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Tarot Beginners

The Major Arcana In-Depth: III The Empress

This is an article in a series in blog posts…. the “The Major Arcana In-Depth” series! Every few weeks I will be featuring one card of the Major Arcana, from the Fool to the World. Come take a tarot journey with me!


To learn about the Major Arcana overall and the first card in the Major Arcana, The Fool, go here.

To learn about the Magician, go here.

To learn about the High Priestess, go here.

The Nurturing Empress

The Empress is the mother figure of the tarot deck. Most tarot decks (but surprisingly not the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck) depict her as pregnant, but that is not the only facet to her: She is also the female ruler, the companion to the Emperor card. The Empress can bring up “mommy issues”, and can point to a maternal influence or a need to be more maternal. She can also signify tremendous opportunities for growth and creativity. The Empress is pregnant with potential: this card can also signify giving birth to a project.

Traditional depiction in RWS: A female, not pregnant, a gown embroidered with pomegranates, a crown of stars, a rod, a heart-shaped shield with the symbol for Venus, a field of ripe wheat, seated on a throne of soft cushions.

Keywords: motherhood, pregnancy, female ruler, potential, nurture, creativity

Applicable Quotes: “Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.”—Pearl S. Buck

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”—Margaret Thatcher


Personal Meanings

What I think of when I see the Empress: This depends on the client, the reading, and the other cards in the reading. But overall, I tell the client to be more nurturing or I remark that they are undergoing a pregnancy, literally or metaphorically (birthing a new project). Most of the time when the Empress shows up, I don’t jump the gun and say PREGGO! to anyone… especially if the client happens to be male. The Empress card definitely brings the thought of mothering and being mothered to mind. This card can be complicated, as most mother/child relationships are!

When the Empress is reversed (upside down) in a reading, I ask clients if they are currently having a turbulent relationship with their own mother or with being a mother themselves. Depending on the question, I will also ask if they are experiencing “creative constipation” or if they fear the muses have forsaken them in their efforts to create or write something. I also question if the client is female and in a leadership position, whether they are adopting a more masculine role or mannerisms in order to project a more authoritarian vibe.


When The Empress Shows Up in a Reading

Upright: Mom is here to either bust heads or comfort. Ask the questions: How do you relate to your mother? How do you relate to your children, or those that you lead?

Reversed: a female acting masculine in order to imbue leadership qualities or to gain respect, “mommy dearest” issues in which a mothering role takes on a cruel or possibly abusive qualities, or to the other extreme, someone weak-willed that has a hard time exerting authority.


Ultimately, if/when you read for yourself, please keep the things I listed above in mind… and if you disagree, PLEASE use your own meanings for this card. Your thoughts on each individual card are invaluable, and lead you to a multi-layered understanding of the tarot that no one individual book/Little White Book/teacher can give you. Your experience with the cards counts, too!

Tarot class dismissed!



Image courtesy of franky242 at

How do you relate to The Empress? Female leader? Strong mom? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.

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