Sitting comfortably upon a velvet cushion and draped in flowered silks, the radiant woman called the Empress is attracted to all things luxurious, sensual, and pleasurable. Indeed, she is surrounded by a lush forest, a flowing river, and a rich field of golden grain. The shield at her feet is shaped into a heart and holds the sign of the Roman Goddess of love, desire, and fertility, Venus. The Empress is voluptuous, feminine, nurturing, and passionate. Her emotions and desires freely lead her decisions, and she does not curtail herself nor feel the need to guide herself with logical restraints. Though she may reflect many erroneous stereotypes ascribed by a patriarchal society, especially to those of us who identify as female, to say that she represents merely the irrational and emotional aspects of femininity would be doing an injustice to both the Divine Feminine, as well as the lessons the Tarot provides. Her womanly archetype is meant to show us all – regardless of our gender identity – that “living” in the world, but being devoid of our emotions, desires, or the things we find pleasurable is to deny a large part of who we are, and those things provide profound knowledge that is part of our sensual selves. To consider our emotions as weak, inconvenient, or unreliable is to negate their visceral power and wisdom, is to live a life half lived where a part of us is sublimated, repressed, or pushed away – only for that part of us to reappear unconsciously somewhere else in ways that may be harmful or destabilizing. When we embrace our emotional selves, we are free, and freedom is powerful. When we allow our inner desires to guide us and look respectfully to our feelings as a source of instinctive knowledge, we are tapping into our inner Empress – and we don’t have to be female to do this. We only have to be human.
Coming across the Empress in a reading means that our emotions and desires are sending us an important message that we must heed if we want to make well-rounded decisions we won’t regret or question later. She is giving us permission to follow our hearts. To fulfill our desires and satiate our appetites. Just as there is a time for fasting, so is there a time for feasting. For succumbing to what we really want in life, regardless of what our society or our peers may think, and to enjoying the often-fleeting pleasures that life presents us. In this way, the Empress also represents pregnancy, either physically or in ideas or dreams, such that if we listen to our passions, they will fertilize our dreams and plans, manifesting a life that is magical, nurturing, and truly authentic.
As Spring opens its arms fully, like a flower in full bloom, we near Beltane or May Day, a magical time of year when all that is fertile and life-giving is celebrated. Traditionally Beltane was celebrated in Europe by pre-Christian Celts, when the small white flowers of the Hawthorne shrub began to bloom, around the first of May. Many Celts would cut a sprig of this shrub to place in front of their homes, but they would never bring the flowers inside, as fairy sprites were thought to live in its branches. Later in the 19th Century, Hawthorne berries were made legendary by an Irish physician who included them in his secret remedy for heart disease. The flowers ripen into red berries in the Fall, which contain bioflavonoids and proanthocyanidins that produce powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions on the heart, including helping to regulate blood pressure and arrhythmic or rapid heartbeats, lowering cholesterol, and increasing blood and oxygen to the heart by mildly dilating its vessels. The berries are also known to stimulate and yet relax digestive organs, and the flowers have been used in creams and lotions for their toning and tightening action on the skin.
Isn’t it easy to see the Empress dancing around a May Pole with Hawthorne flowers in her hair? Following our hearts is easy to do with the assistance and inspiration of both the Empress and her flowering companion, Hawthorne.
*Tarot reading is based on the Rider-Waite Tarot Card deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith
Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Beltane, Ancient Celtic Festival.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Updated 1 March 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Beltane
Furey A., Gilroy D., Kingston R., Lehane M., Tassell M. “Hawthorn in The Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 4 June 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249900/
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