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3 - The Empress

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3 - The Empress


In II The High Priestess, Firemaiden already pointed out that the pomegranates upon the veil of the High Priestess have now become part of her dress. Not only the Pomegranates indicate the Empress's fecundity, but the ears of Corn (used in its earlier generic sense, and thus referring to any stalked cereal - barley, wheat, rye, etc), and the lush waterfall (especially meaningful for us here in drought-stricken on the already ultra-dry continent of Australia!).

From this deck onwards, her very state even looks pregnant - and of course, as I mentioned in the Marseilles section, the motherhood aspect of this card seems, to me at least, ancient.
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Thanks for starting this one, jmd. I thought I would just list the symbolic elements for dissection:
-the shield
-the wheat
-the crown of 12 stars (to me they look like flowers)
-the necklace of 9 pearls
-waterfall pouring into a pool
-forest
-shell-shaped chair
-soft pillows
-soft flowing white dress, (as we've said before) with pomegranates.

There is one symbol conspicuously absent from this card, and that is the Dove of Venus. If the shield carries (as RP says) the sign of Venus, the dove belongs here too. I can't imagine they wouldn't have thought of the dove, it makes me think they had a good reason for leaving the dove out, and wonder why.
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Her shield is shaped like a heart would be depicted. The growing seed and the healthy trees with the stream aside stand for abundance/fertility. Some cards show her as being pregnant, although the R/W apparently does not. Maybe because the Emperor is such an old guy .....
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Such a big change from the Marseilles Empress with her eagle shield and staff. How did we get from there to here? Where did the Demeter aspect come from?
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Demeter is the mother of Pesephone who was obducted by Hades and imprisoned in the underworld. Demeter searched in grief for her daughter until one day the Gods gave permission for Persephone to return to the earth. Because she had eaten pomegranate seeds (forbidden) Persephone had to return to the underworld regularly. I think this represents the cycle of seasons now - light and darkness.

This is a fascinating series of connected myths, Firemaiden, which will make you weep and laugh. Demeter herself was a Goddess of grain, and some other aspect of fertility. The stories of Demeter and Persephone are unputdownable for any woman.

Some say that the Empress represents Demeter and the Star represents her daughter, Persephone. Rachel Pollack suggests that we can see the Tower as representing the abduction of Persephone and the Devil as representing Hades.

It's early in the morning and I can't remember the whole story but it would be good to put together.

Let's think while we are examining the cards in this way on the artist, Pixie Colman, and what they might they might reflect about her. She was quite poor herself but her imagination and knowledge of mythology and the occult was rich.

Moongold
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...right Moongold... but....what I wanted to know was... see, most of the other major arcana have close equivalents in the Marseilles deck, whereas the Empress RWS card is a big departure from the Marseilles empress, who has no Demeter association. The Marseilles Empress is just a gal in a chair with an eagle shield and a staff, symbols of worldy power. I was interested, historically speaking, to know if there was any precedent for bringing the association of Demeter in here, or was "Pixie" the first artist to depict her as Demeter?
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I do not recall any earlier decks depicting her as a possible Demeter, but the iconic representation isn't such a jump.

The Empress, as Empress, is closely connected to the fertility of her realm, which is often symbolised with an ear of corn by a fall of water - here imaginatively recalling Demeter. The veil of the previous card may also connect the High Priestess to Persephone, and thus, her mother - the mother of the land/Empress - to Demeter.

From a different perspective, the image may, as images do, not be restricted to only this one possible connection. linked to Demeter through the fertility of the tilled land, but also to Aphrodite through her connection with the GD's allocation of Daleth and Venus.

The Dalet - 'doorway' - again making its connection to motherhood clear, for the mother is the doorway of incarnation/birth.

The move from the eagle upon the shield to the the Heart (or Venus) is, as mentioned above, because of the Qabalistic allocations made by the orders to which both A.E. Waite and Colman Smith were members.

On a different note, though I agree that Pamela Colman Smith has not been given due recognition for her gift, I do not think that it is correct to swing to the other extreme and even partially dismiss the precise instructions Waite would have given to the artist he, it must be remembered, employed to create a quite specific deck. How she worked with the instructions are of course a reflection of her creative talent, her understanding, and her attunement to the forces which worked through her, but also the guidance and directions of Waite.

As to what leaway she had, I suspect that I tend to agree with Kaplan with regards to the minor arcana - and that she was possibly given virtual free reign, though she was also, undoubtedly, influenced by the Sola Busca non-Tarot deck at the time on exhibition at the British Museum, by Qabalistic considerations from the Golden Dawn, and by comments in Papus's book.

With regards to the Majors, I do not think that Waite's instructions would have allowed much artistic licence.

But this probably better belongs to another thread - The Empress, to my mind at least, is still pretty close to its Marseilles precursor.
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Quote:
Originally posted by firemaiden
...right Moongold... but....what I wanted to know was... see, most of the other major arcana have close equivalents in the Marseilles deck, whereas the Empress RWS card is a big departure from the Marseilles empress, who has no Demeter association. The Marseilles Empress is just a gal in a chair with an eagle shield and a staff, symbols of worldy power. I was interested, historically speaking, to know if there was any precedent for bringing the association of Demeter in here, or was "Pixie" the first artist to depict her as Demeter?
Ah......I'm not familiar with the Marseilles. This will be a good question for the historians amongst us then.

I'll watch with interest.

Quote:
I do not think that it is correct to swing to the other extreme and even partially dismiss the precise instructions Waite would have given to the artist he, it must be remembered, employed to create a quite specific deck. How she worked with the instructions are of course a reflection of her creative talent, her understanding, and her attunement to the forces which worked through her, but also the guidance and directions of Waite.


I don't know enough historically, JMD. Just referring to implications in what I've read, particularly from interviews with Kaplan which I've posted links to in other threads. No-one wants another imbalance in attribution to occur and that somehow doesn't seem likely!

And I guess the artist's work speaks for itself.

Moongold
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Empress - symbolism


Greetings Firemaiden, JMD and others,

Acknowledging how little I know about some of this stuff, I've been searching the internet for information and plan to go into town tomorrow to see what other information I can get on the Tarot and symbols. Visiting the particular shop I plan to has become a compulsive Friday night/Saturday morning activity and this search has given me another justification for going there

However, I found this interestiing site which names the RWS symbols for each Major card and compares a number of historic decks for the appearance of these symbols. It's a sort of iconographic history of the Major Arcana.

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acro...2/oneill/3.htm

It has been an interesting journey and I've learned quite a bit about the Empress and the High Priestess.

Speaking of which, we woke up at 3.50 am to rain . In drought afflicted Victoria, that is a blessing; and in Melbourne, a huge psychological stimulus.

Maybe a gift of the Empress and the Queen of Cups? I stumble sleepily off to bed again.......Forgot the Queen Pentacles......

Moongold
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If she's Demeter (and I could go either way on that one...), then she's also Venus. Not only do you have the shield, but the fruit on her dress is in the shape of the Venus symbol, as is the embroidery on the black and yellow pillow behind her.
Interestingly, when I once asked my Waite-Smith deck what was the most important lesson it would teach me, this is the card that came up.
Well, it was interesting to ME, at least...
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