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78 Weeks of Tarot: The Empress


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For information on what these threads refer to, see this thread;


78 Weeks of Tarot - Informational Thread


The above linked thread gives suggested dates for the cards as well as links to the individual topics.


Some of us may be working through the study in a different order and using different decks. If you have general questions or comments regarding the 78 Weeks of Tarot study group, please post in the topic in the above link.


Have fun.

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Deck: Fairytale Tarot


Card name: The Empress


First impressions


There is a lot going on in this card. The Empress is the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. She is an attractive, mature woman, dressed in a hoop-skirted ballgown of blue and orange. Her hair is piled up on her head in a complicated do containing feathers, butterflies and flowers. She wears a necklace with a large blue stone. She raises her wand in her right hand, as she looks down at a large pumpkin that is surrounded by two mice and two frogs. The frogs are wearing jackets and boots and have top hats. Cinderella stands to the Empress’s right, dressed plainly in blue and gray, her hair loose, arms hanging down, hands clasped in front of her. She doesn’t seem to be looking at anything, which is surprising, considering everything there is to see. They are all in a street outside some houses. On a hill behind them is a magnificent castle. It’s around sunset, and there are some pink clouds in a darkening blue sky.


This image is quite a contrast to the three previous cards, where there was one central human figure, along with an animal or two.


From the book


Cinderella, by Charles Perrault


Keywords and phrases: Mother nature, abundance and growth, nurture and maternity, delight in animals, plants and all things natural, femininity as an archetype.


In some of the older version of this tale there is no godmother; it’s actually Cinderella’s dead mother, who watches over her from beyond the grave, who comes to the girls’ rescue. So we have, in this story, the dichotomy of good mother and bad, godmother and stepmother. The one pushes Cinderella down into the ashes, and the other raises her up again -- and then takes her far above her original status.


In his book, Origin of the Fairy Myth, Lewis Spence points out the very frequent mythic similarities between fairies and the spirits of the dead. The fact that the dead mother in early versions of this tale later becomes a good fairy, is an interesting instance of this. Looked at in this context, she is totally unlike the rather capricious and unpredictable fairies of many stories, but instead a wholly good, kind, maternal and protective spirit who guards over Cinderella. She is also a bridge between the worlds of the mundane and the magical. Her abilities, whether as fairy or spirit, to transform things into new appearances and shapes make her a figure of benevolent power. She makes a more overtly magical Empress than is usual in the tarot, but then, isn’t nature a kind of magic in itself?


The original story




Traditional meanings


Nurturing, abundance, fertility, mothering, your mother, love, beauty, a businesswoman, mother earth, a multi-tasker, pregnancy, creativity, solving problems creatively, fulfilling your potential, a successful business or opportunity, laziness, creative and/or business stagnation, lack of coordination, wasting resources, financial difficulties, problems within the home.


My impressions of the card/story combination:


At first, I wasn’t sure about this card/story representing the Empress. After all, the story is called Cinderella, not the Fairy Godmother. In the three other stories I have encountered so far, the main character is the figure represented by the Tarot card. After reading Karen Mahony’s explanation of her choice, though, I’m starting to like it more. The Fairy Godmother is of course the hero of the story, even if she is not the protagonist. She is the main figure on the card, while Cinderella stands off to the side.


I find it really interesting that the Fairy Godmother, in earlier versions of the story, was the spirit of Cinderella’s dead mother. In finding and reading a few versions of the story online, I read the version of the story written by the Brothers Grimm, based on Perrault’s version, in which the dead mother’s spirit is a living tree, which Cinderella had planted on her mother’s grave, and which supplies Cinderella with her ball gown, etc. That’s a great representation of the idea of the Empress as Mother Nature.


I also like the duality of the good mother/bad mother represented by the stepmother/godmother. The Empress can be either, of course.


My take (what I make of it/what I might see in a reading where I drew it)


I think I might see this card emphasizing either the power of nature or the power of the maternal bond,. Of course the maternal bond is but one example of the power of nature. The Empress, though, traditionally, mainly deals with nature’s bounty, growth, fertility -- not the destructive power of nature. It is concerned with the whole range of maternal behavior, though. With Cinderella standing off to the side on the card, it’s easy to see the Empress as a controlling figure. But of course she is working magic for the Cinderella’s benefit. I think I might also see the card as an indication to seek the comforts to be found in tending to one’s garden. That maybe an unexpected kind of magic could be found there. I also like the idea of our dead parents/ancestors working on our behalf, if we ask them. I don't think I really believe this, but I like the idea.


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From Wiki:




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.




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 can be represented by Greek mythology figure, Persephone. Her gown is adorned with pomegranate seeds, something Persephone consumed while in the underworld. She sits on a throne as she is Hades beloved queen. The empress connects with the death card, for she is accustomed to life, death and rebirth.




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, romance, art, or business. The Empress can represent the germination of an idea before it is ready to be fully born, and the need to be receptive to change.


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Manga Tarot


The Empress - IV



A red-haired woman, dressed for battle, is standing in a grassy area and looking straight ahead. We can see her holding a large shield, but there is no sword in sight. She is wearing a blue-grey samurai armour with green clothing underneath. She has a tiara on her head with white wing-like extensions attached on each side around her ears. Her shield shows a beautiful representation of a swan with her babies, swimming near some yellow flowers.

In the background we can see many trees.



Colors : Green



Season : Summer



LWB : Nourishment. Energy, courage, positive and generative force. Give strength to others, help them to grow without losing their way. A shameless glance indicates an unblemished conscience.


First impression : We rarely see such a fierce Empress represented in tarot. She is flamboyant and shows a perfect balance between feminine and masculine energies. Once again, the genders have been flipped, so the Empress is Major Arcana IV, which explains why elements from the Empress and Emperor's archetypes have been mixed together. At first glance, I would say that she seems to embody more of the Emperor's role, but the painting on her shield brings a balance. The white wing-like extensions on  both sides of her head seem to mirror the wings of the swan, definitely showing a parallel between the 2. Swans are known for their aggressive protection of their nests and also for their usually longterm monogamous lifestyle. The prominent use of the green color also gives a really lively but peaceful feel to the card.



What others had to say :

-This Empress definitely demonstrate qualities from both typical Emperor and Empress.



What the author had to say : ''Strength originating from harmony?'' Isn't it even more mysterious than the text included in the LWB? :P



Symbolism found in the card


Samurai armour : The fact that she is dressed as a combattant brings out some of the typical Emperor archetype qualities : strength, fierceness, courage and protection.


Tiara : Symbol of royalty, so that we remember this woman is not simply a warrior, she is a ruler. Like a crown, it's a symbol of power and authority.


Green color : Associated with growth, hope, life, rebirth and positive energy.


Summer : Season associated with the Sun, vitality and abundance.


Shield : Symbol of protection and defense.


Swan with babies : The painting of the mother swan with her babies brings out some of the Empress archetypes qualities : nurturing, fertile/maternal and connection with nature. Swans are known for being really protective of their nests, but they are also a common symbol of grace and beauty. Swans are also associated with the goddess Venus and so is the Empress card.


Grassy area : The outdoor setting gives a feeling of connection with nature.


Trees : Symbol of life and connection to Earth, wisdom, spiritual growth and protection.



Synthesis/conclusion :


After an in-depth study of the card, what I retain the most is how well balanced the elements are. If I get this card in a reading, I will most likely interpret it as the Empress and not 'Major Arcana IV : The Emperor', but I feel the more 'Emperor-like' features bring a more modern approach to the archetype of the mother. Who said that to be nurturing and motherly you had to be passive? Isn't the Empress also the card of creativity? This one didn't hold back!


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The Empress (Everyday Witch)



A pregnant woman is standing on a flowering field under some apple trees and holding a sceptre. A dog and a cat are on either side.


What action is going on:

It is a windy day. Her dress and her hair are dancing in the wind. Her ruby sceptre is glowing.


Images and Symbolism:

Ruby: stone of love, energy, passion, power, and a zest for life. Ruby is the symbol for powerful feelings.

Black cat and white dog: Here perhaps meant to be showing a balance of masculine and feminine energies?

Flowers and apples: fertility, Nature



red, white and green


This card encourages:

-trusting in life’s forces for growth

-trusting lively developments


Warns against:

-neglecting pleasure and the senses


Traditional meanings (J. Bunning):

-patron of nurturing, mothers, creating and family

-abundance; having more than enough

-senses; focusing on the body, senses, health and physical activities

-Nature; relating to plants and animals, harmonizing with natural rhythms


From the Book:

“The Empress may represent you or some strong woman in your life -a mother..” Again this book makes you think that it was written for teens. What if you are the mother? Or a grandmother? A strong woman can be any age.

-“She is sexy and somehow maternal…she may possibly be pregnant.” – What? She is very clearly very much pregnant. Again proof that the author and the artist have not been working together very much.

-“The Empress reminds us that all women are divine.” -This doesn’t make much sense imho. How does she remind us of this? And what does it mean? She doesn’t say so this remains an empty phrase.

-“With her on your side, you can achieve anything.”

-“Celebrate the divine feminine in your life”


Sallie Nichols: (in Jung and Tarot. An Archetypal Journey. Weiser 1984)

-The genius of making babies is woman’s secret power -and her public weakness

-Through woman alone spirit is made flesh

-Pure spirit is nonsense- winged inspiration needs to be caught, brought to earth and grounded in reality



-Her golden flowing hair looks just like Venus’ hair in Botticelli’s painting.

-The flowers on the ground look like daisies, some forget-me-nots and poppies. There are apples *and* flowers in the trees which is odd and not natural. Apple trees flower months before the apples are red and ripe. I’m not sure if that was done on purpose. But maybe this Goddess/Empress lives in another dimension where such things are possible. Maybe it shows the timelessness of her realm? One can also see it as a symbol of the fast passing of time -and as a reminder to 'Carpe Diem'.



Become One with Nature, then follow its requests.


(-adding the picture later when I get the new scanner..)


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Decks- The Fairytale Tarot by Magic Realist Press and the Fairy Tale Tarot by Lisa Hunt


Card Name and Fairytale

3 The Empress, "Cinderella"

3 The Empress, "Cinderella" Grimm Version


Visual Analysis


What are the possible symbolic elements?  (Alberti, 2011)


Animals, full moon, castle, bag, wand, older fairy godmother

The time of day and contrast of light and dark. Animals, wand, pumpkin, castle, a butterflies.


How does the structure of a picture- or any visual art form- affect our emotional response? (Bang, 2016, p. xiv)


MRP: Space implies time and the castle is far away. It seems it is a different world with a different light on it than where the figures are in the foreground. The vertical shapes of the castle and village imply something is happening. The pumpkin is large drawing my attention. It is the same color as the Empress's petticoat so I associate the two objects. The contrast of the bright castle in the sky with the dark foreground enables me to see better. The animals, Empress, and Cinderella form a circle around the pumpkin. I can tell something is happening because the Empress's hand is holding a wand, raised in mid air, her eyes looking down at the pumpkin. All the animals and Cinderella watch her. Something is getting ready to happen or has just happened.


My eye scans the image starting at the top. I see the bright castle, and then the bright star of the wand, and settle on the bright glow on top of the pumpkin. I then notice the two rats and lizards and move in a circle until I reach Cinderella. All of the figures eyes are on the Empress and her wand. They patiently clasp their hands or hat wait and watch.


L.H.: My eyes are drawn to the top right corner because of the bright full moon and how it illuminates the castle in the sky. The vertical castle seems to float and the faint color makes it feel like it is magic. I see the doves because they are white like the moon and notice they are dropping something to Cinderella. My eyes trace the bright cosmic light around the girl's and fairy godmother' body to the source, a magic pouch. I then notice the pumpkin patch and two rats scurrying around. The fairy godmother is center in the card and is bigger than Cinderella. The glowing wand in her hand and lines around her body make her the main focus for me. She looks as if she is just getting started with her magic.


Wisdom from the Hero’s Journey  (Fiction, n.d.)

What lessons has the hero learned about him or herself on this journey? What are we (the spectators) supposed to learn from the journey?


Cinderella is rewarded for being good and kind despite the cruel treatment from her family. Her connection to nature and willingness to ask for what she wants changes her life. Fairy Godmother's can take animals and transform them into something unexpected. I think this is a metaphor for taking problems and changing our perspectives in order to find a better solution.



Who is the Fairy Godmother? Where does she come from or live? Why is Cinderella so nice to her sisters? Why did Cinderella's father abandon her like that? Why isn't the stepmother punished? What are the metaphors for the tree? Why does she escape three times? In the Grimm version why is there no fairy godmother? Why does she need a fairy godmother? What is her job description?



Rachel Pollack “When I do readings for myself- contrary to popular belief, most Tarot readers read for themselves all the time- I do not try to uncover or make predictions, but instead, seek the wisdom of the cards. Because they “speak” in pictures, we can ponder what they say for a long time. Here are three questions, simple yet challenging.


What do I know?

I know that the Empress is associated with nature, abundance, and the mother archetype. I know from reading Cinderella that the tale is about a young woman triumphing over her terrible home life and marrying a prince.


What have I forgotten?

I have forgotten that the Fairy Godmother uses magic to turn ordinary objects into something new. She transforms pumpkins into carriages and animals into footmen. The butterfly wings in the MRP card emphasize the process of metamorphosis to me.

What do I need to know and must never forget?

The Fairy Godmother in other versions of Cinderella is actually her dead mother. There is a theme of supernatural help in the form of a godmother or from a spirit. I need to remember that the Empress is a meeting place for the spiritual and material worlds. I need to remember that change is possible if a person desires it.



Alberti, G. (2011). Symbolism within the Tarot and Comparative Visual Analysis: A Proposed Methodology for the Study of the Tarot as Applied to the Ride Waite Smith Deck. Retrieved from conservancy.umn.edu: https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/116801


Bang, M. (2016). Picture This How Pictures Work. San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC.


Fiction, K. G. (n.d.). Science Fiction Writers Workshop: Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Retrieved from http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/Joseph-Campbell-Hero-Journey.htm


Hunt, L. (2009). Once Upon a Time. Woodbury: Llewellyn .


Mahony, K. (2005). The Fairytale Tarot. London: Magic Realist Press.


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The Haindl Tarot


III The Empress


First Impressions:


A nude woman stands on a "boat", which is actually the crescent Moon as in the diadem worn by The High Priestess - one end is shaded as in the H.P. She holds a snake in her right hand, and a scepter in her left. Mother Goddess - she has a mature figure. The large pool of water upon which she floats is very agitated, indicating a lot of mental activity, more than shown in The Hight Priestess. Perhaps it is showing the use of the potential shown in the H.P.


Above everything is a representation of the "All Seeing Eye" on a pyramid. The iris and pupil seem to be infinitely repeating like an image reflected between t mirrors. Where The High Priestess is fairly static, there appears to be more activity in The Empress (the water, the snake and her hair blowing). There is a large crystal above her head. She seems to be the manifestation of the wisdom sought in The High Priestess. There is also a door with a misty light beyond it. Doors are a feminine symbol, as well as symbolizing initiations and passing into a new life.


The border is brown, the same brown color as in the Ace of Stones.This ties The Empress to the Earth and Nature.




III; 3, the sum of 1+2, so this is a coming together of the material/male aspects of the magician and the spiritual/feminine aspects of The Hight Priestess. As such, it symbolizes Nature, the combining of different polarities. Also symbolizes birth and motherhood, since a baby is the "combination" of the mother and the father.


Kabalistic letter and Rune; (The book combines the explanation of both the letter and the rune.)(Letter) "Daleth" - "Door" and (Rune) "Th" or "Thorn". The Rune relates to "thunder and the Norse God Thor." Both Daleth and Th refer to "Door". "We see the union of the two symbolic systems, ... in the Door on the lower left, opening to a room filled with light" ["The Haindl Tarot Volume 1", Rachel Pollack],


Crystal; It is representative of the Rune "Hagall", the rune for The Chariot - so linking these cards. "... showing that The Empress is a triumph of the Human will, as well as a symbol of mother love ..." [ibid]. Apparently this is an ice crystal - in Spring ice thaws and gives way to new life. The Rune "Hagall" is considered as the "mother of all Runes", because, with a line around it (as in the crystal) all other runes can be drawn from it. The cyrstal contains 6 colors; Black refers to lightning which lights the night (linking the hexagram to Hagall/thunder). White for clear thought and purity, Red, the color of blood, symbolizes life. Yellow for the Sun, blue for the sky and green for the Earth. 6 sides and colors link this card to The Lovers.


Astrological Symbol; The sign for The High Priestess is Venus. The Goddess of Love. However, she stands on the crescent Moon which floats on the water - linking her to The High Priestess.


Element; Earth. Where The High Priestess "symbolized the unlimited potential of life and the unconscious, The Empress indicates the life force, manifesting itself in the 'real' world of Nature, motherhood, sexual desire and finally, individual consciousness." [ibid]


Scepter and Snake; The scepter is mentioned as a phalllic symbol, as is the snake. Though the snake, because of it's sinuous shape, represents male and female entwined together.


Water; The emotions, rather than the depths of the unconscious. Also with the crystal symbolizing the mind, and the room as creative achievement; "far from pure emotion, The Empress thinks, makes decisions and acts upon the world." [ibid]


The Door; This symbolizes culture, a creation of the intellect. The church-like arch symbolizes religion, also a human creation. The red dot, in between the 3 circles, represents life - reminding us that "religion becomes empty ... when it detaches itself from love and people's physical needs and desires." [ibid] The light within symbolizes God's presence in the world.


Triangle and Eye; LLight radiates from the triangle - rays in groups of 3 (the number of the card) - straight rays indicating divine intellect. Though the eye stares out at us, it also draws us inward, through layers of existance to the single point of light in the center.


Meanings from the book:


Upright; Passion. A time in the person's life to experience things with "great feeling". Two prime ways to experience these feelings is with "enjoyment of life, especially sexuality, and through mothering." The card reminds us that motherhood and sex go togwther because of biology, but also because of it showng maturity and fulfilment. It may represent someone enjoying sexuality, but "in a responsible way." Where The Devil shows sexuality becoming dark and oppressive, and The Lovers emphasizes the relationship, The Empress "stresses the person's own sexual expression." [ibid] If it refers to a man, he may be expressing his "feminine" aspects or represent a strong feminine presence.


Motherhood, possibly literal, or nurturing an idea. Creativity. Mothering friends or may represent the querent's own mother. It may represent a love of the outdoors, Natured, gardening, growing things. They may love nurturing projects or people. They love thier friends as well as their lovers.


Reversed; Passions are blocked. This may be sexual or emotional showing that they may have trouble expressing their feelings. They may be experiencing issues with, or stemming from their own mother. On the other hand, they may be experiencing distance from their children. This may be a time when it's inadvisable to demonstrate passion. Or it may be a time to pull back a little.


My further interpretations; (Garnered from several sources as well as my own thoughts.)


Upright; Fertility for parents, farmers, artists, etc. Good card for "newlyweds". May also represent success in business or other material areas. There is a sternness in her face (on the Haindl Empress card) that shows she can be protective of her offspreing or her ideas, projects, etc. In a negative aspect, this protectiveness can become jealousy or hatred towards those who come between her and who/what she's nurturing. Also, the motherly aspect may become clingy or smothering. A proud parent showing off their kids. In an extreme, being a helicopter parent, or refusing to let them grow up.


Approaching a problem emotionally. Possibly a reminder to temper cold logic by letting some emotion in.


Reversed; A non-nurturing parent - neglectful, abusive, cold. Infertility, trouble with a pregnancy, or perhaps just not wanting to have a family. Recognizing the colod or abusive tendencies of their own parent and not wanting children because of fear of those things within themselves.


An absent mother. Abandonment, or possibly a mother who just can't be there, such as a working, single mother, or perhaps she's been incarcerated other otherwise taken from the picture. Lack of care and nurturing brings on loss of one's charges (plants, animals, a project). Self indulgence or vanity.


On the other hand, a person who gives to much of themselves, exhausting themselves from overwork on a project or at home. Or living vicariously through your children at the expense of their well-being (e.g. the extreme "pageant mother").


Taking time for thought. Time for yurself. Possibly a career woman who does not want to have a family at the current time.


Additional thoughts;


I have to admit to being slightly overwhelmed as well as a little disappointed in the write up on this card in the Haindl book. Ms. Pollack goes on at length about the sexual and feminine aspects of this card. It provided a very in-depth look at the Mother Goddess/Venus aspects of this card. However, she only briefly touched on some of the very prominent symbols that one sees here. For example, the eye in the pyramid - it is only described in brief with no real description of what the image means. The snake and scepter are briefly described as male symbols, but little else is said. As a result, I come away with both a deeper understanding of the card in general, but wishing for more information on some aspects. But then, maybe that is by design ... leaving us with more to learn on our own.


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Empress – Revelations deck


First impressions

For some reason this card feels more in the RW tradition than others I have studied so far from this deck; there are the stars, the roses, the trees. It feels comfortable – though the underlying darkness of the reverse image is never far from sight, which colours the upright image in a way.



She is mother of all things. She nurtures all within her grasp with her generous giving nature and her overabundance of joy She brims full of life and life revolves around her


This card represents the strong creative force within oneself to bring forth life. This energy gives fuel to grow and expand any current projects or ventures. Artistically, the energy will guide you to produce endless images and ideas. Careerwise, creatively engaging projects will move along with ease. In the home environment, you will explore decorative tasks and gardening with delight.

In an individual, this card represents a strong maternal character who often provides for you and urges you along these creative paths. This person gives unconditionally for your growth and nurtures your needs to the best of his or her abilities.


In situations, this card heralds a positive creative growth. You may be surrounded by creature comforts and material wealth. In relationships3 love and fertility can be found in abundance and sometimes can also be embodied in pregnancy.



She is lost in the wilderness of despair. The joys of life escape her. She runs away from love and hides in the mountains and the rock faces of loneliness.


The reverse of this card represents a creative block found within oneself. The sorrow felt is self-inflicted as the measure of your happiness is quantified by the lack of production. Projects are started in vain, canvases remain blank, and the home feels more like a hollow vessel that is barely warm.


As an individual, the reversed card embodies someone lost in the wilderness of his or her own self. The self-pity this person feels for him- or herself is due to his or her blocked creativity. Growth has taken this person to the path of extreme despair and self-affliction.


In a situation, this card symbolizes a hindrance in the creative flow of a project or a t&sk. In a relationship, one partner or both experience frigidity, sex without love, or even an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. In terms of material wealth, this card forecasts the shadow of poverty and financial difficulty.


Traditional meanings:


Action, development, accomplishment, mother/sister/wife, evolution.



Vacillation, inaction, lack on concentration, indecision, anxiety, infidelity.


Images and symbols (from LWB)


The warmth of the sun and the golden fields of wheat and grain indicate growth that surrounds the empress.


The background shows a waterfall cascading from a lush forest, which illustrates the gift of life flowing through nature.


This water changes the path of life and erodes away things of old. The flow of water represents change, which comes from the continual flow of life.

The warm hues add to the radiating beauty of the empress’s kindness and joy as she basks in the glory of the sun.

The moon in the background represents the empress’s connection with the symbol of womanhood. Stars crown her head for she is the mythological Ishtar/Eoster.

The world represents nature, which sits in her lap. She lays it under her bosom, for she is the mother of nature— she is Mother Nature.

The dark purples and blues of the reverse help mask the desolate background of the empress’s anguish.

The rain lines indicate a veil, which clouds her path to happiness. Nature has turned against her, and she tries in vain to seek refuge under her drenched robes.

Her face is carved by the anguish of her tears and sorrow.


My impressions


She looks quite jocular, Stars crown her curly brown hair and stream into the sky. Wheat, trees, lush grass and waterfalls in the background, with flowers and a brilliant sun. It is all very fertile. She holds the world in her lap, and a sceptre in her right hand; her left hand is spread wide – a gesture of openness ? Behind her head is an oval filled with what look like roses – the handbook says it is the moon.



The reversed figure has none of the fecundity; there are bleak snow covered mountains and sheets of purple rain and the background on her left is fractured, as if by lightning.,. Her clothes are dark; her hair is grey and lank; her right arm is raised – she is either shaking a fist at the world or trying to protect herself from the rain (as the book suggests.) She looks desperately unhappy. Maybe she is actually barren. She seems totally involved in her own misery.


As I said – this card feels more traditional than some in this very unusual deck, even though the reverse image cannot be ignored and in a way therefore colours the whole card. The upright image is particularly traditional in feel - but the reversed image on the same card "detracts" from that rather, which in a way makes the whole card stronger.



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Card name: Empress

First impressions


This card startled me for a minute. I looked and immediately saw a mermaid. Her lower limbs appeared at once to be a fish-tail ! the positioning and the lines. But no. OK – she is on a throne, which I can’t actually see but she is sitting, so… with her arms curved around her belly – to protect the womb ? And she holds a blue lotus blossom. Around her tall plants, with birds. She has a moon-like crown with an orb, and from it trails a veil which seems to have very clearly delineated layers. Her top half is pink, with bees and patterns; the lower, skirt, is green. To her right a waning moon; to her left a waxing one. Below the waning moon is the (alleged !) pelican, and below the waxing one is the shield, with two white eagles. It all seems rather remote, somehow. And women get sort of closed in when pregnant, so that may relate, too.


From the BoT


This card is attributed to the letter Daleth, which means a door, and it refers to the planet Venus. This card is, on the face of it, the complement of The Emperor; but her attributions are much more universal.


On the Tree of Life, Daleth is the path leading from Chokmah to Binah, uniting the Father with the Mother. Daleth is one of the three paths which are altogether above the Abyss. There is further more the alchemical symbol of Venus, the only one of the planetary symbols which comprises all the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The doctrine implied is that the fundamental formula of the Universe is Love. [The circle touches the Sephiroth I, 2, 4, 6, 5, 3; the Cross is formed by 6, 9, 10 and 7, 8.]


It is impossible to summarize the meanings of the symbol of the Woman, for this very reason, that she continually recurs in infinitely varied form. “Many-throned, many-minded, many-wiled, daughter of Zeus.”

(as Duquette says : Thanks a lot, Crowley !)


In this card, she is shown in her most general manifestation. She combines the highest spiritual with the lowest material qualities. For this reason, she is fitted to represent one of the three alchemical forms of energy, Salt. Salt is the inactive principle of Nature; Salt is matter which must be energized by Sulphur to maintain the whirling equilibrium of the Universe. The arms and torso of the figure consequently suggest the shape of the alchemical symbol of Salt. She represents a woman with the imperial crown and vestments, seated upon a throne, whose uprights suggest blue twisted flames symbolic of her birth from water, the feminine, fluid element. In her right hand she bears the lotus of Isis; the lotus represents the feminine, or passive power.


Its roots are in the earth beneath the water, or in the water itself, but it opens its petals to the Sun, whose image is the belly of the chalice. It is, therefore, a living form of the Holy Grail, sanctified by the blood of the Sun. Perching upon the flamelike uprights of her throne are two of her most sacred birds, the sparrow and the dove; the nub of this symbolism must be sought in the poems of Catullus and Martial. On her robe are bees; also dominos, surrounded by continuous spiral lines; the signification is everywhere similar.


About her, for a girdle, is the Zodiac.


Beneath the throne is a floor of tapestry, embroidered with fleurs-de-lys and fishes; they seem to be adoring the Secret Rose, which is indicated at the base of the throne. The significance of these symbols has already been explained. In this card all symbols are cognate, because of the simplicity and purity of the emblem. There is here no contradiction; such opposition as there seems to be is only the opposition necessary to balance. And this is shown by the revolving moons.

The heraldry of the Empress is two-fold: on the one side, the Pelican of tradition feeding its young from the blood of its own heart; on the other, the White Eagle of the Alchemist.


The White Eagle in this trump corresponds to the Red Eagle in the Consort card, the Emperor. It is here necessary to work back wards. For in these highest cards are the symbols of perfection; both the initial perfection of Nature and the final perfection of Art; not only Isis, but Nephthys. Consequently, the details of the work pertain to subsequent cards, especially Atu vi and Atu xiv.


At the back of the card is the Arch or Door, which is the interpretation of the letter Daleth. This card, summed up, may be called the Gate of Heaven. But, because of the beauty of the symbol, because of its omniform presentation, the student who is dazzled by any given manifestation may be led astray. In no other card is it so necessary to disregard the parts, to concentrate upon the whole.


Images and Symbolism

OK – most is covered above. But – the Pelican. I know it is supposed to be one – but it is far more like a swan – and that really bothers me; Frieda Harris was well travelled, and I have never understood how this happened ! Anyway – it symbolise the ultimate feminine sacrifice – giving yourself up for your children. The Empress represents the Perfect Mother. To the right (her right) of her head is a sparrow – associated with Aphrodite and Lust – she turns away from it to face the dove – symptom of purity and the Holy Spirit who impregnated the virgin mother.

The pelican, too, is placed below the waning moon, while the shield, with two eagles representing transformation and rebirth in alchemical terms – the placement suggest the death of the old God and the coming of the New Aeon.

She holds a lotus flower. There is a suggestion (in Banzhaf) that its erect stalk is phallic and represents her control over male procreative power.

Her arms are placed to represent the alchemical glyph for salt – feminine, solid and heavy.

The Maltese cross on her crown represents the four elements in perfect balance – I had no idea, and that rather excited me !

Round her waist is a golden belt with the signs of the zodiac.

Her dress is decorated with bees and dominos – apparently the dominoes may refer to a hood Christian priests used to wear – black on the outside and white inside.

The whole card is full of duality – waxing and waning, light and dark, male and female.

The card is attuned to Daleth – the door – which is the gateway to life – as a mother is when she gives birth.

Duquette sees her as surrounded by plants and grasses; Banzhaf sees them as serpentine flames. Either way there is certainly an arch-shaped door behind her.


From the Harris essays:

III. The Empress. She is seated in traditional posture. This posture represents salt, the inactive principle of nature. The lotus typifies the feminine or passive power. The Bees on the robe may be compared with the Fleur de Lys, suggesting the French origin of the symbol; the belt is the Zodiac. The Pelican may be identified with the Great Mother and her offspring. It represents the continuity of life end inheritance of blood uniting all forms 0/nature. The White Eagle typifies Alchemical Salt, and the White Tincture, of the nature of silver.


Meanings – from Wasserman:

Upright: Love. Beauty. Happiness. Pleasure. Success. Fruitfulness. Good fortune. Graciousness. Elegance. Gentleness. Ill-dignified. Dissipation. Debauchery. Idleness. Sensuality.

My impressions (appearance of the card):

She is, perhaps, Eve after the fall – a total contrast to the virginal (maybe !) Priestess. The card shows to me that there is strength in femininity, and less mystery than is shown by the figure in the Priestess. But it also seems curiously detached, to me. One of the books says she is pregnant and the foetus is visible. I can’t see it myself, and I wouldn’t be happy to, really… I am so tired of the Empress = pregnancy and motherhood.


My take (what I make of it/what I might see in a reading where I drew it)

I see it as very feminine – but not just about motherhood. Also very strong and confident. Embracing things – prepared to accept things about others, other points of view. Possibly also a choice to be made – there is so much duality here. Or at least a reconciling of varying points of view.



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"Nest. Nurture. Rest and recover. Reconnect. Parent. Nourish. Relax. Hibernate. Restock your pantry. Share your meal. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile."



Art by Ginny McClure


Note: A lot of this is cross-posted from my Comperative Tarot post about this card. Feel free to check that out!


The Kindred is this deck's version of the Empress. The name change for this card is not only to make the card more gender-neutral, but also more accessible to those with a negative relationship with a mother-figure. This is a common occurrence in LGBTQ culture, as we are often cast out and/or abused by our blood families, and that can create a disconnect between us and the way the Tarot often describes the Empress.


This card features an unconventional home and a family of creatures that inhabits it. There is a bear and a cub, along with a cow, squirrels, and birds. This eclectic family symbolizes the chosen families we often find and create within our friendships, our activist communities, or even via "adoption" from the family of a friend or partner. The shelter, plants, and food throughout the card illustrate the ways these families make us feel safe, secure, and nurtured-- and the ways we can care for others in return.


The amount of food and plants found within the card, along with the tiny stream that runs along their home, symbolizes the ideas of fertility and abundance often associated with the Empress. The guidebook talks about giving ourselves the time and space to relax and enjoy what life has to offer in the moment, so that we may be rested and ready for what lies ahead.


Reversed: Having just enough, but not abundance or security. Feeling unable to fully relax. Domestic turmoil. Eating and eating without feeling full. Follow intuition to find your way home.

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The Empress




Card description and impressions: With elements of both RWS (the wheat, the waterfall) and Continental imagery (the wings, the eagle on her shield), there are elements of both the Earth Mother idea and a flesh and blood woman who may have some influence with the Emperor. This Empress is not obviously pregnant, but the wheat and flowing water hint at fertility.

While I’m not a believer in misinterpreting images and calling it “intuition”, her sceptre
mimics the length and general shape of some 1930’s handheld microphones. I wonder if this was intentional? The Empress is certainly a card of communication, and the position she holds enhances her ability to be heard.


LWB: “A regal figure wearing a crown of twelve stars. Beside her is a waterfall, with a field of ripe corn. The bird with her outstretched wings on the shield symbolises action. A sceptre, bearing the globe of this world is held in the right hand to show she sways worldly things. Special meaning to the Questioner – Fruitfulness and a long happy life. Will bring much happiness to others. Upside down – Great rejoicings when a misunderstanding is put right.”


Roots: Picard - A winged woman enthroned, the orb of the world on the end of her sceptre. On her shield is the Eagle, the symbol of the soul and of life. She represents the Ternary, fertility, generation, the mighty balance between active Intellect and absolute wisdom, germination, incubation, fermentationm the mystery of attraction, |Number – 3, Trinity, Triangle. Letter – ghimel. Vital Mystery, Star – Venus, productive beauty. General meaning – action.”
Poinsot – Fertility and happiness at home. But reversed, she denotes disunion, serious or passing, according to the cards which are near.”


Synthesis/core meaning: Action


Notes: I’m inclined to go with Picard on the core meaning. The Empress can make things happen. She brings forth the Emperor’s heirs and wields influence on their attitudes and beliefs. She can act as a liaison between you and the Emperor and other members of the Court. While we should not fall into the trap of viewing her through a modern, feminist lens, she is not without power, and could quite possibly alter the course of world affairs. She’s capable of making things happen, and so: action.


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The Empress – The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson

Daughter of the Mighty Ones




Significant Symbology and Meaning

  • Number – 3
  • Letter – Daleth
  • Aphrodite – Urania
  • Sign of Libra and Venus
  • Hebrew name Aniel 
  • 12 Stars
  • Spiral Pillars of Flames
  • Diamond Sceptre
  • Lyre
  • Black Eagle
  • Lotus Flower
  • Inverted Crescent Moon

The Empress embodies the goddess Aphrodite (or Venus, as well as Urania), who stands with a diamond sceptre in one hand while leaning on a kind of plinth or pedestal, a lyre rests beneath the other. The lyre is a more refined version of the instrument depicted in the High Priestess, the object with which the first sound can be organised and created into music. The progression of the first sound has developed from an intention to a vibration, to an audible sound or word, to music and then perhaps something more finely tuned still. The diamond sceptre (or emerald as some suggest), is an artefact of earthly creation. The Empress is a symbol of that creation as it relates to love, beauty and desire. She is elegant and more materially evolved than the High Priestess, which is shown through her sophisticated dress and adornment with jewels.

Above The Empress 12 stars are shining, another link to Urania the muse of astronomy. They represent the zodiac while the symbol for Venus and Libra hover in mid-air. To each side, pillars fashioned in a double helix DNA type design erupt from the top in flame. It is conceivable that the cards’ many references to creation, is now being tied to that of conception or procreation through the pillar design. The black eagle is another symbol of alchemical power, the black lotus expanding on that life giving energy – though I wonder if the black may also be a connection to the understanding of Binah to which her path is tied. The crescent moon is a symbol of the waxing and waning cycle. It is a hint to the in-and-out movement referenced in the letter Daleth (or door), which The Empress controls. 


The Hebrew name is written to reference the archangel Aniel. She is associated with the planet Venus, and the sephirot Netzach.



Astrological Aspects

Venus is the ultimate astrological feminine energy, and is quite rightly represented in The Empress. Venus’ love and beauty are mirrored in her many epithets – and is a largely favourable planet from which to derive influence for joy, pleasure, and success. Venus rules Libra, which is a sign steeped in the symbolism of balance. For under balanced conditions creation is possible.



Exploring the Tree of Life position

The Illuminating Intelligence

Path 14 – From Chokmah (Wisdom) to Binah (Understanding)


The illumination that is brought with the fourteenth path of Daleth is one that lights the darkness of the abyss directly below it. It is an interesting thing to contemplate the difference between wisdom and understanding, and how true intelligence finds a way to merge the two. It is the first path to straddle the two pillars of force (Mercy/Wisdom) and form (Severity/Understanding). It could be said that in working them both, we find the mildness of the middle pillar. It is this balance that provides the light which illuminates the path, so that we may find the door that is meant for us - the creation that we are most suited to and for. 


The appearance of Venus links this card to Netzach in an interesting way. If we consider that at the most basic representation of love, on the fourteenth path Venus is the idea that love is the formative energy of the universe. As it appears in the highest realms on the Tree through a path (subjective), and in the lower realms on the sephirot (objective). That ruling quality that is found in the Golden Dawn image, reminds us that The Empress can create on this path, as well as destroy - and sometimes these are concurrent activities, required to keep that Daleth balance. As one cell dies, another is born. 



Overall Meaning LWB

From the LWB:

Meaning: Beauty. Happiness. Pleasure. Success. Action. Development. Luxury.

Reversed: Lack of interest. Inaction. Vacillation. Lack of concentration.

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Deck: Tabula Mundi

Card: The Empress

Planetary Trump of Venus 

Hebrew Letter: Daleth

Tree of Life: Path 14 from Chokmah to Binah


Thoughts on this card:

I find this such a multilayered depiction of The Empress. There is so much symbolism and detail to unpick. 
The wheat stalks and bees are presents which link the card to the 2 of Cups discussed last week. 
Daleth is the door - the gateway - symbolic of the womb. The Empress here is mitochondrial Eve - the female ancestor who links us all. She is alchemical Salt and the amniotic fluid of the womb. Her stands in a particular pose to highlight the glyph for Salt. This glyph is also present on her bracelet. 

The door over her heart opens to reveal a heart full of honeycomb. The virgin pomegranate heart of The Priestess has been fertilised. The workers bees - all female - fly out the hive in a golden spiral. This links back to the Golden Ratio references in previous cards. The guidebook includes this fact which I love, ‘If you divide the number of female bees by the number of male bees in a hive you get 1.618, the golden ratio.’

The wheat stalks and grasses link her back to Demeter and the Mother archetype bringing creative growth and nurturing. 

The more dangerous, chaotic side of nature is also alluded to - bees are not always easily controlled and the colours of black and yellow act as a warning. The Emperor will seek to bring order to whatever she creates. 

This card speaks to me of great creative growth, an energy of devotion and allowing an element of creative chaos. 


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The Empress


In the Ironwing, this card is known as The Forge.  From the book:  The forge is shown as a pomegranate full of the seeds of creative fire, blowing clean hot air and twinkling sparks. A flower and leaves shelter it and cool the outside as part of the living earth. The pomegranate or "garnet apple" (Punica granatum) is one of the oldest domestic plants, long associated with health and abundance because of its medicinal properties and myriad of jewel-like fruits, and because its flowers and fruit are the color of red earth. It is also the fruit of the Land of the Dead, and gives that place its own strange vitality that connects it closely with Life and keeps the world of the shades from being cold and empty. In the pomegranate forge, the Veil between worlds is a curtain of flames that is too bright to look at.


Among African smiths and ancient European metalworkers, ores and metals are rare "children" of Mother Earth: the mines, smelter, furnace, and forge are Her body. The forge is the inexhaustible womb of the smith's creativity. All ironwork is born there in the bright heart of the Goddess of creation. With each piece of iron it heats, the world is new. Cold hard steel becomes soft and glowing, ready to be transformed with the energy of the smith's life. The shapes that form under the hammer are those of leaves and blooming branches, and spark-filled fruit enclosed in braided roots. The receptive nature of the forge draws the smith back again and again, a comfort and a challenge. Looking into it is like staring into a volcano, or a forest fire, or a star. When a smith dies, her body is cremated and the ashes are returned to the forge, the crucible of new life.


And from Margarete:


You are surrounded by mountains where grasses and trees grow --
Emptiness and and fullness.
Take some space.
Bare and open, enter a new space.
Organic truth --
A body which understands and speaks many languages.
Devotion (hingabe) and creativity will be born from the center of the heart.
Nutrition, nurturing--
The souce of being.



Maybe there are cards I just can’t relate to.  Will you look at these cards?  I mean, just LOOK at them!  I don’t really want to write about personal female body parts.  It’s funny, before I started this study I would have said that Margarete’s deck was my favorite tarot deck (well, one of top two).  I love this deck infinitely.  And yet I’m discovering so many cards I don’t relate to.  I’m not sure how I avoided them, the years I was working with this deck.  Do I just have the ability to screen out the cards that don’t speak to me?  Spending a week with each card is a whole different exercise!  Are others finding their relationships to their decks changing?


Anyway, I’m going to say something brief about this awful Margarete card, then move on to spend more time with the Ironwing.  As for Margarete, I object that she has reduced all the complexity of this card to one body part.  In its broadest aspect, this card is one aspect of the divine Feminine, and there is more to my divine Feminine than just a womb and vagina, just the birth process.  Being a divine Feminine is so much more!  I will grudgingly acknowledge that the card contains a few other images, such as the tiny woman waiting to catch whatever emerges, and the mountains in the background.  Also there is a split gigantic (or tiny, depending on what you use for scale) passionfruit on the edge of decay.  Maybe it’s meant to be perfectly ripe, but I wouldn’t eat it if you paid me.  Altogether, the image repels me.


The text is intriguing and evocative, but I don’t see any connection to the card, other than the mention of the mountains.


I think I’ll be able to do more with the Ironwing.  There is the obvious symbolism, unable to be avoided after spending time with Margarete’s Empress, but it is in the background.  Layered on top are the symbols of the pomegranate and the forge.  I know some people say that the pomegranate belongs to the High Priestess, with her connection to the Underworld, but I think the pomegranate is a symbol for all stages of the divine Feminine.  Someone on the AT forum colored in parts of this card, and they made the liquid inside the forge red, which is molten metal I presume.  Somehow that changes my reading of the card.  Before, I see the pomegranate as dominant, maybe because of the flower and leaves cradling it, and I expect the liquid inside to be the juice of the pomegranate.  Wait a minute!  Isn’t pomegranate juice red???  Yes!  So the liquid in the center is both pomegranate juice and molten metal.  That’s kind of awesome!


I quite like the idea of the Empress as a forge.  If she is the Mother, and the Mother is Matter, or the manifestation of thought into physical form, then the forge is where that happens.  Yes, it’s a kind of womb, but it opens the possibility of other forms of creativity besides sexual reproduction.  I like the nod to the creativity of craftsmanship.  The Empress isn’t normally associated with making non-babies, but I think she should be!   I am going to read the other Empresses and look for creation that isn’t literal human fertility.  I guess what I’m saying is, I’m ready to re-think the Empress.


By the way, I want to mention that I organized both decks, putting the cards into the crazy but logical order created by Grace for our study.  It feels much more possible now, that we will actually make our way through all 78 cards.  What an undertaking!




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This is not the traditional rws card. I thought when we did the ace of wands that it would have made a traditional Empress. This card is about creation. The vine is growing out of the Empress but she is unaware of her link to it. She is looking the other way and her clawed foot is pushing the vine back.

In divination I would be looking to the card to the left to see what was distracting her. In the order we are doing the cards then the previous one would be the two of cups. Is her relationship with the emperor preventing her from seeing that she can make a lot more things than just babies?


Creation is not always a conscious thought out process. Many artists have said there creations just come. The job of this Empress is to recognize this thing that is growing as part of her.

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Image: Demeter, the Earth mother, stands in a field gathering ripe barley. She is obviously pregnant and her expression is serene and kind. She wears a crown that looks like a castle with towers and turrets and her flowing dress is intricately embroidered with leaves, plants and flowers. She is also wearing a necklace consisting of 12 gemstones representing the 12 signs of the zodiac as Demeter governs the laws of the cosmos and cycle of the seasons. The sky above is bright  blue and clear and behind her in the distance are rolling hills full of abundant growth and fruitful trees. A stream flows into a clear, clean pool.


Brief myth of Demeter: Demeter lived with her daughter Persephone, peaceful and happy until one day when her daughter didn't return home. It took her years to find out that Hades had fallen for Persephone and taken her to the underworld. 

Demeter's rage plunged the world into drought and famine. The world would have surely been consumed by starvation had Hermes not interceded and devised a clever compromise; Persephone would return and live with her mother for 9 months of the year and spend the other 3 months in the underworld with her husband, Hades. Demeter still mourns her daughter's absence during this time and the earth grows cold and lifeless until she returns in the spring. 


Reading Demeter as The Empress: Demeter is the earth mother, the consummate mother figure, ruler of nature and protector of the young and defenseless. Interpretation of her appearance possibly indicate marriage or the arrival of children, or the birth of creativity and artistic endeavors. 20200821_212743.thumb.jpg.6bb27a901a2c396f126c23f3af595a81.jpgThe Fool discovers that he has a body and is a creature of the earth, bound by the laws of nature.

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As the great catch up continues, I was reading through the Empress' and had a few thoughts.

Visually @katrinka 's is the most similar to mine so far... I don't know why, the overall vibe maybe. One thing I liked about her Empress is the subtle reference to the water and fire elements the card is seeped in. Despite her obvious link to the earth, The Empress is said to be born or originate in water while living in the fiery red of Binah in Atziluth. That little stream that creeps behind her reminds me of that watery place, and the red dress of her current state perhaps.

@Flaxen's TM is not what I expected for this card. I enjoyed the pomegranate heart, though I attribute it more to the High Priestess - if The Empress is a more evolved or dense version of the HP it would make sense to bring something forward that links the two. In my case it was the lyre. I also liked the golden ratio spiral there, it isn't too obvious so I may have missed it if you didn't point it out.

@Gardener's Ironwing also has pomegranate references. Lots of feminine imagery, and yes - the female reproductive organs. I giggled at your comments on that subject, they are indeed very thinly veiled and there is more to the feminine energy than the ability to procreate. They should blow up these cards and hang them at my gynaecologist's office. 🤣 It got me thinking about all the phallic symbology not only in tarot, but myth and culture in general. I guess when complex ideas and concepts such as creation in a more general sense are condensed to a single symbol, the nuance is lost. And because so much of it originally came about in a more primitive time, the idea that a woman could create life within herself (with the help of a little something else) would have been considered almost divine, and the ultimate symbol of that power would have been those organs. Though I see something a little different in Margarete's version, the gateway is dark and empty and reminds me of the nothingness that the Fool springs from. Even though it still looks like a you-know-what, I feel that link to pure potential in that space. The Empress looks like she is in some sort of yoga pose, in a meditative position calling out her manifestation kind of like the Magician. I suppose it isn't too much of a stretch, seeing as both The Magician and the Empress intersect at Binah.

And hurray for getting your cards organised! - that isn't a bad idea - I might do that myself. 

@surreal I love it. Especially the directionality, that would definitely be a fun thing to consider in a reading. 

@6xscorpio To me your Empress has a story book feel to her. The Demeter/Persephone myth is a classic, and it just reminded me of the link to Persephone and pomegranates. Perhaps that is what all those pomegranate references are also pointing too! Duh! Why didn't I see that before!? That was so obvious. 🤣 My deck doesn't go into that myth, they have chosen Aphrodite... no pomegranates for me. 😪 Though Aphrodite made Hades fall in love with Persephone.... so there is that. I guess because my Empress talks about creation in the context of balance, it is perhaps focusing more on the power to bring those balanced pieces together that could result in creation (or destruction). It is certainly interesting! 


Edited by Grace
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