masters always say that everything is a clue.
Sample Three Card Reading:
The querent is a woman who had left the workforce to be at home with her children. Now she she has been given an opportunity to re-enter the workforce. She is wondering how this will affect her family and can she manage a work/life balance?
The Tower card represents a change in the order of things in the querents life. She loved her time as a stay-at-home mom, but now her children are more independent and don't need her as much. Now she feels confined and with the new opportunity that has opened up just like the top of the tower, she is ready to jump into the workforce. The querent is free to spread her wings and she is feeling ambitious. She looks to the right at the nine of coins. Nine is a wishful number, but she is right to be thinking about managing a work life balance. The Tower reminds us that it takes time to build things and hardly any time to take them apart. The tarot cards are telling the querent to really focus on the priorities. Yes go back in to the workforce, but don't just jump in when the first opportunity appears. think about what kind of work you want to do, how much time you want to work, etc. There will be challenges when it comes to balancing the needs of home and work life, but with well thought out goals and priorities her career goals will be achieved for the long term. She should make sure she shares her goals and career dreams with her family so they can support her.