Last week we finished up the Minor Arcana 3’s with the 3 of Pentacles. This week, we will work through the Major Arcana, and close the chapter on the number 3, in part. There are other Major Arcana Cards which correspond to the number three, such as the Hanged Man, and the World. However, this Week’s focus will be on the Empress.
Throughout the week, there will be exercises to help you develop your own understanding of the cards. I start the week by inviting you to take out your Tarot deck if you have one, and pull out the Empress, or equivalent. If you don’t have a card for the Empress Observation, I am supplying images from some of my own decks, which you can use as well. This exercise is to help you notice the images that stand out to you.
For the Empress Observation, try to have a pen/cil and paper handy, or a recording device of some form. You will simply be looking at and observing the Empress. Look at the card, and write down what you notice. What does it make you thinking? How does it make you feel? Don’t define the symbol. If you know that a yin yang represents dualism and harmony, ignore the definition. Think only about how you associate this symbol with what. This exercise is about connecting with the card in front of you. Does the yin yang remind you of a ring you had when you were a kid? Does it make you think of your favorite CD that featured it on the cover? What emotions are attached to it? What time period?
Move through the different symbols and images as you notice them in the card, and record everything that comes to mind. Again, this is not a time to define the card. This is a time to get in touch with you and how you read the picture.
I have eight decks that I use in this series, and for each one I’ll describe the images in their depiction of the Empress. I won’t write down my associations, as those are just for me. However, I encourage you to practice this exercise with the cards I put up as well as with your own. See what happens.
The Rider Waite Empress shows a relaxed blond woman on plush, orange and red seating. She wears a white gown with red roses decorating it. She looks straight at the reader, and holds in her right hand a scepter. She wears a crown on her head with 12 stars on it.
In front of her seating is a heart-shaped shield with the astrological glyph for Venus on it, otherwise known as the symbol for females.
Around her feet grows wheat, and behind her is a forest. Through the forest is a river which features a waterfall toward the right side of the card. The sky is yellow.
The Spiral Tarot shows a woman looking directly at the reader. She wears a green dress with red roses decorating it, and has a red robe, edged with roses. Her hair is golden and wild in the wind. She holds a spiral charm from her left hand toward the right side of the card, and in her right hand she holds up a gold scepter. Her left foot rests on an up-facing crescent moon.
Around her feet grows wheat, red poppies, and white lilies. Behind her, on the left side of the card is a waterfall into a pool, emerging from a forest. Directly behind her head is a large, golden orb. Above her head and in front of the orb, a white bird is in flight.
In the top right corner of the card is the Kabala Tree of Life under the glyph for Venus. On the left top corner of the card is the Hebrew letter, Dalet, is above the glyph for Earth.
A solemn woman looks straight ahead at the reader. Her brown hair is loose under a headpiece that has 12 orange stars. Under her purple cloak she holds a scepter in the crook of her right arm toward the left of the card. A shield is in the bottom right corner of the card with the glyph of Venus. In the bottom right side of the card are a few sprigs of wheat. In the background are high cliffs. Toward the right side of the card a waterfall can just be seen. The sky is white.
The Vampire Tarot shows a vampire with long blond hair in a purple cloak. The vampire is turned toward the left of the card, but looks back and up toward the top right corner of the card. In their left hand, they hold a wilting rose.
The Faerie Tarot shows a woman who faces the reader, with long purple hair. She wears dark clothing, and a golden crown with flowers holding it in place. To the right of the card are two owls. In her right hand at the left side of the card, she holds a scepter.
The Thoth Tarot shows a woman whose legs and face posture toward the right side of the card, but whose torso and arms face the reader. Her top half is clothed in pink with bees on it, while her legs show a green, long skirt. She holds in her right hand a blue lotus.
She wears a crown which contains the waxing, waning, and full moon. On either side of her are moons, one waxing, the other waning.
At her feet is a bird on a nest with chicks, and a shield that has two eagles on it. Under the shield are two fleur-de-lis.
The Prisma-Vision Empress is a woman who is held in the air, with her hair surrounding her face, swept upward in the wind. Her face tilts upward, and the crown of her head is surrounding by a wreath of stars. Below her feet is a field of wheat.
The Impressionist Tarot Empress has a rendition of Giovanni Boldini’s 1896 painting, Portrait of Madame Charles Max. It shows a woman in a blue dress and white gloves. She faces the reader with an eyebrow cocked. In her right hand toward the left side of the card is a scepter. She wears a crown.
Don’t forget that Tarot readings are available for sale. When you get a reading, not only do you gain personal insight, but as a budding or experienced reader, you get to see how others interpret the cards not only as individual cards, but applied to certain situations and spreads. To have a reading by another reader is like being an artist and going to an art gallery: every one has a different style and form, and to study it is to grow as an artist. Tarot is an art.
Readings are available via my Etsy shop, and also via personal contact through my Contact form for set-time readings. These readings are perfect for the introvert who communicates best through messenger.
As you go through the various cards, what do you notice that is a running theme in imagery? What do you notice tends to differ? Which of the images resonates with you? Why?
Spend time considering your own tarot decks, and do your own comparison.
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The Aquarian Tarot in a Tin by Italian-born, American-raised David Palladini, was published originally in 1970 by U.S. Games Systems Inc, and then republished again in 2016 in a smaller size. Named after the Age of Aquarius, the Aquarian Tarot is a midieval depiction of the Rider-Waite Tarot system. The images are closer, and thus might give the impression of being more character-based rather than relying on symbolism. This intimate deck provides a stark reflection of the human condition in it’s journey through the tarot.
Faerie Tarot by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc, 2008. Hertz is a French artist, and the creator of several other beautiful tarot decks. The Faerie Tarot was ‘inspired by the flora and fauna of the French countryside,’ and ‘invites you to see the world in a delightful new way…blending fantasy, whimsy, and nature.’
Impressionist Tarot by Arturo Picca (artist) and Corrine Kenner (author), published by Lo Scarabeo in 2015. This deck takes works of classic impressionist paintings and recreates them to fit the meanings of the tarot. It pulls from works of Edonard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gough, and Paul Gauguin. A truly beautiful deck, especially for those who have interest in the art world.
Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, 3rd ed., published in 2016. The deck itself is beautiful, though perhaps not for the beginning tarot reader. The suits all fit together to create a master picture displaying the energy and progression of the suits. The figures and images flow from one card to the next, showing movement within the stationary cards.
Rider-Waite by A. E. Waite. The deck used in these photos is currently out of print. I won’t say much about this deck, as it is fairly standard and probably one of the most produced decks. It serves as a standard for many tarot readers and artists, depicting classic images relating in part to the original playing cards that tarot developed from.
The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon. With turn-of-the-20th-century style art, this deck takes from the classic Rider-Waite deck and brings it up to the late 1800-early 1900’s, a time of industry and contemplation for the western world as it moved forward into a more technological era. I am a little biased toward this deck as it’s been my main deck for 15 years. The cards are thick with additional symbolism that can be tricky to pick out of the traditional Rider-Waite, and adds layers of Greek myth throughout the Major Arcana.
Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley (designer and author) and Lady Frieda Harris (artist), published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc., in 1978. This deck takes from most esoteric imagery, and requires the reader of the deck to have deep, initiate knowledge of the symbolism used. There is nothing within the cards that is without meaning. However, on a more surface level, the deck draws from Egyptian symbolism and from the style of the Marseille Tarot (mostly seen within the Minor Arcana). For those looking for deeper understandings of the universe, I recommend this deck. I would caution that this deck is highly advanced, and might be avoided for the budding reader.
Vampire Tarot – by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. in 2000. As mentioned above in reference to the Faerie Tarot, Hertze is a French artist who gained her notability through the publication of her tarot decks. The Vampire Tarot was a bestselling deck upon its release, and plays on more gothic symbolism, providing more jarring interpretations to allow for the accepting of negative forces within the world to compliment the positive forces. The deck brings together myths and legends in the form of vampires, which ‘gives tarot readers a macabre passport’ into the world of divination.