Tarot Card Meanings: III. The Empress

The card of fertility, motherhood, abundance, and the mature feminine principle in partnership, The Empress unites all of the Elemental Queens within herself; and each Queen reflects one of her many aspects.  Traditionally associated with Venus (Aphrodite) in both Mythology and Western Astrology, this card indicates beauty, love, and physical creation that are manifested outwardly.  There is nothing secretive about the Empress.  She is a leader.  She is a public figure.  She is an entrepreneur and manager.  She is a Matriarch.

As such, it would be a complete disservice to call the Empress “Mom” (particularly in light of the implied familiarity), although many card descriptions do just that.

Seated on a rock on the edge of a placid, azure lake, the Empress appears composed and radiant, as if her skin were gilt.  She wears a five star tiara, which I interpret as her four elemental aspects (the Queens), crowned by herself, their union and harmony; although it is undoubtedly a reference to Venus, as well.  Her dress is simple and unimposing, her build is strong and competent, and she is barefoot.  She is connected to that over which she reigns and does not set herself apart from it.  She looks out of of the frame, her eyes fixed and her mouth set in determination.

Dali has rendered her beautifully — in chiaroscuro, with soft hills in the distant background and a pale, impressionistic sky above.  She holds a scepter in her right hand and a globus cruciger, or cross-bearing orb, in her left.  Both symbolize her authority and power, however the globus cruciger is a particularly interesting choice.

Representing Christ’s dominion over the Earth, the globus cruciger was predominantly used to signify the divine right of kings and popes throughout the Middle Ages.  That is to say, it wasn’t Jesus who held “the whole world in his hands,” but the monarchy and/or papal office.  When Jesus does appear with this symbol, it is known as Salvator Mundi.  So the question begs: What’s an archetypal feminine principle associated with Venus doing with such an icon?

The answer lies in the evolution of the globus cruciger itself.  Once a pagan globe, orbis terrarum, representing all of us, or “the world of the lands” (I love that plurality), it was crowned with a cross marking the victory of the Holy Roman Empire.  And just as Christendom affixed its mark on the orbis terrarum, so too did it transmogrify the archetypal fertility goddess that the Empress is meant to represent.   I mean, even a triple mono-god needs a holy mother, right?

The Empress holds the globus cruciger so as to associate her with the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  The Empress card then blends aspects of the Virgin Mary in her role as Refugium Peccatorum or “Refuge of Sinners” (she is an intercessor, making her more forgiving than her male counterparts), Demeter (notice the wheat growing amid the tall grass), and Aphrodite.  Each of these archetypes represent a slightly different hue while reinforcing the thrust of the card —  beauty, fertility, leadership, vision, attentiveness, and gratitude.

When you pull this card, expect your labor to bear rich fruit.  Expect, also, to experience a moment of intense gratitude, an awakening to your own creative capacity and consequent wealth, that is commensurate with your attentive effort (although it will seem to come from nowhere).  This card bodes well for all, but is especially promising for mothers, artists, entrepreneurs, and activists.


**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged.  I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card.  If you know something, please share it!

Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth.  My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card.  That’s a ways off.  ;)

Numerological Affiliations: XIII. Death3 of Wands3 of Cups3 of Swords

Next in Suit: II. The High Priestess

The Queens: Queen of WandsQueen of Cups, Queen of Swords, Queen of Pentacles

To visit the Tarot card library, click here.

12 responses to “Tarot Card Meanings: III. The Empress

    • You’re not wrong, Monika. I was thinking about Juno/Venus/Ceres and all these terrible conflations while writing the entire post. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with them. You and Gray are both better at teasing out the little snippets that are actually workable.

      Limiting the Empress to the goddess asteroids seems like a very smart way to go… meaning Astrology and Tarot are in need of a serious facelift. I knew before starting this business that the astrological significations on the cards needed refinement, but that would be such a massive project.

      In the meantime, I feel unsure what to stress sometimes in the card descriptions. I want to honor the classical tradition, but that tradition is already mangled and the stories need to move forward. That’s my main reason for investing all that time in Astrology and Pop music — not even the classic sign descriptions are right! (Or so it seems to me.)

      I love your feedback and input. Thank you!

  1. I think I understood something about the Major Arcana thanks to your post today. While the symbolic meaning of Minor Arcana is usually pretty consistent and monothematic, the great archetypes of the Major Arcana are always unions of opposites.
    I would like to see all patriarchal descriptions of Zodiac signs and Tarot cards crumble into dust. Let’s do it!

    • Yes! Let’s! It would be the work of a lifetime, but I think it desperately needs doing. Those descriptions are so tired. And the interpretations must advance in concert with civil rights, technology, and research into the past and into space. Of course they would manifest differently in different epochs.

      You’re exactly right about the Trumps. They all describe unions and alchemical transformations, but each one has a slightly different method for achieving the same exact thing. You can really see this comparing Temperance with Strength with The Chariot. They’re all slightly different tactics to achieve very similar results. The Minor Arcana are far less slippery/nuanced, but then their theme is not slippage. :)

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