In Greek Mythology, Demeter is the Earth Mother, governing the seasons of the year and all growing things. She is the life within the earth itself, shown by the natural surroundings she stands amongst and the pattern on her dress. The story of this mythological figure fits well with my understanding of the card.
Demeter lived happily with her daughter, Persephone, but when the girl did not return from a walk one day, her mother naturally became consumed with worry. After two years of searching, she eventually learned that Persephone had been abducted by the lord of the underworld, Hades.
Although Persephone was now his queen, Demeter’s unhappiness had allowed the world to grow barren, and she refused to return it to its former abundance. Eventually, with the intercession of Hermes, a compromise was agreed between her and Hades – that Persephone would live with her mother for nine months of the year and could return to her husband for three. While Persephone is with Hades, the earth withers and dies, which we understand as being Winter; however, it then begins to come to life again in the Spring, when she is reunited with her mother.
The Empress is a card of motherhood and the mother, but we can see how she is so much more than that – she has the ability to fight for what she wants and will pull out all of the stops if challenged. She can both give life and suffocate it at her will.
What do you breathe life into today? The Empress can be about your own role as a caring parent but it also stretches, with ease, to our creativity. Maybe you are nurturing or birthing a new creative project or exciting outlet. Today is about abundance, whether it is that which you receive or bestow on the world. This is a time to notice the vitality in everything around you.
Illustration from New Mythic Tarot by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections.