The Esotericon

Empress - Gimel

Sitting atop her throne of majestic honor, the Empress faces her court. She is the embodiment of practical employment as opposed to merely teaching, learning, and exchanging information. Her realms encompass the actual performance involved with knowledge that has been acquired and must now be put into use. She is the goddess of artifice blessed by pure eloquence. She is the embodiment of the complete matriarchal monarchess.

The name of the third character of the ancient alphabet is linked to the third hieroglyphic symbol of the Tarot. The original design of this character (pre-1200 B.C.) looks like this...

image of the ancient letter gimel

It is represented in the ancient alphabet by the word גםל. This word has the basic meanings of “to act.” From the basic connotation of servitude, this stem gains its most common meaning of “camel,” in which an obvious etymological connection can be readily observed.

The Empress of the Tarot de Marseilles

Like the emperor of the fourth Tarot trump and the maiden of The World Trump (in the Noblet version of the Tarot de Marseilles), the Empress wields the royal sceptre in her left hand. Because the royal sceptre is usually held in the right hand, these Tarot symbols depict a situation that is somewhat different from reality. The chariot pilot of the seventh Tarot trump is the sole individual depicted within the Tarot symbols that holds the royal sceptre in the right hand, as it has been typically wielded throughout the centuries by rulers of many kingdoms. In order to make sense of the symbolic meaning of this obvious departure from reality, it would behoove the observer to first examine that of which the royal sceptre is typically indicative and then postulate further notions from this foundational ground.

Images of four versions of the Empress trump of the Tarot de Marseilles

Traditionally, the royal sceptre of power is wielded in the right hand as a symbol of royal authority and power. Quite often it is topped with an orb and an eagle (although a cross has been used in more modern eras) and is generally constructed with large amounts of precious items (i.e. gold, silver, gems, etc.) that compliment its basic structure. Of course, the obvious interpretation of this item would be its expressiveness of the phallic essence and the dominating qualities that typically accompany this type of human expression. With these basic ideas set forth, it might then be prudent as to postulate the significance of placing such a symbolic tool of masculine might within the left hand of a central character found within a symbolic icon.

The most sensible reason for this placement would be that the sceptre royale is symbolic of the will's royal authority and power over the empathic and emotive currents of the left side of human reality. In other words, the sceptre represents emotional intelligence. Considering the fact that this trait is so vitally important to the success of any type of capable individual, it would seem that this obvious psychological interpretation is highly valid, if not outright universal in its scope and size. So therefore, the energies expressed in the symbolism of this particular hieroglyphic icon would aid in producing an enhanced knowledge, understanding, and control of the emotional empathies of the left side of human existence.

So when this basic symbolism of the royal scepter in the left hand of the empress of theגםל icon is applied to the larger symbolism of the entire hieroglyph, it would seem as though the lady of this image is very in control of her emotional state of well-being. Now it would be prudent to speculate on the exact nature of the shield with the eagle symbol on it. It would also be necessary to wonder why exactly this particular tool of defense would be held in the lady's right hand. Most likely, this type of item would serve as a compliment to the sceptre in some sort of fashion; therefore, at least some of the speculative attempts made should encompass this type of theory, since it makes the most logical sense.

Since the shield is a type of defense and the eagle emblem upon it is also percieved as a symbol of royal authority (used quite often on the sceptre), then a complimentary use of the shield would seem quite appropriate. So then, the sheild of royal control would symbolize the use of the right-hand masculine frequencies of domination and assertion for defensive instead of offensive purposes – as is usually the case. So if the symbolism were to be extended further, then one could state that male right-hand attributes are applied to the defense of any type of incoming attack – psychological, intellectual, or emotional – from an external entity, so as to better allow for the uninterrupted continuance of the left-handed skills of the sceptre royale.

The reasons for this type of setup would be multitudinous, considering the fact that with the advanced dexterity and strength that is typically associated with the masculine right being used for defense instead of offense, the cuprous realms of the goddess energies are now far more capable of pursuing their naturally inherent nature of creating with the emotive left-leaning empathies of the serpent path. This added defense would allow for far more manueverability within the goddess energies, as they are now more free to vibrate without the arrows and barbs from negative quips and threats made by opposing forces.

The Empress of the Rider-Waite Deck

There are some interesting changes made in the Rider-Waite Tarot; however, the basic essence of the trump still remains fairly close to the original hieroglyph presented in the Marseilles design. Commenting about this trump, A. E. Waite writes, “A stately figure, seated, having rich vestments and royal aspect, as of a daughter of heaven and earth. Her diadem is of twelve stars, gathered in a cluster. The symbol of Venus is on the shield which rests near her. A field of corn is ripening in front of her, and beyond there is a fall of water. The sceptre which she bears is surmounted by the globe of this world. She is the inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, all that is symbolized by the visible house of man. She is not Regina coeli, but she is still refugium peccatorum, the fruitful mother of thousands. There are also certain aspects in which she has been correctly described as desire and the wings thereof, as the woman clothed with the sun, as Gloria Mundi and the veil of the Sanctum Sanctorum; but she is not, I may add, the soul that has attained wings, unless all the symbolism is counted up another and unusual way. She is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word. This is obvious, because there is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman; but she does not herself carry its interpretation.

image of the Empress Trump from the Rider-Waite Tarot

In another order of ideas, the card of the Empress signifies the door or gate by which an entrance is obtained into this life, as into the Garden of Venus; and then the way which leads out therefrom, into that which is beyond, is the secret known to the High Priestess: it is communicated by her to the elect. Most old attributions of this card are completely wrong on the symbolism – as, for example, its identification with the Word, Divine Nature, the Triad, and so forth.”

The sign of Venus replaces the royal eagle, and the design of the shield is shaped like a heart in order to further solidify the association of Venus with love. The most striking difference, however – probably the most notable distinction between the Rider-Waite and the Marseilles – is that the shield of the Empress is not being held in the right hand, but is lying on the ground near to her. This is also the case with the Emperor trump of every known version of the Marseilles Tarot. There are many potential symbolic reasons for this placement of this symbolic icon on the ground instead of being held in the right hand that are discussed in the section of text that is devoted to the Emperor trump; however, instead of repeating these speculations in two places of the text, the notions about this shield placement will focus on a different theme as it applies to the Empress trump in particular.

The fact that the sceptre royale is in the right hand of the Empress in the Rider-Waite Tarot is also a crucial factor to consider, when speculating why the shield is not being held. When the sceptre is held by the right hand, the symbolism of the entire trump changes to an extension of the emperor wielding the sceptre in the same hand. It is the typical expression of royal authority except in this hieroglyph it is now matriarchal instead of patriarchal, but the type of domination is basically the same as that expressed in the Emperor trump that echoes the same basic expression found throughout history. This interpretation is reinforced by Waite's textual description of this hieroglyphic icon, especially where he states that the central figure of this symbolic image is "refugium peccatorum."

So therefore, since she is merely another representation of a very popular ideal commonly expressed throughout numerous civilizations throughout history, the shield becomes an optional tool that does not have to be used as a type of defense. So now, the shield is not a crucial aspect of the overall theme expressed by this trump in the Marseilles Tarot, which is an tremendously high level of emotional intelligence that is protected by the shield and can operate without the threat of interuption. The shield has now become a more decorative feature that further expresses the energies of Venus.

However, this expression of Venus in this particular version of the Empress trump further justifies the overall placement theories presented within this tome.

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