History and Iconography
In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called Imperatrix (Empress). In the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, she is shown in frontal view. She is crowned and in her hands holds a long sceptre and a shield with the imperial eagle, which identifies her as the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.
On the Cary Sheet, she appears to have wings of some sort, although this may simply be part of her throne. The sceptre is now pointed to her lap, which could be symbolic for the centre of the creation of life, as she is the one who ensures the stability and continuity of the empire by her capacity to have children. On the Rosenwald Sheet, she holds the imperial orb instead of a shield.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the card is titled L’Imperatrice (The Empress). The woman’s blond hair flows from under her crown and she is again shown in frontal view, although she glances to the left. She holds the shield with the imperial eagle close to her side with an abnormally long right arm and, as with the Cary Sheet, the sceptre is pointed to her lap and she appears to be winged.
In the Waite-Colman Smith deck, the emphasis is less on power and authority, and more on abundance and fertility. The Empress is pictured as a woman reclining on a low bench with cushions. Her long, flowing gown is decorated with pomegranates and she wears a crown with twelve stars. She is surrounded by trees, a waterfall and a field of wheat, which may link her to Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest. Instead of the shield shown in earlier decks, we find a heart with the symbol of Venus.
Suggested Divinatory Meanings
The Empress denotes a powerful woman, and, in the tradition of the Tarot de Marseille, she is even interpreted as meaning intellectuality and the power of the mind. In many post-Waite-Colman Smith decks, the Empress can indeed also stand for the conception and nurturing of ideas, and thus for creativity. Her motherly qualities are often emphasised, and she is thought to signify abundance and luxury.
These are not accepted outside of those who follow such attributions
Golden Dawn oriented (and derivatives)
Numeral : III; 3
In other languages
- Dutch: Keizerin
- French: L'Impératrice
- German: Die Herrscherin
- Hungarian: Császárnő
- Italian: L'Imperatrice
- Portuguese: A Imperatriz
- Spanish: La Emperatriz