Today I am thinking about the future a lot; that may be a result of my personal circumstances, or the time of year, or a number of things, but I’m going to run with it. You might ask: aren’t all the cards about the future? Well, yes, we can use the cards as a way to reflect on the present in order to shed light on the future, but that doesn’t mean that each and every card is “about the future” in the way I’m reading the Empress today. This is a new reading for me, but something about it is speaking to me very strongly, so I’m going to run with it, and I would be glad to hear your thoughts about it.
The Empress image is supposed to evoke fertility in all its senses, and today I am reading fertility as being an anticipation of the future. Fertility implies a series of changes that will perpetuate themselves into the future, and thus it implies hope for a future that will be different from the present.
The classical image of fertility that the RWS card relies on is a pregnant woman. This is a very loaded image, so I love the way that the Gaian Tarot expands on its possible meanings by renaming this card The Gardener and situating that pregnant woman within a natural environment that is overflowing with all kinds of bounty. (Yes, there is some imagery in the traditional RWS card that can be read to imply the bounty of the natural world as well, but not as much, and I appreciate the gender-neutral name change. More on this in the next card as well.)
I love expanding the scope of this card beyond purely human reproduction to include all kinds of fertility and even creativity. The important symbolism is that something new is being created, and to me it’s just as important to create new ideas and new things as well as new physical life. Each type of newness is an essential part of perpetuating life moving forward.
When we think about that newness and life moving forward, the importance of the number three for this card is that a third thing is produced out of the joining of two different things. What I want to emphasize is that the two things joining don’t have to be polar opposites, and they don’t have to be any kind of exact match – they just have to be different enough that when they come together they are creative, and similar enough that they can find ways to come together to allow that creativity to occur. That third thing emerges because creativity – or fertility if you prefer – happens when something different comes into contact and allows newness to develop.
For us as conscious beings, being willing to be in a relationship where creativity can occur is a statement about the future; it is being willing to be changed, to grow and develop over time. Any participation in a creative or fertile endeavor is an act essentially about the future.
If we think in horticultural terms, planting a garden is an act of hope. It requires a particular kind of seeing through time that takes hope and openness and experience to cultivate. Last year I couldn’t imagine that my tiny tomato plants would get as big as they did, so I planted them too close together; I couldn’t yet see through time to envision their future selves. This year, when I look at tomato plants, I will see them with a kind of multiple vision – as they are now and as they may grow to be, both together, and will plant them with that kind of vision in mind.
This makes me think that any time we are working with living beings there is the possibility of a kind of time travel of the mind. I know my mother always saw into my – our – past, but I think now that towards the end of her life she practiced a kind of seeing into the future through me.
In future, I think I will read the Empress/the Gardener as being about fertility and creativity, but on a deeper level, I believe this card relates to some deep ties between creativity and hope for the future, between the willingness to be in a relationship where change is a possibility and a certain amount of confidence in the future, even anticipation, related to our ability to shape that future and to be changed as it progresses.