The Empress (Tarot card): Wikis


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The Empress (III)

The Empress (III) is the third trump or Major Arcana card in traditional Tarot decks. It is used in Tarot card games as well as divination.


Description and symbolism

Arthur Edward Waite was a key figure in the development of modern Tarot interpretations. However, not all interpretations follow his theology. Please remember that all Tarot decks used for divination are filtered through personal experience and standards.

Some recurring keywords are:

  • 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 seem to have had a rather uneventful five centuries. Waite and other occultists are responsible for the starry crown, the emblem of Venus, the waterfall, and the vegetation and wildlife. The Hermitage informs us that 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 as the heraldic emblem of the Holy Roman Empire. The Empress Adelaide of the Holy Roman Empire, later beatificated by the Catholic Church, seem to be the most likely historical person to relate this card 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. The Empress is often associated with Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love, and indeed the Rider-Waite deck brandishes her symbol upon a heart-shaped bolster. The Empress is also often interpreted to be Demeter, goddess of abundance. She is the giver of earthly gifts, although at the same time, she can be overprotective and possessive. In anger she can withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. Due to her fury and grief, Demeter keeps the Earth cold and barren until Spring when her child is returned to her.[1]


Mythopoetic Approach

She is the Queen of Heaven, as shown by her crown of stars. She is the Great Goddess, the consort of the dying god. She’s associated through her cross sum (the sum of the digits) with Key 12 The Hanged Man, the Dying God, her Son (or daughter) and Consort, who dies at Autumn Equinox or Winter Solstice, and is reborn with Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, or Beltane. She’s also associated with Key 21, The World, the final card of the Tarot. Through death, rebirth, and reproduction the world is renewed.

She is associated with Isis, both as the mistress of heaven and as the Ur-Poisoner. According to some tales, Isis achieved the queen ship of heaven by poisoning Ra with a serpent and refusing to heal him until he told her his secret name. Isis’s consort was Osiris, an example of The Hanged Man.

The Empress is closely associated with the suits of Disks (Earth) and Wands (fire/masculine generative force). She is the mistress of the Knights (12th cards of the Minor Arcana), who as Grail Knights are in some sense searching for her, and, like their counterpart in the Major Arcana, the Hanged Man, may well die for her.

She is also associated with Ishtar and Inanna, who went alive into the underworld and came back. She is sometimes associated with Demeter, the mother of Persephone. When Hades, the lord of the underworld, kidnapped and raped Persephone, Demeter stopped everything from growing until a deal was struck whereby Persephone spends part of the year with her, part of the year dead.

The fruit on her gown suggests a pomegranate. The pomegranate, of course, is the fruit that Persephone thoughtlessly or hungrily ate in the underworld, which binds her to it for part of every year. It also suggests the wall hanging behind The High Priestess’s throne, veiling us from the greater mysteries.

When she appears in a spread, she may represent life itself asserting itself through our attempts to master it. She can also represent the smothering of a blanket of ivy as it paralyzes and chokes the forest. She often represents mothers, good and bad, or the demands of the real world. She can also portray the blood flowing throughout all living things, and the womb and the tomb.

The Empress may also represent the Object of Desire. Most obviously, the love of the beloved, the love and approval of parents, especially (but not solely) mothers. While this may be healthy, over attachment to the object (or to the idea of the object) can be a danger sign.

If the Empress is the Object of Desire, the Hanged Man (or a Hanged Man substitute from the Minor Arcana) is the one who desires. This can inspire Great Works, or trap the Querant in pathology. Attachment can lead to death, metaphorically or otherwise. When The Empress kills (again, metaphorically or otherwise), it is usually by consuming, suffocating, or poisoning.

The Empress may represent the veil of illusion, Maya (illusion). In the Book of Thoth deck, she holds a lotus in her hand, associating her with the mother of the Buddha, the mother of the knowledge that transcends the world.

In her beneficent aspect, she gives, nurtures, and/or celebrates life. In her negative aspect, she takes it, either literally or figuratively.

When Demeter is inverted it portends either an opposite or challenge to the previously portrayed aspects of her card. If the card shows up upside down it would mean difficulty (although not lack of success) in her positive attributes. This would include denial by the certain loved one, or the potential to change this future through personal action. The inverted Empress should be a sign of not necessarily the opposite of the Empress herself but a rise to challenge, (i.e. your loved one won't come around etc.) to be yourself, to be the Empress yourself and become the one an individual needs to be in order to accomplish one's goal. Esentially this means one needs to be themselves very strongly and through that and become stronger (in many ways potentially) to become the person they need to be in order to overcome certain obstacles in their life. The Empress can have a very strong influence on man lives whither inverted or upright

Alternative decks

  • In the Vikings Tarot, Saga the Empress sits on a beach with a seal, a vast ocean stretching out behind her.
  • In the X/1999 Tarot version made by CLAMP, The Empress is Kanoe.

In pop culture

  • In Persona 3, character Mitsuru Kirijo and Persona 4 Margaret, Igor's assistant, are The Empress Arcana Social Link. This arcana features notable female mythological figures, such as Mother Harlot, Gabriel, and Skadi.
  • The Empress is a monster card in the Yu-gi-oh! card game, as part of a group of cards called the Arcana Force.


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External links


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