Imagine that you feel so safe, so seen, and so cherished that nothing can contain your creative energy. Your various inspirations grow and blossom freely in the garden of your body and mind, delighting everyone who witnesses. The third tarot card of the Major Arcana, the Empress, carries this gentle power.
Because this card contains symbols of the great mother archetype, it’s often connected to the concept of the divine feminine. This sacred femininity exists in mother goddesses across ancient cultures and religions, including Egypt’s goddess Hathor, the loving Parvati in Hinduism, and the Greek queen Hera.
But no matter your gender or connection to literal motherhood, this tarot card invites you to embrace who cares for you and how you show care. By giving and receiving compassion, you help shape a lush, beautiful world for everyone. And if you observe these lessons of the Empress, then you can luxuriate in the abundance that you’ve created!
When upright, the Empress has several possible meanings:
- Sensual pleasure
- Loving care
When the Empress appears in reverse, the card could mean the following:
- Suppression of desire
Each keyword above might apply in a literal or metaphorical sense. For instance, “infertility” equally refers to the inability to conceive a child, unproductiveness in a creative project, or a relationship that isn’t helping you grow.
Remember also that neither the upright nor the reversed card is inherently good or bad. However the card appears, it always contains the potential for all interpretations. The sections below expand on the details of the Empress to help you understand what it means for you.
The Empress’ number, elements, and astrological meaning can provide key information for your tarot readings.
|Number||Three (3), indicating wisdom and growth|
|Element||Earth (resources and security)|
|Zodiac Sign||No specific sign but could represent earth sign Taurus or fire sign Aries|
Description of the Card
In Pamela Colman Smith’s tarot illustration, the Empress resembles a relaxed but regal feminine figure. Before you read the significance of the symbols below, I encourage you to study your own Empress card. What stands out to you?
For example, I’ve always responded to her facial expression. She looks so composed, almost daring someone to try to upset her—she can’t be bothered! I also like that her left-hand touches her own thigh, as though she’s recognizing the wisdom of the body.
This imagery exists alongside several other symbols:
- Crown: Her crown’s stars connect her to cyclical renewal, and the laurel shows victory.
- Scepter: The baton in the Empress’ right hand reminds us that she’s the first ruler of the Major Arcana. Moreover, she acknowledges the importance of listening to the body, even before the mind can “make sense” of a situation. The Empress thus rules by tending to material concerns.
- Red cushion: The sofa emphasizes material comfort and abundance; its red color conveys passion.
- Pomegranates: Just as the High Priestess sat in front of a veil of pomegranates, the Empress wears a robe adorned with this fruit that symbolizes fertility.
- Shield: The heart-shaped shield shows the symbol of Venus, which stands for beauty, love, and passion. The Empress has no need for the traditional tools of war because she protects herself with love.
- Wheat: The grain surrounding the Empress represents the land’s fertility and abundance, as she brings what’s necessary to feed many families.
- Water: The stream that bursts forth into a waterfall brings the energy of the suit of Cups, symbolizing emotions, relationships, and fluid strength.
Meaning of the Empress
The tarot’s first ruling figure is notably feminine, not masculine. Thus, the Empress reminds us of the power that women held in many ancient societies. The card’s relationship to matriarchy honors the community-building qualities that patriarchal standards often devalue.
So when we say that the Empress represents the “divine feminine,” we’re celebrating the efforts that are often called “women’s work.” The Empress also restores the respect that nurturing work deserves. The High Priestess similarly represents the divine feminine. By contrast, the patriarchy tends to fear her: she’s witchy and weird rather than motherly and kind.
You might not relate to the divine feminine. However, you likely feel some relationship to life-giving qualities that your culture might not consider valuable. Here are a few scenarios that the Empress encourages:
- Creating something for the sheer joy of it, not only for earning money
- Having a community mindset rather than an individualistic one
- Enjoying life, not just working down to the bone
Through selfless love, the Empress also brings material success and wealth. Above all, this card signals that abundant creative energy flows for those who foster caring relationships.
The appearance of the Empress suggests that your creative efforts will be successful. Whether you’re starting a family or a business, you have the foundation and vision to build something that supports people.
Indeed, “supportive” is an especially important quality for the Empress. When our community and caregivers meet our needs, we feel free and safe enough to explore our full creative capacity. So when this tarot card shows up for you, it indicates that your current environment supports your creative expression.
Sometimes this supportive card represents a mother or mother figure, but just as often it can refer to a chosen family or other people with which you feel kinship. For instance, I feel overwhelming Empress energy from my writing group. I also felt it with the chosen family I lived with during the early days of the pandemic.
No matter which specific people come to mind, the Empress is a reminder that our relationships are among our greatest assets as we step into our power. Who’s on your dream team? This card invites you to stoke the flame of human connection.
Similar to creative expression, your sensual experience of the world is important when you receive this card. In other words, the Empress shows you that you feelings and sensations can sometimes be truer guides than how you think things should be.
Finally, don’t forget that reciprocity builds trust and intimacy. Therefore, the Empress also calls upon you to support others as a caregiver would. Sometimes, this might mean becoming an actual mother. Or maybe a therapeutic practice or community service program is one of your creative projects!
With the Empress, you give freely even when it’s hard.
The reversed card might draw your attention to areas where you should channel Empress energy to address an issue.
Thus, a reversal could show you that your current path isn’t helping you find your own flow. Within your environment, the Empress asks you to pay attention to your relationships. Reflecting on these questions might help:
- Do you feel safe enough to admit what you really want, or are you pushing it down?
- Are you supported in making autonomous decisions, or is there codependence?
- How self-absorbed are you, and is that contributing to feelings of isolation?
- Are you giving so much to others that you don’t have energy for yourself?
Ideally, your environment is “fertile,” meaning it supports growth. To achieve that, you generally need a balance of safety and autonomy. When the Empress is reversed, these elements may be out of balance.
Sometimes, too, readers interpret the reversed Empress as biological infertility, which might have nothing to do with your interpersonal relationships. In this case, infertility might simply be a factor that you must accept.
But a reversal doesn’t always indicate a blockage. Like the High Priestess, the Empress possesses a passive energy. Just as a reversed High Priestess can mean turning intuition into action, a reversed Empress might mean translating lessons of the body into thoughts. For example, you could finally find the words to express what you’ve sensed for a long time.
Meaning in Specific Readings
The Empress also has different implications in different contexts, some of which you can read about below.
If you pull a card for a “yes-no” question, the Empress generally means “yes.” This is especially true for questions about creative projects and their success.
Meaning for Love
Your romantic partner is warm, loving, and supportive of your creative endeavors. Because you respect each other, the relationship can be deep and lasting. If you wish, together you could successfully build a family, whatever that means to you.
Meaning for Work
If the Empress appears in a work reading, collaboration is likely important to your success. Your work with others helps you easily generate ideas and bring them to fruition. It also suggests that balancing your intellectual work with care for your body is essential.
In fact, the Empress might even mean that work involving movement—such as dance therapy—is relevant.
Key Card Combinations
When the Empress card appears, other cards can affect your interpretation of it. The tables in this section show possible meanings of a few key card pairings that include the Empress.
|Major Arcana Card||Meaning with the Empress|
|II. High Priestess||The divine feminine characterizes a connection that you have with yourself or another person.|
|IV. Emperor||A powerful and well-matched partnership is involved.|
|VIII. Strength||To get through difficult times, your community is critical.|
|IX. Hermit||You might be contemplating parenthood.|
|XIII. Death||The things that nurture and inspire you are changing, which might make your life look different.|
|XVII. Star||Your health or mental well-being will improve soon.|
|XXI. World||You’ve completed a creative cycle and can enjoy the results.|
The Empress always amplifies the energy of the number three. But the card also creates unique meanings with other Minor Arcana cards.
|Minor Arcana Card||Meaning with the Empress|
|Ace of Wands||An inspiring new idea is on the horizon.|
|Two of Wands||You want to change your social environment to support your authentic expression.|
|Four of Wands||A marriage of some kind is possible.|
|Ace of Cups||A joyful conception is possible.|
|Ten of Cups||Family (whatever that looks like for you) is the focus at this time.|
|King of Cups||You can rely on a stable partner who holds space for your emotions.|
|Three of Swords||You’ve suffered loss or betrayal within your community.|
|Seven of Swords||There’s an imbalance between what you give and what you receive.|
|Four of Pentacles||You might be stuck in a pattern that worked for you in the past but no longer does.|
|Nine of Pentacles||You or someone you know is a self-sufficient artist.|
|Ten of Pentacles||Your maternal lineage might be relevant.|
|Page of Pentacles||Good financial news about a creative project will arrive soon.|
|A Queen of any suit||You or a person in your community must embody the energy of the given suit to support the group’s efforts.|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The questions below are commonly asked about the third card of the Major Arcana.
The Empress represents creation of all kinds. The creativity of this card is also associated with nurturing care, sensual pleasure, and abundant success.
If the Empress appears in a tarot reading, you can repeat affirmations like the following:
– I deserve love, beauty, and abundance in my life.
– My creativity is limitless.
– I model compassion for myself and others.
An Empress personality type is caring, compassionate, and shows kindness through leadership.
The Empress usually means “yes” in a tarot reading.
The Empress card is a sign that a romantic partnership has the potential to be both stable and inspiring. You can build something deep and substantial with this person, including a family or community if you desire.
Empress energy exists in careers that involve creativity, care, and often movement. Examples include artist, therapist, teacher, and entrepreneur. Because the Empress is a ruler, people who channel her energy are usually leaders in their fields.
Ruled by Venus, the Empress might represent the earth sign Taurus. This card could also indicate the sign Aries, which is associated with the Emperor (the Empress’ counterpart).
Featured Image Credit: grizzlyclaireeiler