The Empress – Major Arcana Tarot Card Meaning, according to Waite, Ouspensky, Crowley and Papus
The Empress, the third Major Arcana, reflects the essentials values of femininity and of ancient goddess Venus (or Aphrodite): beauty, fertility and love.
Waite about the Empress: the Inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise
The divinatory meaning of this Greater Arcana is, according to Waite, best expressed by the following words: „ fruitfulness, action, initiative, length of days; the unknown, clandestine; also difficulty, doubt, ignorance“.
Reversed, The Empress has the following meaning: „light, truth, the unravelling of involved matters, public rejoicings; according to another reading, vacillation“.
Waite warns us that „most old attributions of this card are completely wrong on the symbolism“, when talking about „the doctrine behind the veil“. For him, „She is the inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, all that is symbolized by the visible house of man. She is not Regina coeli, but she is still refugium peccatorum, the fruitful mother of thousands. […]She is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word“.
Waite connects the meaning of this greater arcana with the meaning of the High Priestess : „In another order of ideas, the card of the Empress signifies the door or gate by which an entrance is obtained into this life, as into the Garden of Venus; and then the way which leads out therefrom, into that which is beyond, is the secret known to the High Priestess: it is communicated by her to the elect“.
Ouspenski about the Empress: Queen of Life
Ouspenski recognizes the Empress and asks her: „Queen of life, why is it so bright and joyful all about you? Do you not know of the grey, weary autumn, of the cold, white winter? Do you not know of death and graveyards with black graves, damp and cold? How can you smile so joyfully on the opening flowers, when everything is destined to death, even that which has not yet been born?“.
The Empress’s answer, although not expressed in words, I quite clear: „for answer the Empress looked on me still smiling and, under the influence of that smile, I suddenly felt a flower of some clear understanding open in my heart“.
Crowley about the Empress: the Woman in Her Most General Manifestatio
In „The Book of Thoth“, Aleister Crowley connects this Major Arcana with the Hebrew letter Daleth, with planet Venus and with the Salt, as one of the three alchemical forms of energy (the other two being Sulphur and Mercury).
For the English occultist, the Empress illustrates all the qualities of the Woman: „It is impossible to summarize the meanings of the symbol of the Woman, for this very reason, that she continually recurs in infinitely varied form. «Many-throned, many-minded, many-wiled, daughter of Zeus.» In this card, she is shown in her most general manifestation. She combines the highest spiritual with the lowest material qualities“.
Papus about the Empress: Generation and Embodiment in All the Worlds
In his book, The Tarot of the Bohemians, Papus considers that the empress, the third card of the tarot, is „the result of the reciprocal action of the two first terms neutralizing each other in one principle“.
In other words, „the absolute creative force, or Osiris, and the absolute preservative force, or Isis, neutralize themselves in the equilibrist force, which contains in itself the two very different properties of the two first forms“.
And, further, „the creative principle and the receptive principle, having, by their mutual action, given birth to the transforming principle, a complete entity is created“.
The conclusion? „This symbol would therefore signify ideas of generation, of embodiment in all the worlds“.
At multiple levels, Papus interprets this card as it follows:
- In God this would be the equilibrium of the Father and of the Son, or – God the Holy Ghost. HORUS. The universal vivifying force.
- In Man this would be the equilibrium of the Adam-Eve – Adam-Eve Or HUMANITY.
- In the Universe this would be the equilibrium of Natura naturans and of Natura naturata – THE WORLD conceived like a being.