Embracing the world
Protecting it in my arms
Have you ever found yourself looking at the Empress card and feeling irritated and resentful? I have. I often receive gentle (and not so gentle) nudges from her reminding me that I need to care for myself as well as others in my life; that sometimes I need mothering too. That triggers a host of negative associations – I actively resist being mothered.
I suppose I can lay the blame on my familial dysfunction (isn’t that always the easiest answer). My mother could be passive-aggressive and veer between smothering and deliberate obtuseness. My father was just aggressive, demanding and harsh. Let me be clear – I knew they both loved and supported me but on their bad days they could each be quite awful in their different ways. My father set a high academic standard for me and I rose to the occasion. Unfortunately, while quick to criticize if I didn’t do well, he was not so quick with positive feedback when I did. My mother preferred to stay out of that quagmire altogether. If I complained to her about the unfairness of my father’s expectations and treatment (he once gave my sister $10 for getting a B average report card while my A- average was criticized – “why the minus?”), Mom would shrug and comment that’s how my father was. I’m sharing this to explain why I find criticism or punishment easier to accept than nurturing kindness – it’s just what I became acclimated to receiving.
One of my biggest struggles has been learning to accept kindness, support and praise without brushing it aside or downplaying my accomplishments. It’s an uphill battle. I still find it very difficult to accept kind words from friends. I brush it off, make light of it. Accepting that I may be worthy of praise or comfort sits awkwardly in my psyche. I’m no one special – anyone in my place could do this. Maybe that’s true and maybe isn’t. I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s still a part of myself that needs work. I’m not criticising or denigrating myself, simply acknowledging a truth. Even the Tarot has pointed out that this is an area that could “use improvement”.
So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, know that you’re not alone. I will bet there are plenty more of us out there resisting praise the way toddlers resist nap time. We can change, improve our self-image so we feel deserving of praise and kind words, but for now we’ll probably keep squirming a bit. For those who have friends & loved ones like me, be gentle with your praise and positive feedback. We’re more used to cruel than kind and there can be quite a learning curve.
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396
The LWB says: The divine mother, anima or feminine principle. Fruitfulness, fertility, growth, universal love, passion, nurturance and happiness. A deep connection to nature. For the artist, realization of creative projects. It can also mean a level-headed, intuitive businesswoman or politicial activist for human rights and the preservation of our natural resources.
Reversed: An artistic void. The oppressive, controlling aspect of the mother persona.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: Looking at this image I am struck by its seeming portrayal of Eve eating a piece of fruit while a snake slithers along the tree trunk next to her. At first it seems to symbolize the Biblical story of man’s fall. However it can symbolize something else as well – woman’s choice to take control of her life and grasp her future with both hands. The Biblical story always makes it seem as though Eve was naive and simple, falling prey to the snake’s sibilantly seductive words. What if Eve realized that if she ever wanted to be independent and have control over her life she needed to take this step. Perhaps the snake simply reaffirmed what Eve already suspected.
For me, this card symbolizes a woman claiming her power, becoming the woman she was meant to be. Whether she is mother and wife or single, independent career woman or some combination, she is at home in her skin. She owes no one any explanations and feels no urge to explain her choices or apologize for who she is. This Empress grabbed the fruit from tree and took a bite, knowing it would change her forever but welcoming the opportunity to acquire knowledge, wisdom and self-awareness. Instead of abject fear this Eve seems serene and confident in her decision.
This Empress offers a glimpse of a different type of feminine power. She may be a wife and mother but capture in this moment in time she is alone, independent and confident. She is willing to accept the consequences of her decision and knows that sometimes in order to acquire knowledge and experience, sacrifices must be made. Instead of Adam’s obedient wife, I see a goddess. She is fiercely free and enthusiastically embraces her path in life. Maybe she has more in common with Lilith than previously suspected.
Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance
The Book says: She is the symbol of feminine power manifesting itself through love and nature. She is maternal, she is life giving.
She takes the pure, elemental energies of the universe and through her archetypal womb, creates all existence as we know it. She brings us this miracle of each brand-new day and the blessed peace that comes in the evening when, arms outstretched, she lifts her voice in song and calls us home to her.
Every single nurturing act or thought connects us with her. Of all the archetypes that we meet along the road, she is the one who follows our progress quietly and protectively.
The TarotBroad’s Buzz: There is a vibrancy and warmth to this card that calls to me. The woman at the center of the card is welcoming and embracing all her children home – human, swan, butterfly, all are welcome and loved. She is one with the land and all its creatures. She loves, nurtures and gives without reservation or judgment. She will tend your ills and care for your wounded spirit. At the same time she is a realist and practical, understanding that she must eventually push the young ones out of the nest so they can continue to grow and thrive.
This Empress is one with her environment. She knows that there are cycles to everything in life and no matter how much she might wish to stop time, it is not advisable or healthy to do so. She needs no one else to define who she is because she is confident and comfortable in her own skin. At the same time she loves caring for her children and find fulfillment in nurturing the land and the wild creatures that inhabit it.
This Empress will never stop loving her children but her identity is not contingent upon their continued presence in her home. She is confident and self-aware enough to understand that if she does not encourage them to become independent then she is crippling them. If they are forever dependent upon her she denies them the glory and sense of accomplishment that comes with independence. She gently but firmly teaches them to do for themselves. She will not always be there for them. She embraces the world but realizes that at some point she must release it and let it go its own way. She is the mother we all desire and few actually have.
Mansions of the Moon
The author says: Traditional fertility.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: This is Eve, the archetypal mother; the first female. She offers us life and fertility, abundance and fruitfulness. She also carries the potential for growth and expansion, for sensuality and creativity.
The Empress is that part of us that enjoys feeling silk upon our skin and enjoys exploring the different textures, scents and tastes that surround us every day. She gifts us with the curiosity to explore new sensations and taste new things.
Connecting to this card was a bit challenging to me because something about her expression is a bit distant – as though she may have given us birth but doesn’t care to be involved in raising us. She also doesn’t strike me as the type that would enjoy soothing injuries and and helping with homework. She seems fruitful but not nurturing, fertile but not loving. She strikes me as being almost the stereotypical cold mother. She may have given birth to the child but doesn’t possess the skills needed to nurture, love and raise that child. This Empress has probably sent quite a few adults to therapy.
Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
The Book says: In the lives of women we can see five distinct phases: birth, the onset of menstruation, motherhood, menopause, and death. The Empress represents the middle of this pentad; she is the nurturing mother, who is the fertile and creative queen of the world. She is also the down-to-earth version of the cosmic World card, which also symbolizes the creative mother in the maiden-mother-crone triad of the Triple Goddess. In interpretation this card represents elemental creativity and the actualization of creation. It is birth and creativity in every realm of life. Thus it represents feminine creativity, symbolized by pregnancy and birth and by growing things: flowers, eggs, and an abundant harvest. The Empress is symbolized in every good meal and happy home; she is evident in artwork and music. When this card is a part of your reading it symbolizes love and joy in life, and in the process of creativity. It symbolizes the healthful nurturing we must put into our creative actions. It is a card of being with children and in mothering or nurturing them and the joy we feel in their independent creativity. It makes a good time to focus on projects that require creative solutions. Projects that are begun under the tutelage of the fertile Empress are likely to success, just as she bears fruit out of her own body.
TarotBroad’s Buzz: This Empress is the embodiment of fertility, fruitfulness, growth and the cycles of life. The green hills and pink tree speak to me of Spring and life just beginning to awaken while the yellow hills and fields suggest Autumn and the time of harvesting and preparing for the cold, dark times to come. The Empress reminds us that she rules over both these cycles. She nurtures us and supports us through the good times and the bad. Her breasts provide nourishment and her body is the source of new life and new growth.
The Moon overhead reminds us of the connection many peoples see between the Moon and women. The eggs in her basket remind us of the potential for new life and the waters dividing around her reinforce its connection as the source of life on Earth. This card speaks of the bounty offered to us in our lives as well as reminding us that there are cycles that we all follow. And we are all connected to the Earth, the waters and the stars. She is the mother of us all. If we honor and embody these traits we will find the way to bring these energies into our own lives; to enhance our fruitfulness, prosperity, creativity and nurturing.
This card is not just about nurturing others but about embracing and nurturing ourselves as well. When I see this card it reminds me of the wonder I feel when I look at mountains and lakes as I drive passed. I am awed by their beauty and majesty and feel the connection to Mother Earth. I want to honor her and allow myself to fall into her embrace, knowing that I am safe, protected and loved. As someone who has often lacked this type of nurturing in my life, I sometimes have difficulties connecting to this card. I do not see myself as an Empress (at least not in the traditional way of being a mother). But then I realize that this card is also about nurturing the creative energies of others and helping them to grow. It is about nurturing my own creative side and allowing myself to explore alternative outlets for this creative energy.
Many people believe there is a Great Mother in the Universe and whether you honor her as Mary, Queen of Heaven, the Corn Mother, the Lady or as Danu, she represents the same type of energy and nurturing support in our lives. The Empress is seen every day in the bounty of the Earth and the gifts she offers us. The Empress nourishes everything and everyone around us. This makes it easier for me to connect with this card. It is not just physical motherhood but spiritual motherhood as well. Being able to offer our bountiful gifts to ourselves and others and being able to accept the gifts others offer to us.
Celtic Wisdom Tarot
Text by Caitlin Matthews, art by Olivia Raynor
Destiny Books, 1999 ISBN 0-89281-720-8
The Book says: The Shaper of Growth gives life to all that is. The Mothers maintain the fertility of the land, the life of its animals and people, and were often venerated as the guardians of the land’s sovereignty. They maintain their loving watch over all life, transmuting the Soul from death into life. The Mothers are the midwives of the Soul, nurturing it with qualities that enable it to respond to the good things of life. They also imbue the Soul with its instinct or mother-wit, the basic common sense by which we are protected and sustained.
Keywords: Abundance, wealth, fulfillment, reverence for the earth, motherhood, fertility, loving guardianship, value, house, health, harmony and wholeness, emotional growth.
Reversed: Infertility, poverty, delay in accomplishment, squandering of resources, laziness, inaction, emotionally immature, self-neglect.
Soul-Wisdom: The Shaper of Growth gives life to all that is. The Mothers are the midwives of the Soul, nurturing it with qualities that enable it to respond to the good things of life. They also imbue the Soul with its instinct of mother-wit, the basic common sense by which we are protected and sustained. What spiritual nurture is your Soul seeking now?
TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card represents the gifts we are offered from the Earth, the blessings we receive from friends and family and the bounty offered all around us. The Shaper is the source of all of these things. She is the one grants us her blessings and allows us to bloom and flower under her beneficent gaze. She not only offers us her blessings and her abundant gifts, but she reminds us that we need to share them will all things who share the Earth with us. Her gifts are not just for people, but for animals, plants and other inhabitants of the planet. By her nature she also symbolizes the cycles of life. As well as life, she helps the Soul pass into death. Along with abundance and prosperity, there are cycles of scarcity and want. But the Shaper reminds us the these times are a nature part of life’s cycle. They don’t indicate a loss of nurturance or caring. The Shaper’s abundance and fruitfulness bring us her blessings and bounty. But if we hoard these things and don’t share them with those around us, then we denigrate her gifts. They should be shared, enjoyed and appreciated; not hoarded and hidden so that others won’t take them from us. If we hide these gifts from ourselves or from others, then we are not honoring the Shaper and don’t truly understand her gifts. And if we don’t use them, we risk losing them. And once again we are reminded that these gifts may not be of a physical nature. If we have creative gifts that we hide from the world, then we are not honoring our creative spirit – a writer who doesn’t write (even if it is never published) is a sad thing indeed. Take time today to honor the gifts of the Shaper – both the physical and the spiritual ones.
Today I could not think of a topic so I asked the Norse Tarot “What should I share with others day?” I drew The Empress aka Freya. This tickles me because I am very drawn to the goddess Freya (I consider her one of my matron goddesses) but I’ve always been rather disconnected from The Empress. I also don’t know if I would have selected Freya to represent The Empress’ energy. Frigga seems more appropriate for this archetype while I see Freya as more connected to the High Priestess. However I can also see arguments for this association too.
So what have I learned about The Empress energy? It is severely underappreciated and neglected, especially by women. One of the aspects of The Empress that has always kept me at arm’s length is caregiving. I have avoided being a caregiver for as long as I could. I have never felt the desire to have children (and have never understood the urge to do so). On some deep level, I have always known becoming a caregiver would require me to be more selfless and giving than I have ever felt capable and comfortable with being. I have always been somewhat self-centered and narcissistic. I had things to prove and goals to achieve. I was going to be more than just someone’s mother and wife. I also learned the hard way that children could chain you to an abusive husband and destructive marriage. I was not going to repeat the mistakes of the women I’d seen around me.
I still think that was the right choice for me and that has been reinforced by my recent experiences. I know that I was not meant to have children. I can be quite protective of children but still feel no desire to have any of my own. However becoming the primary caregiver for my in-laws has shown me that I do have the capacity to be a caregiver. I’m not perfect – screaming and frustration seem to be par for the course., but I can do it. I have the ability to put the needs of others ahead of my own. I may not like it but I can do it. Maybe at her core that is one of The Empress’ strengths. She can put aside her own needs in order to care for others.
I don’t see this as a permanent condition or one that needs to be replicated ad nauseam (at least not in its healthiest expression) but when the need arises, The Empress can step up. At the same time The Empress knows when to say “enough is enough” and put herself back in the center again. Just as Freya knew how to get what she wanted, so is The Empress. Freya realizes that love and death are part of the same cycle. She may be famous for taking lovers as she chose but she was also the leader of the Valkyrie. Half of all the chosen slain came to rest in Freya’s hall. She might seem like the golden goddess of sex and love but she has a fully developed and well-honed dark side. That was always my problem with The Empress – I could see her darker, selfish side. She seemed like the perfect mother to me. In my life experiences the perfect mother was an illusion that hid an emotionally needy, soul-sucking, weak personality. Of course even this wasn’t necessarily true it was simply my interpretation of behaviors without knowing the causes.
I have come to appreciate The Empress’ energy, strength and gifts. She can be selfless and giving but she can also be self-focused and hardline. She may coddle and nurture but if she feels its becoming a long-term habit she will kick you in the behind. I see her as having a low tolerance for bullshit. At the same time she is caring and gentle when necessary. For too long we have all bought into masculine definitions of power and strength. Even women came to believe that true success could only be achieved via masculine outlets. Now I think we are developing a more fully developed view of success. For some women it may indeed occur on a more masculine field of play while others may prefer pursuing creative outlets in more traditionally feminine fields.
I realize I will never be fully happy or comfortable as a caregiver and nurturer, that’s simply not in my personality. However I have grown to deeply appreciate her gifts and strengths. I have embraced this aspect of my personality and learned that Feminine energy and power are not weaker, they are simply different but just as important as masculine ones.
Interesting, this is the second time this week I’ve drawn The Empress. So for two days in a row I’ve drawn a card I drew earlier in the week. Obviously there are some messages I’m either not getting or meant to share. My relationship with The Empress has been a relatively cantankerous one. In the past when I’ve drawn her my response has been a groan or a rant. Over the last few years we’ve come to terms with each other and I’ve come to appreciate her unique strengths and gifts.
Considering that much of my time is spent in the role of traditional caregiver lately, The Empress is certainly appropriate. in response to my query. I need to learn to be more comfortable with this side of my nature; to embrace this aspect of my personality. Like an unused muscle, that aspect of my personality has atrophied over the years but lately it’s been getting quite a workout. This gypsy-like wild child with a smirk on her face lets us know that although she may be engaged in traditionally “women’s work”, she’s no pushover. This ain’t Beaver’s mother. Gazing at her I can hear the song from the old Enjoli commercial playing in my head “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never, ever let you forget you’re a man ’cause I’m a woman.” She may raise a family, nurture loved ones and be generous and caring to those she loves, but she also gives off a vibe fierce independence and strong will. She may not try to dominate you but she won’t be dominated either. I like that in an Empress.
On another level she’s telling me that I am still not making the effort to carve out some time for myself. I may be engaged in caring for others but if I don’t make caring for myself a priority too I’m going to burn out and be miserable (well more miserable). I have to find the way to nurture and care for myself or I’ll be of no use to anyone else. Maybe I also need to become more comfortable letting others nurture me. I tend to resist efforts at mothering, comforting or nurturing from others. I shrug it off or make a joke. Maybe I need to be more open to those hugs and efforts at consolation and comfort. I don’t have to do this all on my own and it’s not week to sometimes need a shoulder to cry on. It’s just ridiculous for me to keep trying to be a “rugged individualist” in this situation. That way lies madness and that’s what the smirk on this Empress’ face is telling me. I may be crazy but hopefully I’m not stupid. I need to start heeding her message before she slaps me upside the head with that plate she’s washing.