The Empress of (Body &) Soul
Queer Tarot, pt 4
After a long delay thanks to busy work schedule and up-and-down mental health, this is the next in my series casting a queer eye over the Tarot cards.
For those unaware or unfamiliar, the Tarot is a set of numbered images and symbols placed on playing cards to depict a divine journey, and has been used for mysticism and meditation throughout most of the modern day revival of occult interest. What's considered today to be the "classic, traditional" deck, was drawn by Pamela Colman Smith, a biracial and bisexual woman who diversified the designs so more readers and seekers could see themselves reflected and represented.
I've been asking LGBTQIA+ Tarot readers, seekers, occultists, mystics and witches what unique perspectives their queer lives give them on the Tarot; what's written here is based on what they had to say about the Empress.
(I also had a long a strange debate with a purist, traditionalist Tarot "expert" - their word, unsubstantiated - who insisted everything had a set and unchanging meaning that can't be changed no matter how hard I try to push "wokeness" and "critical race theory" onto them. They were clearly unfamiliar with the concept of archetypes - images that we all respond to on some level as humans, but in a unique way depending on how each person has experienced them. That's what the images on the Tarot are most widely believed to be intended for. Read what's written here and see what you think!)
The Empress has always put people in mind of the divine feminine and the archetype of Venus. For a trans woman, for example, this card can speak of the authenticity of her womanhood, regardless of assigned gender at birth. The femme archetype can also be the drag queen, performing the feminine dance and bringing to life the spirit of the Queen. Sensuality, creativity, fertility and beauty. Or, heart-centred consciousness and nurturing, the mother caring for others and addressing them with compassion.
An intersex person also spoke of how the word most associated with this card, "fertility", can regardless of gender or sexuality symbolise overflowing creativity on a very high level; the fertile imagination that informs every endeavour, and the confidence to carry it out. A higher plane meaning of "fertility" is comfort with the notion that we express creative power that need not have anything to do with physical reproduction. Love and creation in all its forms, said another; mentorship and support. Someone so comfortable in their mastery that they can share generously of their time and expertise.
This card also has something to say to someone questioning their thoughts around femininity. What power they can harness from that energy and what is a drawback. Illuminating their thoughts and questioning their thinking.
Nurturing and parenthood can come in so many more shapes or forms than the cisheteronormative - love, comfort, teaching, patience, guidance; relationship with nature; harmony, love, fertility in all its forms and friendship. Power yet comfortability. She's the Empress; she's the one who defines femininity for others, not allowing others to define her femininity for her - uniqueness and non-conformity.
The specifically gendered cards can be hard for queer readers, struggling with her overt femininity triggering feelings like gender dysphoria for those who don't identify as such. But readers I asked who felt like that said they'd come to love the Empress as they come to understand her as the embodiment of plenty - in material abundance, and in self pleasure. Self assured of her abundance, she's a good reminder to take stock, especially when we so often discount our own achievements.
One person who identified themself as enby poly pan aro, said they saw power, ambition, loyalty; the message that we can be as powerful as we want; we can make our dreams get to that point, ambitiously working towards a better future of taking our power back. A card of nurturing and the beginning stages of manifestation. Focusing on the underlying meanings beneath the cloak of patriarchal cultural ideas of femininity and "mothering" energy - nurturing and supporting early stages of growth, creatively navigating situations to create safe life lessons and making for the most robust possible foundations for independence and future challenges.
Its shadow side would be smothering, overprotective, manipulative, selfish or dictatorial "nurturing", preventing free expression and self-exploration - dictating how to proceed and in what direction instead of guiding and advising.
Another, who referred to themself simply as "an AMAB person who is strongly parenting identified", said they'd needed the fullness of the Empress' engagement with life, though they'd struggled with the actual title "Empress", needing help with experiencing the Empress in a non-binary way - searching for a way of evoking the same depths of "motherly" feelings, in non-binary terms. For them, this card has often represented a need for self care and creativity; willingness to trust intuition and be at ease in our own powers of gentleness, kindness and self love.
And finally, the last word on this has to go to the person who said, only someone comfortable in their sexuality could pull off wearing that crown of stars and flowers!
Future parts of this series will be coming much more regularly if you want to subscribe to me here on Vocal to read them as they appear.