The Empress is the 3rd card in the Major Arcana. She is a symbol of feminine strength and power. She represents the power of creativity, fertility and abundance. She is an especially powerful symbol for females – showing that women don’t need to act masculine in order to be strong.
“Positive: It’s appropriate or even necessary to be involved with healing and nurturing now. You have the strength and awareness to protect or heal yourself or others. Go ahead and do it.
Upright: You are nurturing someone else. The nurturing can take a very obvious or tangible form. This could involve giving a massage, holding someone, bringing over chicken soup, or leaving someone alone if that’s what she needs. it could also take the form of giving someone loving energy in an intangible form. The card implies that you are aware of what she needs and able to give it to her.” – Gail Fairfield
As I looked at this card today and considered its message, I realized something. I have been embodying a number of Empress traits lately. The trick was realizing it. I usually consider the Empress as an archetypal representation of “feminine power”. She does symbolize fertility, creativity, abundance, etc. However she also embodies nurturing, caring, and mothering. Now granted, in the past those words would have sent me screaming in the other direction. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding situations that required even the least bit of these traits from me. But over the last 2 years my mother-in-law’s declining mental state has put me in the role of mothering her.
I have had to care for her in such personal and intimate ways that there is almost no privacy between us. The questions I’ve been forced to ask her in order to ensure she is okay passed the boundaries of decency a long time ago. And as I was helping her with a personal hygiene task yesterday it hit me – this is another aspect of The Empress. She is not only about producing, creating and giving birth, she is also about tending the sick and nurturing the elderly in their final years. She is about cleaning up the shit and taking out the trash. She is about moving passed our revulsion to certain tasks and just doing them because someone has to do them.
The Empress is the archetypal mother – the one who wipes your nose, your ass and wherever else you need to be wiped when you can’t do it and doesn’t hold it against you the next day. She may not be happy about doing them but she realizes that if she doesn’t, no one else will. I realize these traits aren’t exclusively feminine in nature (gods know my hubby has been forced to do a lot of the same tasks I have for his mother) but they are traditionally associated with women. How many men can watch someone get seriously hurt during a sports event and not blink twice. Ask that same man to change a baby’s diaper and the gagging and revulsion with be epic.
I suppose I’ve avoided seeing myself in this light because my associations with mothering and a traditionally feminine role have not been very positive. Many of the women I grew up around who were stay-at-home moms did not seem to have much power in the family dynamic. They were often at the mercy of their husband who was the family breadwinner as thus felt he had absolute control over how and where money was spent as well as having final say on other family matters. It didn’t occur to me until I got older than many of these relationships were abusive. It wasn’t until I started seeing more balance and healthy marital relationships that I realized there is equal power in a healthy marriage and family but both partners have to work for it. It is just as easy for the stay-at-home mother to turn the children against the father who is out working all day as it is for the breadwinning father to treat the wife & mother as if she has no power or authority.
After spending years avoiding The Empress’ sphere of influence, life has forced me to dive into the deep end. And I”m realizing that there is a deep, soul-satisfying level of accomplishment that comes from being able to help others this way. It might not garner me accolades and praise from the rest of the world but as long as I know I’m doing the right thing, I can carry that level of satisfaction and deep knowledge that I am doing the right thing with me always.