The Empress is the third card in the Major Arcana. In many readings, she is regarded as a card for love, marriage, and childbirth. In reality, her imagery and messages go far deeper than that.
About the Empress
- Keywords: Fertility, sensuality, creativity, nurturing, growth
- Keywords (Reversed): Barrenness, creative blocks, powerlessness, negligence
- Yes or No: Yes
- Yes or No (Reversed): No
- Element: Earth
- Zodiac Sign: Taurus
Unlike The High Priestess, The Empress was never symbolized by a real historical figure. Instead, she’s an amalgamation of various aspects of the feminine divine.
This wasn’t always the case, however. Before tarot was used for divination, it was used for card games. The Major Arcana were the trump cards. In historical tarot decks, The Empress is commonly displayed on a throne, holding an orb and scepter, with the emblem of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, The Empress is shown sitting on a comfortable throne — you can see plush pillows and cushions behind her. Interestingly, her throne isn’t within a palace. Instead, she sits in a verdant field, with trees and a gentle waterfall in the background, surrounded by waving heads of grain.
The Empress wears a crown of twelve stars, symbolizing the twelve months of the year. She holds a scepter in one hand, representing her sovereignty. Around her neck, nine pearls are visible.
She also wears a white gown covered in stylized pomegranates designed to resemble the emblem of Venus. Another emblem of Venus adorns the heart-shaped shield at her feet.
Taken together, The Empress is rich with imagery of the feminine divine. Her crown and scepter are symbols of royalty. The emblems of Venus are used to indicate women and femininity, as are the pomegranates on her gown. (Compare this with the palms and pomegranates on The High Priestess card.)
The Empress is also a very lush, fruitful card. Everything around her is abundant, from the leafy trees, to the falling water, to the grain in front of her. In some decks, she is also shown as pregnant.
Mythologically, she is connected to the love and beauty goddesses Aphrodite and Venus through the emblems on her throne and gown.
Pomegranates also connect her to Persephone, the goddess of spring and the underworld. The Empress’ crown of stars may also link her to various mythological Queens of Heaven, from Inanna, to Isis, to the Virgin Mary.
The Empress Meaning (Upright)
In her upright aspect, The Empress stands for creativity, fruitfulness, and abundance. Sometimes, this is literal — as in pregnancy. In this case, it can either foretell a pregnancy or fertile period, finding fulfillment in parenthood, or urge a parent to foster a closer connection to their children.
Outside of the context of an actual pregnancy, she can indicate a period of metaphorical fruitfulness. She may herald a burst of inspiration or creative output, or the need to nurture yourself and those around you.
The Empress has a loving, nurturing energy that helps everything around her grow and thrive — from people, to plants, to ideas.
Sometimes, she may stand for a significant figure in your life. She’s typically an older woman with a very “motherly” energy.
The Empress Meaning (Reversed)
When reversed, The Empress points to suppressed creativity and nurturing instincts. She can also indicate a need for a better balance between masculine and feminine energies.
One major meaning of The Empress reversed is often overlooked. She’s not just a motherly figure, she’s a sovereign in her own right. She’s not simply The Emperor’s consort, she is a powerful figure with her own domain.
When she’s reversed, this power is subdued and denied. She may appear to tell you that you’ve given your power away, or that some insecurity is keeping you from reaching your full power and potential.
Sometimes, she may appear reversed to highlight issues related to mothering. This can be anything from the loneliness felt by parents whose children have grown up and moved away, to unresolved emotional wounds left over from childhood. These can be the source of the uncertainties and insecurities that are holding you back.
See also: Check out alternate Tarot decks here.
The Empress Meaning – Love & Relationships (Upright)
In a love reading, The Empress is generally an excellent omen. After all, many of her symbolism is strongly linked to goddesses of love and beauty.
She’s also a very sensual figure, from her flowing, silky-looking gown, to her plush pillows, to the depictions of juicy pomegranates on her clothing.
In the context of relationships, she symbolizes intimacy, affection, and loving, enjoyable, attentive lovemaking. If you’re single, expect to embark on a new romance soon.
If you’re in a relationship, be careful. While she’s a great omen for love and sex, she’s also a very strong one for pregnancy.
The Empress Meaning – Love & Relationships (Reversed)
When The Empress reversed appears in a love reading, she speaks of denial. As a card of sensuality and sovereignty, she may be saying that you’re sacrificing too much of yourself.
Are you focusing on your own pleasure as well as your partner’s, or just “going through the motions?” Are you an equal partner in your relationship, or are you holding yourself back for the sake of domestic harmony?
One important symbol in The Empress’ artwork is the flowing river and waterfall behind her. Water is the element of the emotions. When she’s reversed, she indicates emotional repression and blockages.
The Empress Meaning – Careers, Business & Money (Upright)
The Empress is a positive omen for careers, business, and money. As a personification of all things thriving and abundant, her meaning applies just as well to finances as it does to everything else. Expect lots of creative projects, opportunities for growth, and monetary prosperity.
She may also indicate that it’s a good time to use your intuition to guide your business decisions. In some cases, she can represent an older, motherly woman who may have inspiration or advice to offer you.
The Empress Meaning – Careers, Business & Money (Reversed)
When reversed, The Empress speaks of a lack of passion and creativity. You may feel that your work goes unappreciated, your voice is unheard, or that you lack opportunities for advancement.
Specifically, she may show up in situations where you have a job that supports your lifestyle, but doesn’t feel mentally stimulating or fulfilling. Now isn’t a good time for a radical change, but you may wish to try to get to the root of why you feel the way you do.
Is it your co-workers, your employer, or the field you work in? If you determine that a change is necessary, gather your resources and make sure you can take care of yourself while you’re between jobs.
The Empress: Yes or No?
When in an upright position, The Empress is a “Yes.” She’s a figure of feminine power, even more than the Queens of the Minor Arcana. She represents fruitfulness, fertility, and creation. Whatever outcome you’re hoping for here, you’re most likely going to get.
If she’s reversed instead, she means “No.” In this case, the harmony and nurturing she usually represents is turned to insecurity, coldness, and stunted growth. If you desire a particular outcome here, it’s probably not going to happen.
The Empress is the embodiment of femininity, abundance, and so much more. She is the divine Earth Mother and the Queen of Heaven.
When she shows up in an upright orientation, she is universally a good omen. Reversed, she is a gentle, supportive advisor.
As an Amazon Associate, Terravara earns from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to readers.