Monday, April 04, 2005

The Empress

According to Mary Greer, in Tarot for Yourself, your soul card "shows your purpose through all your lifetimes" and "indicates your soul qualities and the qualities that will assist you." Setting aside the issue of a soul's having multiple lifetimes, it's still a vague explanation of what the soul card is. Compare the purpose of the soul card with that of the personality card; the latter "indicates what you have come into this particular lifetime to learn." The soul card, then, represents something fundamental to the individual in question - something deep, persistent, and revealing.

My soul card is the Empress. Yuck. I'm not a big fan of the Empress, she who represents nature, motherhood, fertility, abundance. She's so ... feminine. Stereotypically feminine. The gendering of archetypes in the tarot and elsewhere is a topic for another time, but suffice it to say that this feminist and social constructivist isn't happy with the idea of essentialized gender, even if the gendered qualities exist in both men and women.

It has made no sense to me that my soul card is the Empress. But now I'm reading Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom, and some of what Pollack says about the Empress resonates with me.

The Empress, along with such mythological counterparts as Aphrodite or Ishtar or Erzulie, represent something very grand. They signify the passionate approach to life. They give and take experience with uncontrolled feeling.

Until we learn to experience the outer world completely we cannot hope to transcend it. Therefore the first step to enlightenment is sensuality. Only through passion can we sense, from deep inside rather than through intellectual argument, the spirit that fills all existence.

Many people see religion as an alternative to the natural world, which they view as somehow impure or dirty. Though our cultural tradition fosters this duality, it is really an illusion, and the person who approaches spirituality with this motivation to escape will likely never achieve a very developed understanding. The body, and the natural world, are realities that must be integrated rather than denied.

Note that Pollack speaks of transcending the outer world, not the world itself. I don't like the concept of transcendence - I'm a big fan of immanence - but I understand her to be saying that "enlightenment" involves seeing beyond appearances.

Thus the Empress symbolizes or embodies a passionate approach to life - passion, creativity, nature, abundance, the body, the earth - and wisdom gained in these ways. As the third card in the major arcana, she also symbolizes "synthesis and harmony," according to Pollack. "The natural world combines the Magician and the High Priestess in an indivisible unity of life and death, darkness and light."
Not duality, but the riot of living things.