This is the fourth installment of the Weekly Tarot Card, where we look at the Empress Symbolism. You can read the first three installments in the following links:
Relate the introduction back to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Introduce the symbols picked and why. Not all cards carry the same symbolism, and some simply do it for the sake of creating an appealing picture. However, some cards are packed with imagery with the intent of stimulating the intuitive senses. It is these symbols that I intend to focus on.
The color yellow is abundant in depictions of the Empress. It is in the wheat, on the shield, in the sky. This color is a good omen. It is said that yellow skies in the Tarot represents a positive card.
Yellow is also the color of Air, which corresponds to the intellect. Thus, there is the indication that the Empress doesn’t just deal with the physical, but with the intellectual as well.
The color white is one of purity and spirituality. While grey might mean a neutral slate, there is still a slate. With the color white, there is still the need to get the slate in the first place. Thus, the color white has to do with beginnings as well.
In many depictions of the Empress symbolism, somewhere is the glyph for Venus. This symbol is also commonly associated as the symbol for women, whereas the masculine symbol (a circle with an arrow pointing up and to the right) is that for Mars.
Venus is the Roman goddess of love and femininity. She is the representative of feminine energy, which is the passive, nurturing aspect. This isn’t to say that this doesn’t occur in masculine forms, but it is the calmer form of it. Forms like mediation, are feminine as they are passive, where as say splinting a wounded limb might be more masculine, as it’s an active form of nurturing (in my opinion).
The Hebrew letter associated with the Empress is Daleth, which means door. When we think of mothers, they are our doorway into the world. We make our way from the womb and into the world, and only she contains the door.
However, this can be metaphorically as well. Our knowledge is our doorway to greater things, and thus, to creation. When we learn a new skill, then we create with it. It is with this doorway from thought to reality that Daleth represents. But please do keep in mind, this is the very tip of the iceberg, and I encourage you to research this further.
Daleth is the fourth leter in the Hebrew alphabet, and will the Empress corresponds to 3, it is the fourth card in the Major Arcana, if we’re including the Fool.
Common depictions of the Empress symbolism show three things: forests, waterfalls, and wheat fields. The wheat fields are a symbol of abundance, but also of the gardens that we tend. When we tend our gardens, nurturing, being attentive to its needs, it is fruitful, and we receive a good harvest. Likewise, wheat represents the cycle of life: germination, growth, fruition, birth, and return.
The Waterfall is a reminder that we must nourish the internal as well. While we can work helping those and that outside of us, we also need to remember to replenish ourselves. A waterfall is every flowing, and thus, we have a persistent need for self-care. As we fill other pools, we must fill our own.
Finally, the forest is a reminder of the physical world. Generally, forest animals are associated with physical healing. The forest provides shelter and food, and thus, is a reminder of these aspects that we need tend to as well. They are the aspects of home.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Co fall asleep in a field of poppies. They promote sleep, and thus relaxation. The occurrence of the poppy in the Tarot can be a sign of needing to take the time to relax and care for the self.
White lilies in Tarot represent purity. They’re associated with the Virgin Mary, and thus, also represent the inability to spiritually corrupt.
The 12 stars of the crown of the Empress represent the astrological signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. This gives the Empress a Heavenly aspect, or rather, a more spiritual aspect. She isn’t just a representation of our mothers, but of the Mother that guides us through life and beyond.
These are just a few of the basic symbols that are generally represented within the Empress card. There are many more creative symbolism that other artists include that pull from many traditions. If there are any major ones you feel I forgot, let me know! If you have anything to add, please help us all out by commenting.
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up the week by defining the Empress with the information so far provided.
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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.