If I asked you what came to mind when you think of what it means to 'mother' (the verb), what would you say? I would guess that we'd all have pretty similar attributes and characteristics on our lists including, nurturing, care, compassion, creation, life etc.
Of course we're dealing with generalisations and stereotypes but this is the case when talking about archetypes which the 'mother' or Empress in our case, is. An archetype represents a 'typical' example of someone or something but in Jungian psychology it represents a universal model, theme or pattern of behaviour which is derived from our collective unconscious. The theory, is that archetypes are present across all cultures and times as a result of being experienced by the whole of humanity throughout history and therefore have become ingrained in our collective unconscious. They become an innate and instinctive knowing.
Whilst the word 'mother' is obviously gendered, it is something we can all do for ourselves regardless of how we identify. And although to continue using this word to encapsulate certain attributes might seek to perpetuate the stereotype and expectations of women as nurturers and caregivers, we have to take a broad stance and view the Empress/Mother as a particular type of energy or essence that we can all embody. The reason the Mother archetype is so intrinsically linked with these characteristics is because the association has been there for thousands of years, according to Jung at least. If 'mothering' doesn't sit right with you, perhaps 'nurturing' or 'caring' energy might work better? That's what we're essentially talking about anyway!
Now that you understand where I'm coming from with this and the stance I'm taking, I want to explore what the Empress can offer us in terms of self-understanding and growth and how we can work with the archetypal energy that she embodies.
Who is The Empress?
The Empress can be found amongst famous company when it comes to the 'mother' archetype. She sits amongst Mother Mary, Gaia/Mother Earth, Demeter, Isis, Kuan Yin... The presence of the 'mother' archetype is clearly evident across cultures and can be seen in our folklore and fairy tales. She is a universal presence.
Creation + Nurture
Usually depicted in abundance, the Empress personifies human potential for creativity. Not just creative expression but our ability to literally create. Often associated with the very literal creation that is birth, in many interpretations she features a pregnant belly also symbolising our potential for growth and our tendency to evolve and transform. As a 'personality', the Empress is nurturing and encourages us to nurture our creative endeavours and that which we 'birth'. Anyone can plant a seed but how that plant grows and how well it is able to thrive depends on the care and nurture it is given.
Cyclical Life Force
She is the energy that sustains life as seen with the example of Gaia or Mother Earth. The Empress doesn't just symbolise the 'spark' that ignites creative process but also the energy that maintains it and sees it through to the end.
That being said, the Empress also understands that rest and reflection are important parts of creative process and that allowing space to pause helps to sustain and maintain energy. As a result, she embodies the cyclical, the ups and downs, ebbs and flows of life - knowing that one cannot exist (for very long at least!) without the other.
Her process is all about experience and the value of 'being'. Her motto could very well be 'the journey is more important than the destination'. There might be an end goal or final product that she is working towards, but she doesn't discount the experience of reaching that point, for the sake of getting there. There doesn't always even have to be a point to what we're doing, so long as we're feeling and experiencing as we are doing, which then moves the emphasis from the doing to the being. In this way, she encourages joy for the sake of joy and creativity for its own sake - creating as a sacred process not just as an end goal.
Care + Unconditional Love
Just as the Empress nurtures every seed she plants, she cares deeply for every living thing, herself included. She cares and nurtures her own energy by honouring her own cycles and by nourishing her mental, emotional and physical realms. She is not afraid of asserting her own needs in order to have them met. She is definitely adept at filling up her own cup and knows how to because she is in tune with exactly what her needs are. Part of the Empress's care for herself and others includes an element of unconditional love and acceptance - she meets herself and others exactly where they are in the moment. She does not judge herself or others but rather accepts the often messy experience that is being human. No matter what has gone before, she continues to be an ever-present energy, just like the Moon or stars.
Wisdom from the Empress
Unsurprisingly, the Empress encourages us to focus on our creative expression and what it is we want to 'birth' into the world, after all, this is what will be our legacy. What do we want to be known as being or doing? She also encourages us to approach our creative endeavours from a cyclical perspective - maintaining and sustaining our energy by embracing both the peaks and the troughs. Perhaps tracking your own cycles, whether that's sleep, menstrual, energy, lunar etc might help you reconnect with your cyclical nature?
The Empress also wants us to care for ourselves and others more deeply and as unconditionally as we can. Do you talk to and care for yourself as well as you would someone else? The phrase and question, 'you wouldn't speak to someone else like that, so why would you say that to yourself?' comes to mind. She also wants us to become highly tuned to what our needs are and what are non-negotiable for us - do you know what you need in order to feel content and cared for? How confident are you in asking for/ensuring those needs are
There is also a lesson here in stewardship of the earth and compassion for nature because humans aren't the only living creatures to inhabit the earth. Perhaps this could take the form of more recycling, reusing or upcycling. A change in diet might appeal to you. Donating to conservation causes or getting involved in climate change awareness might be more up your street. What more could you do to support the natural world?
What legacy do we want to leave behind?
What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
How can you embrace your cyclical nature?
What do you value purely for the sake of it?
What judgements do I make of myself and others?
What internal bias do I hold? Where have I learned this?
What do I need in order to feel content and cared for?
How confident am I in asking for/ensuring those needs are met?
What can I do to meet them in future?
How can I show more compassion to the Earth?
The Other Side of The Empress
As with any energy, the Empress's qualities can become distorted and perhaps less supportive but there are still lessons to be understood from her.
In the extreme, the Empress might feel so compassionately and selflessly towards others that she has porous boundaries and finds it difficult to say no. Perhaps she is so used to caring for and nurturing others, that she has become disconnected from her own needs and finds it difficult to fill up her own cup. She may even sacrifice her own needs for the sake of others.
We also might have experiences when we have expected to be 'mothered' and loved unconditionally but have not been. Instead of being met with non-judgement, we have been met with rejection, abandonment and conditions of love e.g. 'I will love you if you are 'good'/ 'clever'/ 'pretty' etc. There is also the possibility of being 'smothered' with care to the extent that we lose our independence and/or feel controlled. Whilst these experiences may be the result of external influence (i.e. someone else), it may also be worth looking at how much we offer ourselves unconditional love or if/when we have rejected or abandoned ourselves. What does that mean to you?
If you can relate to this side of the Empress, it might be helpful to journal on your experiences to understand how you feel/have felt about it. Where do these feelings come from? How did it/does it feel to experience this? What do you want to see change?
The Many Faces of the Empress
It's clear that the Empress is as complex as we are ourselves and offers many opportunities for learning and growth. You may or may not relate to all of what she represents but you will know best what is most significant to work with. As a result of her being so complex, I found it difficult to condense the learning into a spread so I have created an 'overview' that will support you in 'stepping into' the card and in accessing the wisdom that is most relevant to you.
If you ever want to chat Tarot or need any supporting on your Tarot journey, you can always come find me on socials!
Until next time,