The Empress: No, her first name ain’t Baby

 

Empress

 

No, my first name ain’t baby,
It’s Janet… Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty

(Janet Jackson, “Nasty” Written by J. Harris and T. Lewis)


It would be very easy indeed (specially for “nasty boys” like the ones in Ms Jackson’s song) to think that the Empress is a “sexy baby” in every sense of the expression. She is obviously young, and beautiful;her figure, even if she seems to be pregnant, is sensual under her long dress; her throne is made of cushions and the shield that bears her arms is heart-shaped and carries the sign of Venus (the Marseille Empress has an eagle). Yes, it would be temptingly easy to see the Empress as somebody else’s wife, lady-love, courtesan…

But several symbols have been added in order to warn us that to think so would be an obvious mistake. First,  we must take a look at the crown on her head, formed by 12 stars, in an obvious allusion to Virgin Mary and the quote we already saw in The High Priestess post. The Empress, according to Waite, is not Queen of Heaven like Mary, because she belongs in the material world, but she is “Mother of Many” just like her. Motherhood is a key word with the Empress. Pregnant, surrounded by a field of wheat (just like Demeter, Greek Goddess of Agriculture, who also was a mother) she represents the power of creating- not just new life, but art, inventions, ideas, everything that is new.

 

She is holding a scepter in her hand. As Janis Joplin put it , “everything’s a phallic symbol if it’s longer than it’s wide” 🙂 but in this case I think the phallic symbology is not out of place, as the scepter has been traditionally a symbol of male power, held in this case by a female hand and attached to a golden ball, symbol of world rule. The Empress holds the scepter because she wants to make clear that the universal power of giving life is hers. That is the same reason why her symbol, the symbol of Venus, is inscripted on the shield instead of the masculine eagle. The pattern of pomegranates, a fruit that symbolyzes wisdom and royalty, on her dress, is another sign that warn us of the nobility and power of this figure.

Behind her, according to Waite, we can see Paradise, the one Adam and Eve lost. The Empress is guarding the entry, but she’s no Eve; she is Paradise itself incarnated,as Waite points out; all the richness and possibilities of this world are in her,  not waiting passively to be won, but inspiring and helping us develop and become more than we are.  We only need to let her guide us on our way.


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