Saint Radegonde, born in 518, was a Thuringian princess who became Queen of the Franks by marrying Clotaire I, son of Clovis. Known for her extreme humility and devotion, she decided to leave the royal court to lead a pious and charitable life. She founded the Abbey of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers, where she became a simple nun. She is venerated as a saint by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and is the patron saint of Poitiers.
Radegonde is often depicted as a nun, sometimes with a crown placed beside her, symbolizing her status as queen. Her life was marked by acts of charity, devotion and humility. She detached herself from worldly concerns to devote herself to the poor and needy. She is also known for having obtained the pardon and release of several condemned prisoners.
If we correlate Saint Radegonde and the Empress of the Tarot de Marseille, we can see similarities in their representation of feminine power. While Radegonde chose to use her power for the good of others, the Empress represents the power of creation and fertility. Both figures embody a form of feminine power, whether through charity and devotion or through creation and motherhood.
From the earliest versions of the tarot, the Empress card has been present, in its definitive #3 position.
Only the Tarot de Paris Master Card Maker allows himself a variation, depicting the Empress standing (as well as the Emperor). Above all, it's a classical representation of the character, as was done in antiquity. Here, however, the Empress walks and casually places her hand on her hip (as does the Prince of the Chariot). It's as if she's taking part in a fashion show! But let's make no mistake: she's parading ! This is in stark contrast to the Emperor card of the same tarot, also standing, but very static. Was the engraver's intention here to attribute impulsive or even seductive qualities to the character ?
With Jean Noblet, for the first time, the Empress is shown with a shield, which is an original and specific representation. In the same year, Vieiville showed a very similar Empress. The question of a tarot, common ancestor of Jean Noblet and Jacques Vieiville, having been published between 1615 and 1650 is perfectly legitimate ! We may never know if Jean Noblet was the inventor of the tarot that would become the famous "Tarot de Marseille".
The Tarot de Marseille Empress, with the coat of arms she carries in her arm, is more associated with the mother or a maternal figure, emphasizing her protective and benevolent aspect.
The only peculiarity of Jean Dodal's version is that the empress's gaze is to the right. This undoubtedly evokes a forward-looking, open-minded and dynamic woman. This characteristic was later taken up in the Besançon Tarot (Loudier here) and became the standard for the Tarot de Marseille.
The Empress of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is a more modern creation, with additional esoteric elements associated with her role as guardian of the sacred mysteries.
This tarot adds striking elements such as the stream flowing towards the wheat field. Above all, Waite evokes fertile, fruitful soil. Naturally, these qualities correspond well to the Woman, but for a woman, and an Empress at that, we might have expected more specific virtues and aspects.
What interests me about this empress is that she's carrying a child in her arms. This is undoubtedly the image most in keeping with the mindset of Renaissance master card makers. The dragon in the Empress's coat of arms, held in her right arm, probably represented a child. The number 3 is the number of emergence and creativity. I strongly disagree with many tarot cards that depict the Empress pregnant. In my opinion, gestation is more closely associated with the number 2, a symbol of fusion and accumulation. So it's the Papess who should be pregnant, even if I realize that it can be disturbing and shocking to depict this churchwoman with a child in her belly.
The presence of the two leopards is rather surprising. I fail to see how the Empress could be ferocious. But the author must have meant that the Empress's power also lies in her ability to calm minds and control impulses through her wisdom and benevolence. If so, it's doubly awkward. Firstly, the leopards at the foot of the Empress could symbolize much more than gentleness and appeasement. Secondly, it overlaps with the symbolism of the Force card.
It's true that this woman is pregnant, and I don't like this kind of representation of the Empress. But that's not all: this mother has 4 creatures under her wing. This card thus brings a major element to the previous one: creativity is multiple and abundant. The Empress gives birth to many children. And the fact that she's still pregnant, even though she's already taking care of her 4 children, is exactly what this card can represent. Life is abundant in its creative principle.
Naturally, depicting the Empress as a mother caring for her children is quite inspired. In this sense, the card is far more demonstrative and obvious than the historical card with the coat of arms in the Empress's arm, where the maternal aspect is not obvious. However, it's fair to say that this locks the Empress into the role of stay-at-home mother, when she's much more than that. She's also a woman living in the present.
Here we have a woman who is not a mother, but rather a housewife, proud of her many successes in the kitchen. Naturally, I don't endorse such a degrading view of women, but this tarot takes on this vintage '60s bias, so why not ? The main idea I take away is that this woman is a bon vivant, enjoying herself, taking advantage of life and what it brings. It seems to me that this, too, is an important message of Empress.
Finally, this Empress, as naked as on her first day, reminds us that we begin with nothing. At the dawn of our lives, we begin unarmed but also unscarred. In short, at birth, we're a blank slate. This aspect has always been present, as from the earliest tarot cards, the Empress wears a perfect, intact coat of arms, while the Emperor's coat of arms on the ground is either damaged or missing pieces. A sign that the Emperor has already been brutalized, has already suffered from life, while the Empress is still unharmed.
I often hear the Empress referred to as a seductive woman (among other things). No, she isn't and never has been. The master craftsmen of the Renaissance never gave the Empress the attributes of a seductress. In fact, Jean Dodal considered the Papess to be the seductress, by putting a mole (or 'Mouche') on her cheek. The seductive women, if any, were perhaps the Reine de Bâtons for Jean Noblet and Tempérance for Jean Dodal, as these 2 cards do indeed show a topless woman. While Noblet's interpretation is understandable, one wonders what Jean Dodal really meant by the bare-chested Temperance, one of the 4 Christian virtues - Noblet and Dodal were free thinkers ! -. In fact, I think Dodal probably meant that the water flowing from the amphora was as precious to Temperance as her own mother's milk. I'll come back to this in the article devoted to Temperance. So finding a seductive woman in tarot is no mean feat. The master craftsmen had a high regard for the Woman (The Papess, Justice, Strength, Temperance, The Star, The World), far more than for the Man (The Fool, The Bateleur, The Lover, The Chariot, The Hermit, The Hanged Man), that's obvious. For them, it was obvious that Man transcended himself through his harmonious relationship with Woman. Woman is very spiritualized in the tarot.
If we take a step back and look for the card that really speaks to seduction, we don't have to look far. Naturally, it's the Devil card. Some may dispute that the Devil evokes manipulation above all else. But the Devil, just after the balanced Temperance, shows that balance is always precarious and that seduction is the path to manipulation.
What's more, don't forget that the Empress is a woman with power - who needs seduction to achieve her ends, when she's already at the top of the social hierarchy ? The Empress doesn't seduce, she commands !
That said, let's be pragmatic and honest. If, from among the 22 triumphs, we were to select the card of a female character who best embodies the symbol of Woman, of femininity, of the feminine pole within us, it might be the Empress. We'd put aside the female character embodying beauty in the Lover card. But does the Tarot really speak to us at any point about the two opposites, Woman and Man ? Yes, indeed, but rather with the Sun card (I'll come back to this in the article devoted to this card), and not with the Empress and Emperor card. In the interests of openness and completeness, I've included this notion of femininity in the keywords below. But be warned : in my opinion, this is a very peripheral area of interpretation.
|Right direction (Positive)
|Vitality, femininity, beauty, charm, joy, conviviality, art, culture, open-mindedness, humor, lightness
|Reverse direction (Negative)
|Versality, scattering, futility, sentimentality, greed, relationship blockage, abusive power, unforgiveness, boringness
|Right direction (Positive)
|Motivated, curious, joyous, seductive, elegant, sensual, generous
|Reverse direction (Negative)
|Capricious, disdainful, frivolous, insensitive, negligent, jealous, frustrated
|Satisfy your craving. Go for it. Give birth to truth. Build with your hands. Do it with love. Follow your heart. Protect your heart
|New encounter. Friendly relationship. Zone-friend. Pleasant flirtation. Seduction or love at first sight with humor and joy. Emotional dependence
|Good working atmosphere or communication. Original or artistic concept. Dispersion at work. Indecision to start a project. Small job. Summer job
|Small but fast benefits. Contribution from relatives. Hazardous or lucky gambling winnings. Investment opportunities. Apply for credit
|Family / Friendships
|Birth. Strong maternal atmosphere or authority (excessive?). Love of loved ones. Artistic and cultural exchanges
|Renewed energy. Nervous energy or stress. Need to breathe. Free speech to evacuate. Desire to procreate
|Divination / Prediction
|A mother. A young woman. A seductress. A woman of power. A human resources manager.
|A maternity hospital. A nursery. An art museum. An exhibition. A place of power.
|At the end of retirement or training. Following a move. A birth. A change of habit
|By creating. By giving. By taking by the hand. By shaking up routine. By breaking the vicious circle. By protecting your own.
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