III The Empress (Public)

Mother and Nature, our first experience of things outside of ourselves

III The Empress (Public)
Tarot Images © 1971 U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Now we have arrived at III, The Empress, the first in the three-card transitional section in the middle of the first row of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. This row represents the mind and the things of which we are consciously aware. The Empress is the first experience on our journey of the outer world, as opposed to the inner world of I, The Magician and II, The High Priestess.

The third, fourth, and fifth columns of the Major Arcana—see my Visual Guide to the Major Arcana for details—represent Nature, Humanity, and Divinity. Those themes represent the transitional section of each row and will repeat as deeper and deeper experiences as we progress through the cards. In the first row of the Major Arcana, Nature, Humanity, and Divinity are represented by III, The Empress (representing mother/nature), IV, The Emperor (representing father/society) and V, The Hierophant (representing societal doctrine).

So the Empress represents our first experience of the world outside of ourselves. She represents mother and nature. Every creature in the world comes into being through the mother. That’s how Nature moves itself forward. The Empress as Nature is symbolized in the card by the trees, by the river (the force of life coursing through the land) and by the wheat growing at her feet. Nature is Mother to us all. There is a wildness here. The river drops, untamed, into a steep waterfall. The trees form a dense forest. Even the wheat seems to grow wild, not in neat rows.

She represents life experienced through emotional involvement, pleasure and sensualism. It has been said that first step to enlightenment is sensuality.

She represents the emotional side of feminine energy, the gentle, caring mother, as opposed to the more mental aspect represented by II, The High Priestess. These ideas are symbolized in the card by the plush pillow she reclines on, by her relaxed pose, and by the heart at the base of her bench.

The 12 stars in her crown represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The nine pearls in her necklace represent the nine planets in the solar system (when Pluto was still included). These are all elements of the natural world.

That is the Empress, our first experience of the outside world and our first step through the transformative middle section of our journey through consciousness in the first row of the Major Arcana.

On our journey through consciousness, Mother and Nature are the first things we experience that are outside ourselves. These experiences of mother and nature are the first ones on our journey that transform us. Next we will be transformed by our experiences of Father and Society, and by Societal Doctrine.