Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

The Empress — Tarot of the Absurd

Marija GimbutasIn the spring of 1995, I was gently nudged towards the path of feminism by my then-boyfriend, a man who would be affectionately known as My Favorite Former Lover for years to come. He was a god in bed, and with his artist’s touch he sculpted women into goddesses. I was in college majoring in writing and biology— a double major due more to indecision than ambition— and one of my classes was ANT 280: Human Evolution. Our assignment was broad: pick a topic in human evolution and write about it. A biologist by nature, left to my own devices I would have probably found something nice and dry to write about, such as the correlation between spinal curvature and cranial capacity between years X and Y. As it was, newly introduced to the concepts of neo-paganism and sexy-feminism, I chose to write about neolithic society and religion in southeastern Europe.

 

My paper was based largely on the work of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Through her research, Gimbutas concluded that long-term, stable, woman-centered egalitarian societies were prevalent across neolithic Europe. Gimbutas earned a mixed reception by other scholars, who often considered her to be eccentric. However, her research and writings made her a keystone of the matriarchal studies movement and the Goddess movement. In short, I was searching for historical basis for my boyfriend’s religious belief. 

 

Archaeology, like statistics, can easily slip into showing people what they want to see. Although the information gathered is unbiased, few people enjoy reading raw statistics and findings of archaeological digs without a good story attached. And archaeologists— like statisticians— like any good teller of a tale— lie.

 

Although goddess worship is largely a construct of women’s need for self-empowerment, this is not wrong. All worship leads to empowerment. Worship of one’s own god(s)— and I use the term without regards to sex— is a unifying and empowering act across society. One of the first things any successful conquerer does is suppress the religion of the subjugated realm. This squelches the people’s identity. In search of identity, the subjugated incorporate something of their conquerer’s beliefs.

 

Rebellion begins when one realizes the beliefs of the ruling party are unjust to one’s own needs. Feminism is a rebellion against the heavy hand of a patriarchal society. In order to empower ourselves, women need to see power in the ruling party. Neo-pagan goddess worship is often liberating for women who feel oppressed by the status-quo.

 

So, why is the Empress fat?

 

The Empress is representative of femininity and female fertility. She is beauty and the beauty of nature. She is creation and procreation. She is those things women hold solely in our domain, and thus the Empress is pregnant. This is goddess worship: worship of the female. Worship of women as we are as beautiful. Worship without the need to revert us into wiry, hairless adolescents. Worship of women’s bodies as powerful vehicles perfectly fit for birth, the act of which life itself depends on. The Empress is the most powerful women. She is powerful without needing to emulate the powerful aspects of men. In order to empower ourselves, women must be able to find the things that make us uniquely powerful— and to worship them.

5 Responses

  1. JJ says:

    Gimbutas is an interesting person–I’ve never heard of her and look at all the work she has done. Even Joseph Campbell loved her work.

    I guess you know by now that the fecund Empress dandling babies about is not my favourite image. I was fascinated to realize though as I read your post, that I tend to see the Empress as a ruler, a leader, and completely want to disregard her ability to bear children. In short, for me she emulates and enhances the powerful aspects of men; I am most comfortable with her that way.

    I tend to think of it as an equitable sharing of power, but the underlying power of being able of give birth is something I can’t really disregard.

    Pregnancy has always meant vulnerability to me, so for me it makes the Empress weak. Silly, but my own particular subjectivity due to life experience.

    And I do think in our society because women get fat when they are pregnant that pregnancy now carries a whiff of repulsiveness; there is a subtle disrespect–do you notice this? Despite all our photos and talk of celebrity “bumps,” and the fairness of longer maternity leaves, there is this demeaning aspect to pregnancy in our culture and media. Could this be a backlash against feminism?

    We could go on and on. The Empress is a fascinating person.

  2. Sharyn/AJ says:

    If she is ‘fat’ I need a crane. If folks want bouncing barbies, there are plenty of empty headed decks for them.

  3. Jessica says:

    Of course, by “fat” I mean heavy with baby. I said it that way because it’s derogatory, because the use of the word “fat” is derogatory, and to use it on an Empress either disempowers the negative aspects of the word or disempowers the Empress. But she’s tough.

    As for pregnancy meaning vulnerability, well, yeah, women become physically vulnerable when pregnant. That the care and feeding of pregnant woman has been taken from the hands of midwives and given to physicians who treat it as an illness does nothing to make pregnant women (and birthing women) feel powerful. The Empress takes back birth and makes it her own. Anyhow, I wrote this for you, JJ, because you made me think.

  4. Arika says:

    I’m late to the game on this post, lol, but had to add my thoughts anyway.

    As a mother of two, I have to say that I’ve felt at my most powerful when I was pregnant. I mean, what could be more powerful than growing a whole other human being inside your own body? Of course this is just my personal experience. I can be a miserable pregnant woman- exhausted and achy in the first 3 months, and then awkward and irritable the last few. But powerful the whole way! (I feel much the same way while nursing, but that’s another story!)

    The Empress is one card that I am always excited to check out in a new deck, and I admit that I prefer to see her with child, or chasing a few young ‘uns around, lol. So this card really works for me, since it has both! But as long as she doesn’t look like an airbrushed nymphette, I can deal!

    • Jessica says:

      I love comments, no matter how late.

      As a mother of only one, I’m not sure how the Empress does it. I mean, she takes care of EVERYTHING, the Emperor included. Plus, she has to remain generally lovable while doing so. Me? I’m an underslept, grumpy not-so-Empress. I sure wish I had time to write more tarot blog entries. I’m only 8 entries short of a book. You’d think I’d just go ahead and do it. Empress? Yoo-hoo, Empress! You’re amazing. Can I please have some of that Empress power?

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