A Feminist Tarot: The Empress

This is the first card in the deck which I felt compelled to rename.  Obviously, having all female figures makes having an empress and emperor make no sense.  But even beyond that, the meaning and interpretation of this card has never seemed to fit with the iconography for me.

The card speaks of fertility, which is not really the realm of an empress at all.  This is a really good example, I think, of how creating strictly gendered archetypes becomes quite clumsy and nonsensical.  An empress is simply the feminine form of emperor, which is about breadth of power and authority.  It is not the opposite of the emperor archetype.

Rather, if we are talking about fertility and creation, nurturing and incubation, even in the artistic or philosophical sense, it makes more sense to strip away the forced duality of emperor and empress and instead contrast the ordered rule and contrived authority of an Empress to the responsive connection to natural processes embodied by the concept of the Earth Mother.

And while the Earth-Mother-Masquerading-As-An-Empress is often associated with or depicted in pregnancy, I find the emphasis on woman as birth giver to be a somewhat unhealthy depiction of the concept.  Setting up childbirth and motherhood as the most important roles or powers available to women discounts all of the other ways in which women can and should express their fertility and creative abilities.  As creation in general is one of the most vital and essential activities in which humanity engages, the assumption that women should, can, or do predominantly create in the biological sense is another idea which serves primarily to limit our horizons and aspirations.

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