Faces of Parenthood: The Empress and the Emperor

March 6, 2017

After he meets the High Priestess and the Magician, the Fool moves on to the Empress and Emperor, the more earthly, material faces of the feminine and masculine in the tarot. These are the parents, the queen and the king, the one who creates life and the one who makes sure the kingdom operates precisely.

This is a hard topic to discuss when, in our society, we are trying so hard to figure out gender and sexuality and power in a way that does not marginalize, pigeonhole, or colonize anyone. It's hard to figure out what these roles have to say to us and how to separate them from ideas and voices that may either carry too much baggage or have no meaning to us. Even if we have no issue with these gender definitions, they do change with different cultures; in our culture we talk about "Mother Earth," but in other cultures earth is masculine.

Ultimately, the question is -- does dividing things up and giving them names help us, or hinder us? Does it improve our understanding, or restrict meaning to preconceived ideas? As humans, we make sense of things by dividing them up into, at the simplest, dualities -- night and day, hot and cold, up and down, male and female. Obviously none of these things are discrete. There are things like dusk, lukewarm, and yes, we use words for them so that we can discuss what we perceive.

Perhaps, rather than female or male, we can view the empress and the emperor in terms of their opposing energies: the empress expands--in fact, she creates so much that she has no concept of boundary. The emperor, on the other hand, is the boundary that gives things form and meaning. If our atoms weren't arranged in a certain way, we wouldn't be us. If the sun didn't come up regularly, we'd be in a shit of a pickle.

On the other hand, if the boundaries in our lives are too strong, we don't have room to grow and we stagnate. Or, as is fairly common, we operate with limiting thoughts and beliefs that keep us from living up to our full potential. It's only when we're fully aware of where we need to grow and what structure we need to support our growth, and how to expand into and define ourselves when necessary can we truly be happy.