The Empress III: Reversed
Martha Adams © All Rights Reserved
The Empress III: Rider is upside-down on her throne and the luxurious cushioned-sofa can no longer support or be of comfort to her. The colours of red and orange are now ill-defined and her feet are raised up and above her head, on a patch of grey dirt. Red is symbolic of the Root and 1st Chakra and the negative aspects of this colour and Chakra are not ‘feeling grounded’ or connected to the earth’s energies; not having a sense of purpose, survival and stability. Orange is the colour of the 2nd or Sacral Chakra and represents the emotional self and relationships with adverse properties being unhappiness, aloneness, self-doubt or troubled and difficult relationships with herself or with others.
The Empress: Rider’s triple-jeweled crown represents universal knowledge that is expressed in its representation of the 12 stars of the zodiac. Unfortunately it is on her head which hangs precariously hangs upside-down, at the lowest section of the picture. The position of her head and crown suggests her understanding of human nature is reduced and her celestial wisdom is at a low level leaving her without guidance, intuition, insight or the capacity to create the magic. Unable to grasp the influences which are affecting herself, her relationships and current situation gives a sense of helplessness. Her pearl necklace positioned around her throat, her 5th Chakra, implies the wearer is loyal, pure, generous, truthful, but in reversed, suggests she is without ‘voice’; unable to advocate for herself; take appropriate action to meet her own needs; or to know what to do or say to support others.
The Empress: Rider raises her impressive staff above her head to show nature is her domain. However when the image is reversed, the staff is inverted and loosely held, threatens to fall from her grasp indicating her influence and power over the physical realm is waning. Upright, her heart-shaped shield is a symbol of love and the glyph of Venus signifies the spiritual manifesting in the material and the relationship of female and male energies. When this symbol is reversed, love is turned on its head, the material dominates the spiritual and the masculine principle dominates the feminine. Her shield in reverse implies difficulties expressing and appreciating femininity, beauty, elegance, sensuality and capacity to nurture herself and others.
The profusion of nature has risen to the top of the card to create a topsy-turvy, unruly mass of overgrown vegetation; illustrating, perhaps, a sense of disorder and discord either she is creating herself or is happening around her; and brings to mind the saying ‘she can’t see the forest for the trees’. The waterfall, representing emotions, seems stagnant and solid. Yellow-gold of the sky and her hair is the colour of the 3rd Chakra; but ill-defined shows low self-esteem, an absence of ‘gut instincts’ and a diminished mental vibration. Perhaps she ignores, neglects or represses her intuitive intelligence.
The Empress: Marseilles is clearly seen seated upside-down in her impressive throne. The inverted, large, winged-shape chair mimics the shape of the powerful eagle but plunging downwards. Commonsense tells us that such a arrangement can no longer protect or support her regal and ample frame.
The Empress: Marseilles’ commanding sceptre of the sphere and cross are symbolic of her spiritual authority but it is inverted and has plunged to bottom corner of the card. The appearance of her staff is that of a pendulum which reminds us of the ‘ticking of time’; perhaps hinting also that her scepter along with her power, may also soon fall away.
A feature in the design of the Tarot of Marseilles is the specific arrangement of large shapes and of colour; upside-down colours become ill-defined. Red the colour of the Root Chakra now dominates the upper section of the card as the underskirt. This can indicate a sense of disconnection from one’s community as personal appetites and obsessions take precedence above everything else. Her under-lying motivation as the ill-defined red underskirt implies, may see her transformation of courage and valour into cowardly and uncaring thought and action; strength of purpose into plain stubbornness and argumentativeness. The Empress: Marseilles, no longer connected to Earth’s grounding energies, may be subject to powerful and unchecked desires which gives an overriding sense that this woman is dangerous, angry and aggressive.
The Empress: Marseilles substantial and refined tunic is located in the lower section of the image. Royal blue, the colour of wisdom, integrity and self-control, is now inverted. The negative implications of blue are ruthlessness, intolerance and melancholy; an overwhelming desire for status; or addictions including alcoholism, workaholism or spiritual prejudice. Our lovely The Empress: Marseilles is not in a good way.
We can see clearly that the eagle-crested shield is reversed, implying that The Empress: Marseilles’ once soaring and superior connection to spirit and her ability to receive divine messages and protection are now brought into question. The eagle’s wings are alarmingly outstretched, seemingly to break its fall as it looks to be plummeting downward, head-first. Her most powerful symbols are upturned and her face looking tired and worn, suggests both inner and outer struggles.
The Empress: Marseilles’ head is seen dangling undignified, at the lowest point in the image. The colour gold of her crown and neck-chain are ill-defined signifying greed and a lack of wisdom and integrity. Her stately red and gold crown points directly downward and, almost touching the bottom of the picture, indicates thoughts of anger, folly and confusion. Negative characteristics of her flowing white hair are isolation, lack of imagination, criticism and boredom.
The Empress: Marseille’s red and gold-crowned head appears small and insignificant, suggesting her intellectual powers are aggressive rather than compassionate; she may be driven by anger and insecurity, rather than love and generosity. The top of the head is the point of the 7th Chakra and symbolic of our connection to divine inspiration is now at its lowest point. She is likely to be out-of-touch with her higher guidance and thus unable to make sense of her situation or to support herself in a wise manner.
Reversed, The Empress: Marseilles’ face changes direction and is now looking to the left and away from her beloved Emperor IV. What draws her focus and attention to the opposite direction? One wonders who or what persons or schemes The Empress: Marseilles has now sets her sights upon; and might they lead to ‘no good’?
Health and happiness,
Martha Adams © All Rights Reserved
Learning to read tarot cards both upright and reversed can affect the meaning of a reading as its influence over an interpretation often changes. My personal experience has been to always allow the tarot to express itself, and in this way, I believe, we as tarot readers are encouraged to broaden, improve and develop our skills, insights and accuracy.
For comparison, I discuss images from the B.P. Grimaud, 1969. Tarot of Marseilles, France and Rider Deck Visual Oracle Lifetime License 16.3.28. Both representations are exquisite and creative; lending themselves to a very satisfying continuous study of meaning and guidance.
The Empress III in the Major Arcana is depicted almost invariably as a female figure of grace, self-confidence and productiveness. She manifests the physical, emotional and mental aspects of the Feminine Principles of wisdom, understanding, creativity, nurturing, abundance. The Empress III shows us which human drives underscore all balanced growth, both inner and outer harmony and are fundamental to our sense of well-being, as both individuals and as a groups. In a reading or in study, The Empress III delivers these valuable elements into the lives of all those under her influence; into the realms of our work and career, homelife and domesticity, artistic and leisure pursuits.
The Empress III: Upright.
In the illustration of The Empress: Marseilles we see as a wise, regal, authoritative, composed and mature woman. She appears confident of her position and station in life; she is both powerful and empowering; well-dressed and full-bodied she seems to pregnant with potential. The Empress: Marseilles appears in dynamic and bold colours of large vigorous shapes and patterns that are fundamental to interpreting The Tarot of Marseilles, symbolically and metaphorically.
The Empress: Rider is a graceful, genteel, youthful and sensuous figure who is seen completely at ease surrounded by and presiding over, nature’s teeming abundance; she is Mother Nature and symbolic of the well-spring of all physical life. She too, appearing full-bodied and perhaps pregnant, demonstrates with her raised Scepter the power she commands over her domain and communicates confidence, happiness, tranquility and glowing health that comes with empowerment.
The Empress: Marseilles is coloured in royal blue, red and gold. The dark royal blue tunic completely covers her torso, arms and thighs; her 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chakras are both influenced and protected by her station in life. Royal blue is, as it suggestion, of a person of exceptional breeding, unquestionable integrity, strength of character, exceptional intuition and owning great powers of observation. Royal blue signifies the capacity to work from the right brain and from the deepest levels of consciousness; suggesting a mind filled with deep knowing and creativity.
The under-skirt of The Empress: Marseilles is ‘fire-engine’ red suggesting that under her regal manner there lies a deeply passionate, energetic and exuberant personality. The red skirt falls gently over her legs and feet and covers the ground all around her; directly connecting her to the Earth’s energies. Red is also the colour of the 1st Chakra indicating her innate ability to connect to the processes of abundance and mature capacity to satisfy all her own basic needs, and to instinctively protect those in her care. The royal blue tunic enveloping the red skirt, serves to keep her fierier traits sufficiently under control. Her long, white hair flows freely from beneath the large crown, representing elegance, purity and goodness. The Empress: Marseilles is often portrayed as a Defender of the Rights of her People.
By contrast, The Empress: Rider wears a softly flowing white gown, often considered the colour of perfection, purity, wisdom and successful beginnings. The pomegranate-flower motif signifies life, marriage and rebirth. Her robe cascades softly about her form and falls to the ground. The fluidity of her robe seamlessly connects her to the ‘ebb and flow’ of the natural environment; it mirrors the movement of the waterfall and river to suggest the deeply nourishing effect of gracious and healthy emotions. And, we are reminded of The Rider Tarot’s The High Priestess II.
The Empress: Rider sits on sumptuous sofa surrounded by the abundance of nature; her throne and her domain. The red sofa-base represents the 1st (or Root) Chakra, relating to strength, determination, security, firm purpose and a sense of belonging. The orange cushion represents the 2nd chakra and is the ‘seat’ of the healthy emotions and relationships, sexuality and sensuality. The yellow-gold of the ‘sky’ and of her luxuriant hair implies a high mental vibration and considerable self-confidence.
The solid throne of The Empress: Marseilles, by comparison, is beige; a colour that implies conservative flexibility and dependability. Beige is not an assertive colour and takes away none of her force and presence. The back and sides of her throne look like the wings of some giant bird and imitates the Golden Eagle on her shield which she embraces securely at her side. Birds generally represent messages from spirit. The Eagle soars higher in the heavens than all other birds and is a symbol of wo/man’s connection with the Divine. Her neck-chain, cummerbund, crown, staff and the plant growing at her feet, are gold. Gold symbolizes wisdom, compassion, courage, magic and wealth. The Royal Crown is symbolic of her legitimate right to rule, power and virtue. Her Staff signals royalty and divinity.
The Empress: Rider wears a Triple-crown decorated with 12 sparkling white stars to represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac; while her pearl necklace signifies the 7 primary planets of our Solar System. Her Crown and necklace reveal her knowledge and skill of the astrological and astronomical arts and sciences – and of the cosmic world – and her understanding of how these influences impact the natural, physical world. The Venus the planet of beauty, love and sensuality and the glyph on her shield shows she is mistress of wise and physical love. The Empress raises her Staff high in her right hand, level to her Triple crown and directly above her heart-shaped shield of Venus, bringing attention to her influence over all three realms.
The Empress: Rider looks at directly at the reader and querent, as is typical of many of the figures in Rider Deck. Many of The Major Arcana in Tarot of Marseilles however, express subtle physical relationships, simply and effectively expressed through facial expressions and body language. The Empress: Marseilles sits contentedly on her throne and appears to be casting a loving look in the direction of her Emperor IV who looks candidly and devotedly back. In that exchange, we feel The Empress: Marseilles is protected and cared for; and knows her love is returned.
Thanks for visiting!
Martha Adams 2016 ©
Reading tarot for others (and occasionally myself) is exciting, inspiring and very gratifying.