Kingdom: a country ruled by a king (or queen).
Empire: a group of countries (under one ruler).
The Empress is the Queen of Queens. Each Queen in the Minor Arcana reigns over one elemental domain. The Queen of Cups is the feminine ruler of Water. The Queen of Pentacles is the feminine ruler of Earth. The Empress is ruler of all 4 Elemental Kingdoms.
In the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot deck the Empress and Queens character directionality is a significant detail. The Queen of Swords looks straight forward and gestures with her left hand in that direction. She is focused entirely on the future. Her back to the past, no interest in the present. The Queen of Wands is almost with us in the present. Her body facing front but her attention is drawn to the future with her head turned to the right. The other two Queens are both lost in the past, facing left.
Directionality is an important, subtle and often missed, detail in cartomancy's symbology. It tells us about the querent's state of mind, where their attention and focus is. If someone is unhappy they tend to be lost in the past or worrying about the future. They are never fully in the present moment. If you look closely at each of the RWS's Queens you'll see that they each lack something. The Queen of Wands has no water, The Queen of Swords no vegetation.
The Empress has it all. She is beautifully dressed, wearing a crown, holding a sceptre, has a water running through rich fertile lands, trees in the background and a clear bright yellow sky. There is something missing though. In Tarot you must also be aware of what’s not in the picture, what’s missing, as well as what is there. The tall trees behind her protect her, and her lands, from strong winds. This is the element of Air kept in check and controlled.
Her attention is fully with us. She sits relaxed looking directly at you. She is content and happy with what she has right now. The Empress often represents where a woman wants to be in life.
The Empress embodies femininity, fertility, beauty, creativity, self expression and feminine desires. This is a woman of power. Although the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck's Empress shows no child or pregnancy, other decks often depict her either pregnant or nursing a baby or both. This card can point to a pregnancy or the desire to be fertile and pregnant. The symbology often contains references to Venus, the greek and roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Venus in Latin translates as love or sexual desire. The appearance of The Empress can indicate plans, events or endeavours that have not yet come to fruition but are gestating, growing and receiving, or needing, nurture. As a person she can be a mother, or mother figure.
Numerology: The Empress is card number 3 of the major arcana. This is the number of creativity, joy, good fortune, self expression and social gatherings.
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THE PICTORIAL KEY TO THE TAROT
By Arthur Edward Waite (1911)
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.
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.