I was looking at this card today and struck by how lonely and isolated the Empress appears to be. Despite the fact that she is surrounded by the trappings of her empire, she’s alone. The expression on this Empress’ face seems to emphasize a sense of distance and a lack of connection to what’s around her. This made me realize that despite the fact that she is seen as a symbol of abundance and fertility The Empress is almost always alone. I realize most of the figures in the Major Arcana are alone, but I never got a sense of them actually being lonely before. I think it’s the expression on this Empress’ face that brought it to my attention.
I suppose it makes sense that the Major Arcana figures are alone in their cards because, in truth, if it represents our life journey that is something we have to experience alone. Like Dorothy in her journey through Oz, we may be accompanied by others but they cannot complete the journey for us. I firmly believe that humans learn best by experiencing things first hand. So, allowing others to complete tasks for us would defeat the purpose. At the same time, we may discover, after having completed a particular journey, that the outcome was nothing like what we expected. Perhaps that explains the rather wistful, almost melancholic, expression on this Empress’ face.
The Lady in the DruidCraft Tarot shows a similar introspective expression. Perhaps she is focused on the changes her body is going through, or wondering how motherhood will change her life. She does not seem very involved in external things going on around her. She reminds me of Mia Farrow’s character in Rosemary’s Baby. There’s a scene when Rosemary is trying to seek help from her OB/GYN and instead of helping he calls her husband who is the source of some of her concern. I think Farrow does a great job of expressing the vulnerability and helplessness a heavily pregnant woman must feel. All of her concerns are brushed off as being the result of pregnancy-induced hallucinations or paranoia or hormones. She’s treated like a child who is incapable of making an intelligent decision about anything. She is living in an unfamiliar building, completely isolated from people who might be able to help her. Perhaps that’s the shadow side of The Empress’ energies – in order to be that fecund and fertile one is also extremely vulnerable. Perhaps this is why I have never found myself drawn to The Empress’ energies.
Of course, I suppose when humans lived a more tribal lifestyle a pregnant woman would not have been isolated. She would have been cared for and honored by the tribe. But in modern American society, where we are so quick to enshrine rugged individualism as admirable and something to emulate, a woman at her most vulnerable is instead isolated and her pregnancy treated as an illness. I suppose I can’t blame these Empresses for looking less than thrilled. Or perhaps the very nature of motherhood is isolating, not from other people but from oneself. If The Empress represents the archetypal mother and raising children, when done well, requires all of one’s focus, this has to create a distance from the person one was before motherhood. I know when I finished menopause and looked back over that time in my life when I could have had children if I chose to, I realize I don’t recognize that person. Perhaps Mother Nature gave us hormones to make us more willing to compromise in order to protect and raise the children. Once that’s not a concern anymore, we revert back to a more independent, individual sense of ourselves. Or maybe I’m delusional. The truth is I’ve never understood the urge to have children so a lot of this is theory on my part.