The Empress

Two words.

One – fecundity. It’s a pretty amazing word, sounding like it should mean something a lot ruder than it does.

Fecundity. Mmm.

It means fertility, if you didn’t know. The ability to reproduce, or to bring forth.

The other word is nurturing – giving something what it needs, feeding it, guiding it, loving it.

The Empress

First things first. Well, second I suppose. I’m not going to be talking earth mama here, or mother nature, or nature’s ‘womanly’ side, or the female love and creativity to the male rationality and order. Boooo-ring. I’ve a deal of patience for that earth mama idea, actually – having met some incredibly wonderful women who’d fit that bill, all in tune with nature’s rhythms and free-spirited bare-footed bread-baking beautifulness. And I think the Empress can represent that spirit. I just don’t think it’s inherently a female thing. I don’t think it’s a maternal thing. And I’m not desperately into that Empress/Emperor duality.

I’ll go with it, in readings, because I get what it’s getting at and I do understand that saying ‘feminine qualities’ and ‘masculine qualities’ is different from saying ‘women’ and ‘men’, but, like with Queens representing women and Kings representing men (I know plenty of female Kings of Swords), I’d rather get away from that gender binary business. (More on this topic here.)

Anyway. Here’s a wonderful card – it’s The Empress, from the Voyager Tarot by James Wanless:

The Empress mount zion

I read for a friend at the weekend, and up came The Empress. And there I was giving it all that ‘look to the strong earth-mother types in your life for some guidance…‘ and the answer came back, from the querent: ‘I think this could also be that soon I’ll be experiencing some major spiritual growth and spiritual […] fertility’ and suddenly I realised I’d never really thought about this card at all.

One thing that definitely takes The Empress away from the passivity often associated with the ‘feminine principle’ is that essentially this card represents creativity. It’s an active card. I thought about creative and spiritual fertility – what that means.

It starts with an open-mindedness, an ability to see different possibilities, different sides of something, to see opportunities, to see the details and nuances. And then it’s not so much about actively pushing an idea, so much as providing the conditions for it to grow and develop, as a good parent does.

Actually, I think the parenting thing is a good metaphor for understanding the meaning of this card. It’s about nurturing that idea, and nurturing yourself, and going easy on yourself and letting things come. It’s about acting with love, it’s about being in touch with yourself. It’s about learning from your creations and letting them be what they need to be, about letting them guide you as much as you guide them. Not that I’m an artist, but I imagine that when a creative idea grabs you, the better response is not to grab it and try to mould it and make it into whatever you want, but to follow it, understand it, feed it and let it take you where it will. Acting with your instincts, with respect and love, and seeing what comes out. That sounds like nurturing to me.

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  1. BK says:

    I LOVE this interpretation of the card. The gender binary thing never really stuck with me either and I was trying to understand the nurturing thing in the strict sense – but extending the parenting inspiration to just all productivity really sits with the underside of my stomach as a meaning that suits. I’ve been getting this a lot recently and I’m not a very mother-energy type-ah human. So thanks for this post! x

  2. AS says:

    This is a great interpretation of the Empress! When I started researching tarot and looking at the different meanings people assign to the Empress, I was surprised and dismayed at how many follow the same stereotypical gender binary-based meanings. As it is one of my favorite cards (especially in The Wild Unknown), I really connect to your interpretation and insights. Looking forward to going through your posts as I continue to learn about tarot! (also just started and loving the Alternative Tarot Course!)

  3. Lorna says:

    Wow Beth! Just starting your course and worked out that I’m a 3 / Empress! This interpretation makes SO much sense! Thank you so much!

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