by Arthur Edward Waite, originally published 1910.
Description and Meanings¶
A stately figure, seated, having rich vestments and royal aspect, as of a daughter of heaven and earth. Her diadem is of twelve stars, gathered in a cluster. The symbol of Venus is on the shield which rests near her. A field of corn is ripening in front of her, and beyond there is a fall of water. The sceptre which she bears is surmounted by the globe of this world. 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. There are also certain aspects in which she has been correctly described as desire and the wings thereof, as the woman clothed with the sun, as Gloria Mundi and the veil of the Sanctum Sanctorum; but she is not, I may add, the soul that has attained wings, unless all the symbolism is counted up another and unusual way. She is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word. This is obvious, because there is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman; but she does not herself carry its interpretation.
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. Most old attributions of this card are completely wrong on the symbolism—as, for example, its identification with the Word, Divine Nature, the Triad, and so forth.
by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, originally published 1888.
Action, Plan, Undertaking Movement in a matter, Initiative.
Inaction, Frittering away of power, Want of Concentration Vacillation.
by A. E. Thierens, originally published 1930.
If the Hebrew letter Gimel means the throat (as a canal for sound) and also “the hand of man half closed in the act of prehension” (P.), then it may indeed well stand for the house of Gemini as for no one else; because Gemini is the macrocosmic ‘relation between the two’ which is potential vibration, symbolised by ‘sound,’ and this sign rules the hands of man, with which he grips this relation actually. It rules the ‘Word, which was with God in the beginning’ and words, speech and correspondence in this world below, as above. It means cognisance, from which science may spring later, but it is not science itself. Nor is it ‘action’ (M.), though it is the origin of, sometimes the pretext for, activity. But it includes indecision, uncertainty, doubt, change, intercourse, reflection, appearance and everything that the sign Gemini may further communicate.
This Empress is indeed “a daughter of Heaven and Earth” (W.), for she represents the sphere of Mercury, Messenger of the Gods, and so this card always bears the meaning of messages and writing, and of news to be heard, instructions to be received.
Twelve (in older pictures nine) stars are placed around her head and this certainly means that down here on earth the messages come to us from the stars, a gentle hint at astrology. We regret that in the picture of W., the wings, with which the figure is gifted, and the shield with eagle in her right hand, as shown in older editions of this card have been omitted, for both hold a due indication of the element Air. Gemini is the first house of Air, and sound uses the air as its medium. The use of the sign of Venus is not very clear in the picture given by W. because it is not Venus but Mercury that rules the house of the Empress. One of the older editions shows the Empress holding in her left hand a wand with a heraldic lily, a sort of trefoil on its top, very suggestive of the origin of the colour or suit of Wands, which of course has a close relation with the card of Gemini.
Why this idea of the messenger is drawn as a woman, and given the name of the ‘Empress’ is very well explained by Mr. W. in these words: “because there is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman.” Woman rules the world. As a mother she is the ‘canal’ by which the human being is conducted from another world into this one, and as a female she attracts the man, in order to ‘double’ herself and to impart a double value to life on earth. This is indicated in the image of the Twins, originally Adam-Eve destined to be united by Knowledge. This is the card of Knowledge.
Also of ‘universal fecundity’ as W. has it.