THE EMPRESS you will die

Placement: The Major Arcana


The Empress wears an impressive crown, whether it is made of gold and as big as the rest of her head, or surrounded by a dozen stars, or both. She has a scepter and a shield. Sometimes the shield has a bird on it, in other versions, it has a Venus symbol. Sometimes The Empress is pregnant. For some reason her throne, which has the plushiest cushions, is in the middle of a field of wheat, and the field is at the bottom of a waterfall.

In some decks, this entire above description is a lie.

Right side up:

The Empress card represents fertility, whether it is the fertility of all growing things and the natural world and the months of the year (thus the occasional twelve stars over her head) or of ideas. She is a veritable superhero with femininity as her power. She quite literally rules. If anyone can put side-by-side a waterfall, which relies on rocky terrain to exist, and a wheat farm, which requires long stretches of flat soil, it is The Empress.

On the surface, since The Empress is all about giving and maintaining life, one would assume that the meaning of the card is benign if not entirely benevolent. The thing is, the human body is an ecosystem in itself. We are full of bacteria, and we make ourselves home to viruses and fungi on a regular basis. We have mites called Demodex that live in our eyebrows and eyelashes, and they pay nothing for the privilege. There is little we can do, safely, about the non-human life that grows on and inside us. Even if we could rid ourselves of these creatures, their absence would also kill us. We are doomed in any case.

Upside down:

If The Empress is normally about growth, then its reversal represents a lack of growth. Not only would you stop growing as a person, so will everything else. That includes the world’s farms, which will flood over and die.

Classic The Empress deaths:

  • Weird growths within every important and currently irreplaceable organ
  • Flesh-eating fungus
  • Infection, leading to gangrene, leading to slow, itchy, painful, numb, feverish death. There is no death more classic than this except for old age and childbirth.
  • Childbirth
  • Your head smashed in with a scepter
  • One desperate child hiding in an attic decides not to scream out your name. The Nothing swallows you whole.
  • All of the sugar and spice, i.e. diabetic coma combined with chemical burn
  • Sentient GMOs

Added June 12, 2016: