They said to Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? Genesis 17:9-14 [NRSV]
Fertility, motherhood and nurture are the hallmarks of The Empress. She is Sarah who gave up on her dream of having a child…and then the impossible happened. She is the laughter which accompanies the birth of unexpected creative endeavors and the nurture of new ideas and projects. If The Magician is the spark of creation that sets things into motion, and The High Priestess is the one who gives the spark form, then The Empress is the Holy Mother who carries the “baby” to full term and nurtures it while it is a newborn.
O.K. I might be getting carried away with my analogy, but I think you get the point. The Empress is a beautiful card which is rich in symbols of fertility. In the Rider-Waite version of the card The Empress sits on a throne and wears a crown with 12 stars. 12 is an important Biblical number representing the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles, etc. It is a number of perfection or completeness, something that is “carried to full term” we might say. Arthur Waite says she carries a specter which is topped with “the globe of this world.” Below her feet is a field of ripening corn and behind her is a lush garden. Her gown is decorated with pomegranates which, in Jewish tradition, symbolizes fruitfulness, knowledge, learning and wisdom.
The biggest Pagan symbol on The Empress card is the heart-shaped shield beside her throne with the symbol of Venus on it. Venus is the goddess love, beauty, fertility and prosperity. She is also the Goddess of artists who guides their work and helps them to go from raw materials to the finished product.
The DruidCraft deck puts a slightly different spin on The Empress and re-envisions it as The Lady, the Divine Feminine, the Goddess. I think this card is absolutely gorgeous and contains most of the elements of the Rider-Waite Empress card but in a slightly different form. Christians have always been a bit wary of the Goddess, but when She is seen through the card of The Empress/Lady, the nature of Her power and how it works in our lives becomes abundantly clear.
When The Empress/Lady card appears in a reading, I take it as a sign to open myself up to the nurturing power of the Divine Feminine. If, like Sarah, I feel like my dreams have died, it might be time to believe in them again. The Empress/Lady tells me that it’s a good time to nurture ideas and creative urges and/or give birth to those that have already been gestating in my life. This card calls us to get in touch with the mothering instinct that is in each and every one of us, regardless of our gender!
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