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Tarot Talk

Comparing The 9 of Pentacles & The Empress



This month, we will examine two cards that seem to have similar messages, with the intention of discovering more subtle meanings. We will mix the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana as we compare The Empress and the 9 of Pentacles. First, let’s review some terms. If you’ve read my column before, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative. So, archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes. Besides its archetype and individual meaning, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth.

Minor Arcana cards offer messages that will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. We can also find useful information within the image on the card. Like our Major Arcana card, we also will find connections to astrology and the Tree of Life. By comparing these correspondences, we can learn specific details about these two cards, thus deepening our understanding of them and their messages within a reading.

The traditional image on The Empress is of a woman at the peak of feminine power, often pregnant, dressed in rich robes often decorated with bees, sometimes wearing a crown of stars and often sitting on a throne, usually a full frontal view that tells us she represents all that is recognizable and understandable in the world. Sometimes she is cradling a scepter (often topped by a diamond, the symbol of love and of “as Above, so Below”) or an ankh and sometimes there is a shield emblazoned with a symbol of feminine energies, motherly nurturing or love at her feet. She is usually surrounded by green trees, ripe grains, fruits and vegetables, and other symbols of a bountiful and ripe harvest and the fertility to continue the cycle of growth to the next generation. The symbolism on this card tells of fertility, creativity, and the germination or nurturing of something new. The Empress has access to the transformative powers of Nature that allow her to rule life, as evidenced by her scepter, and that allow her to rule the earth, as evidenced by the grains, fruits and vegetables around her. The bee is a symbol of love within the family, domestic stability, and child rearing, and another reference to “as Above, so Below.”

The traditional image of the Nine of Pentacles shows a well-dressed woman wearing a beautiful yellow robe decorated with sunflowers, a ring on her finger and earrings in her ears. She is standing in a garden that is overflowing with vines heavily laden with, and is surrounded by nine golden Pentacles. Her left hand is gloved, and on her hand sits a bird of prey wearing a hood, a wild thing that is calm and completely tamed. In the background are green trees, hills, and a glimpse of a large mansion or castle; before her on the ground is a tiny snail. They sky is clear and golden, as if it is a mid-summer day. The woman’s head is tilted to the side, as if she is looking at her bird. Most versions of the Nine of Pentacles are similar: a well-dressed woman surrounded by the bounty of nature and a rich harvest holding either a bird of prey or a brightly-colored bird.

Both of these images show a woman with authority, situated during what appears to be a calm and sunny afternoon. The Empress is seated and surrounded by manifestations of the natural world, while the woman in the 9 of Pentacles is standing in the middle of a cultivated field, showing the taming of nature over time. Both appear to be at the peak of their personal power, even though they appear to have achieved this power through slightly different methods. The Empress comes to her power naturally, while the woman in the 9 of Pentacles comes to it through hard work and a long-term plan.

The Empress is the number 3 of the Major Arcana; this number represents the creation of something new through a partnership of some kind, or the manifesting or making real of some concept or spark. The number 3 is about playfulness and self-expression, inspiration and imagination, communication and motivation. This number is quite fertile, and it shows us that when the initiating idea, force or thought of the number 1 joins with the germinating energy or fecundity of the number 2, there is fruitfulness and manifestation or action, and an outpouring of energy is created.

Our Minor Arcana card has the number 9. I see the number 9 as representing the fullness or completeness of effect or manifestation. We are talking about completeNESS here, not compleTION or the winding up of a cycle. The number 9 represents our perceptions as we reach the limit of our understanding of or experience of a situation, just before we wind up the process and take another step up the ladder in order to begin the whole process again.

The numbers 3 and 9 are related to each other. The number 3 tells of the initial physical manifestation of fertility; while these manifestations are new, they are exciting because they can be perceived in the physical world. The number 9 tells of the wisdom that comes through dealing with the manifestations created by fertility and catalyst. It shows the final step before being moved forward as a beginner into a new cycle.

The Empress and the 9 of Pentacles (or Coins, Stones or Disks) correspond with the element of Earth, and thus the suit of Diamonds, the color green and the cardinal direction of North. Many Tarot decks use images of pentagrams or coins or disks as well as trees, flowers, fruit, and green, verdant growth to represent the material world, all of which will make it easy to connect with the symbolism of this suit. A nice place to begin is with the element of Earth itself.

The element of Earth represents the actual physical outcome of our efforts, the cake that is made by gathering ingredients and following a recipe. Earth represents everything physical, all of the nurturing and serene processes of Nature, and the things we need to stay alive and healthy; these energies are stable and very slow to change. Earth offers a spiritual grounding that is very necessary in our day-to-day life. This element represents diligence and an interest in quality rather than quantity; it can also represent greed and avarice, and the lack of the ability to be aware of resources or to access resources.

In its natural state, Earth is cool and dry, and it binds or shapes the other elements. Earth is of the physical or physically formed or manifested world, and of nurturing, care of the body, finances and security, and the wisdom associated with living simply and being well-grounded. Earth is the element of form and substance that is practical and slow to change; it is connected to material world security, and to our physical bodies and physical senses, and the pleasures and pains they bring. Earth is about stillness and about knowing what to expect; it is about strength, discipline, and physical manifestation of all kinds, and about enjoying what we’ve achieved.

In astrology, The Empress corresponds with the planet Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty and physical pleasure are all associated with this Major Arcana card. Venus is a feminine planet, which means its energies are inner and receptive in nature. Venus is associated with feelings and well-being and gentleness, and an appreciation for art, social life, and beauty. In Venus we find the allure, the refinement, and the urge to join with or sympathize or nurture others which are all found in The Empress. And yes, sex and sexual pleasure are a part of this too. Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky, the Moon (the second brightest celestial object visible from Earth) being the brightest.

Our Empress is also receptive in nature, and she represents all feminine energies that are receptive and that impose form upon expansion. She also represents the nurturing that supports and encourages the creativity around her, but while she represents pregnancy and creativity, she also encourages us to be smart and choose well, and prepare for whatever could be created by our efforts.

The astrological correspondence for the 9 of Pentacles is also Venus, specifically when it is in the astrological sign of Virgo. Virgo, the Virgin, is the sixth sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.

Venus in Virgo indicates perfection, and this combination of energies encourages the striving for perfection, and makes us willing to spend way more time and energy than might be advisable toward achieving our vision. One of the traits of Virgo energy is an attention to detail, and since Venus is about harmony and perfection, that is what the Virgo energies will draw us to. Yes, this kind of focus can have amazing outcomes, but at what cost?

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Nines correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Yesod. Yesod is the first sphere out of (and the last sphere into) the sephira that represents the physical world, Malkuth. Yesod is about things such as emotions and feelings, which are directly connected to our physical existence, but not actually physical themselves. Yesod is also the home of our life force, our personality, and the Self. It is only above Yesod that the Tree begins to branch out. This reminds us that emotions and feelings and an awareness of our life force and our personality are natural processes, and that exploring them and understanding them is an important part of our own evolutionary process.

The Empress represents Path 14, running between the sephira of Binah (female receptive energy, the origin of form and structure and the top of the Pillar of Form) and the sephira of Chokmah (male in the electric sense, dynamic energy, the origin of vital force and polarity and the top of the Pillar of Force). She is the connector or conduit between the two primal forces of Form and Force, and she connects both Wisdom and Understanding, neither of which can function without the other. Path 14 is one of the Paths that merges imagination and reality, and offers us ways to transition the Abyss and pass beyond the Dark Nights of the Soul that are a necessary part of spiritual evolution in order to perceive the Machinery of the Universe.

There are a few other personality traits to be explored when working with a Major Arcana card that do not have parallels in the Minor Arcana. One of those is archetypes. In the Tarot, the feminine archetype is split between The Empress and The High Priestess. The Empress represents the archetype of the Great Mother. The Empress, like the Great Mother, rules women and everything about feminine energy; she protects her own and responds to challenges with authority and leadership, but in a softer (yet quite strong) way. Often The Empress is perceived by male authors of fairy tales as prone to hysteria and drawn to dark powers or plots, and to some extent this can be true of the reversed Empress. But The Empress also can be a benevolent parent, using her authority to protect those who look to her for guidance and love, and seeing her own empowerment as being enhanced by her interactions with others.

Major Arcana cards also correspond with a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Empress corresponds with the Hebrew letter Daleth, the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet; this letter corresponds with the door or the womb, and thus Daleth tells of the initial manifestation of the life force into physical existence, unstructured potentials for realization, or the matrix within which life develops

The Empress, who is the mother of Form, tells of Creative Intelligence; she reveals the concepts and hidden knowledge guarded by The High Priestess, and she encourages us to immerse ourselves in the natural manifestations of the physical world. She creates rather than destroys and she is able to let go of the need to dominate or control so she can encourage creativity, fertility of all kinds, a deep connection to nature and the nurturing of others, and an enjoyment of the senses.

The Nine of Pentacles is seen by many as one of the most fortunate cards in the entire deck. Yes, this card often tells of good luck, but it also tells us that hard work over time can bring wealth, pleasure and an easy life. We do need to remember that success can mean worldly achievement, but the best end result is to succeed in creating ourselves, the best we can be, out of the material given to us by the circumstances and conditions of our life.


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

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