Book of Shadows, Vol. I: "As Above" - III - The Empress - The Goddess


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Book of Shadows, Vol. I: "As Above" - III - The Empress - The Goddess


Three women make the central imagery of the card. Standing behind something, perhaps an alter. Perhaps emerging from a vessel, or a well. This stone structure is decorated in crescent moon shapes and partially covered by a thin see-through fabric. The fabric drapes over the structure, and in the foreground an albino hare stands upon it. This hare stares into the viewers eyes.

The left of the tree women appears the Mother aspect of The Goddess. She has long dark blonde/light brown, slightly curling hair complimenting her light to medium skin tone. Her eyes are dark. She wears hoop earrings, and through the shadows, some sort of necklace or collar is to be seen. Her dress is low-cut and purple, topped with what appears to be the same type of fabric covering the stone structure before her. Her lips are slightly parted and she looks forward, onto the viewer. In her right hand she holds a large bowl, filled with fruits; apples, perhaps peaches, and green grapes.

In the center of the trio of women stands the Crone aspect of The Goddess. She appears to be heavily armoured, or literally a part of a throne-like chair. Her skin is sallowed, showing signs of lines and age. About her face a blood-red flourish is visible inside a helmet of sorts. On the breast-plate of her armour, a circular emblem sits; perhaps a nod to the symbol of Venus/women. Behind her helmet is a rather luxurious chair. The back is padded, the top rail ends in down-and-inward curving decorative spirals. Atop the chair sits the Triple Goddess Emblem, of Waxing, Full and Waning Moons. They, like her armour, appears to be made of a tarnished brass or perhaps silver. The Full Moon at the center has a purple, rounded overlay, containing the Pentacle. This symbol is the same image that is found on the backs of the cards.

At the right of the women stands the Maiden aspect of the Goddess. She has long dark, straight hair. Her complexion is a rosy white, and she too, has dark eyes. Her lips almost appear to be parted, and she stares forward at the viewer. She wears a circlet of light fresh flowers atop her head; white, pink, perhaps yellow with the green stems. She appears to be wearing dangle earrings, and again, in the shadows a thick necklace/collar can be almost seen. Atop her left shoulder sits a bunch of the same flowers appearing in her hair, and her left wrist seems to be sporting a thick bangle bracelet as she reaches to help the Mother with the bowl. Like the Mother, she too is dressed in a purple dress, covered with a thin and see-through over-coat.

The Goddess card is very dark and full of shadows. The predominant colours are deep and rich. The background is a deep olive/forest green. The characters of the card are only touched with an unknown light source. The hare at the foreground seems to be spotlighted by whatever source of light.


From the LWB: "creativity, birth, abundance, fertility. [reversed] Lack of inspiration, barrenness."

Upon first sight of this card I was quite taken aback! I did not expect to see such a dark and ominous depiction of the loving Goddess of Pagan and Wiccan cultures. Some of it's imagery is strange and at first glance I did not understand this card one bit! I procrastinated on posting about this card due to my initial confusion, hoping that others would provide inspiration. After a lot of staring and pondering, I find that I'm rather fond of this card, and find more layers of meaning as time passes...

I believe the Mother aspect of The Goddess in this card to depict Demeter, especially with her bowl of fruits. Fruits are representative of harvest and abundance. Demeter was known for being not only a goddess of agriculture and of the Earth, but a Mother; the mother of Persephone. Demeter is often linked to the standard RWS Empress, as well. Demeter is also known as Ceres, "the Goddess of the Corn" (Mythology, Hamilton, p. 51). In ancient times it was thought that "the care of the fields belonged to the women" as the "business of men was hunting and fighting" (Hamilton, p. 52).

I believe the Maiden aspect of The Goddess in this card to depict Persephone. A noted goddess who is also a Daughter; the daughter of Demeter. In some mythos, Persephone is off picking wild-flowers prior to being tempted/tricked into the Underworld by Hades. The flowers upon this Maiden hint towards that conclusion. Flowers are also representative of spring, maidens, and abundance, as well as affection.

I believe that the Crone aspect of The Goddess in this card to be Demeter, struck by grief and the loss of her daughter Persephone to the Underworld and Hades. Demeter is said to make the Earth barren when her daughter spends her time in the Underworld, causing the season of Winter to rule the Earth.

The armour/chair upon/around the Crone shakes me. From my perspective, the armour is hinting towards the more destructive, war-like and vengeful aspects of the Crone. A helmet, in particular, is said to sometimes represent "being hard-headed and stubborn" or "may imply soldiers or war" (The Book of Psychic Symbols, Barnum, p. 228). Certainly, this fits the bill as her being Demeter struck by grief. I believe the throne/chair to represent her seat as ruler/caretaker of the Earth. Our leaders are that much more apparent when they are taking action that may upset and/or limit some. Barnum states that a Chair is representative of your "foundation, or belief system needs attention" and that a Throne is indicative of ego (p. 199). This chair also resembles a dining room chair, which Barnum states that it is "representing nutrition or sustenance" which is certainly the case for The Goddess card and it's particular mythos!

In The Witches' Goddess the Farrars write "The crops to which the Great Mother gave birth could be envisaged in two forms: as her annually dying and reviving son/lover or as her annually disappearing and reappearing Other Self, her daughter" (p. 86). Giving away more insight on The Goddess card, and The Goddess' relation to both her aspects and her consort through Wiccan and Pagan eyes. "Demeter had an only daughter, Persephone (in Latin Proserpine), the maiden of the spring" (Hamilton, p. 55). The Farrars give another name to Persephone "Kore, 'the maiden'," which again links Persephone to the Maiden aspect of The Goddess (Farrar & Farrar, p. 86). "One day when Persephone was picking flowers in the fields, [...] she stopped to admire a particularly beautiful narcissus. At this moment the ground opened, and Hades emerged and carried her down to his kingdom" (p.86). This links the Maiden aspect of The Goddess card to Persephone through the flowers appearing on her depiction. "[Demeter] lost her and in her terrible grief she withheld her gifts from the earth, which turned into a frozen desert. [...] At last [Demeter] came to the Sun, and he told her all the story: Persephone was down in the world beneath the earth, among the shadowy dead" (Hamilton, p. 55). The Farrars state that "Hades, ruler of the Underworld" who becomes Persephone's husband/host is also Demeter's brother (p. 86). "Then a still greater grief entered Demeter's heart. She left Olympus; she dwelt on earth, but so disguised that none knew her. [...] She seemed an aged woman" (Hamilton, p. 56). "Nothing grew; no seed sprang up [...] At last Zeus saw that he must take the matter in hand. He sent the gods to Demeter, one after another, to try to turn her from her anger, but she would listen to none of them. Never would she let the earth bear fruit until she had seen her daughter. [...] [Persephone] was the wife of one who was great among the immortals. And [the lord of the underworld] made her eat a pomegranate seed" (Hamilton, p. 59). "Zeus sent Hermes to command Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Hades obeyed - but before she left, he persuaded her to eat a few pomegranate seeds, symbol of indissoluble marriage" (Farrar & Farrar p. 87). When Persephone is brought back to Demeter, "All day they talked of what happened to them both, and Demeter grieved when she heard of the pomegranate seed, fearing that she could not keep her daughter with her" (Hamilton, p. 59). It was then decided that Demeter "must lose Persephone for four months every year, and see her young loveliness go down to the world of the dead" (Hamilton, p. 60). "Zeus proposed a compromise. Persephone should spend a third of each year with her husband in the Underworld, and the other two-thirds with her mother on Earth" (Farrar & Farrar, p. 87).

Demeter "was sorry for the desolation she had brought about. She made the fields once more rich with abundant fruit and the whole world bright with flowers and green leaves" (Hamilton, p. 60). "In the stories of both goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, the idea of sorrow was foremost. Demeter, the goddess of the harvest wealth, was still more the diving sorrowing mother who saw her daughter die each year. Persephone was the radiant maiden of the spring and the summertime, whose light step upon the dry, brown hillside was enough to make it fresh and blooming" (Hamilton, p. 61).

As for the darkness of the card, it fits perfectly, within the beliefs that The Goddess is the dark half to the light God. The Goddess rules over the Moon, symbolized by the Triple Moon symbol at the top of the card. This is how the Pagan/Wiccan Goddess got her 3 main aspects/faces, for the 3 visible phases of the Moon (Waxing, Full, and Waning). I assume that the unknown light source is coming from the Moon itself.

For the Hare at the forefront of the card, Hares are known for their pro-creative abilities. They are known for their ability to produce numerous offspring, and therefore indicate fertility and abundance. They are behind the saying "hop to it" which means "get going!" or represent "hopping from place to place" (The Book of Psychic Symbols, Barnum, p. 251). This would also enforce the active creation aspect of the card.

In regards to the necklaces/collars upon the Maiden and Mother, please see the Symbolism thread for this deck.

Share your thoughts and interpretations of The Goddess card with me! I'm particularly interested in hearing others interpretations of the alter/well and the chair/armour.

ETA: If the stone figure before/around The Goddess aspects is a well... I can see this being representative of The Goddess emerging from the Underworld and/or Primordial Waters. Both of which relate to The Goddess in Pagan and Wiccan beliefs. It would also provide a Water symbol, as The Goddess' first and primary attribute is to the Element of Water, which before I thought the card to be shockingly lacking.
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Wow Eeviee, you have done an incredible amount of research on this card! I found what you had written very interesting and thought provoking. I hadn't thought to assign individual goddesses to the 3 women, I was just seeing them as maiden, mother and crone

I have to admit I am finding the imagery hard to unpick and understand, so at some point I will probably come back and write more on this card.

I'll start with the basics I guess. The lwb assigns; creativity, birth, abundance and fertility to this card.

Immediately the white rabbit jumps (no pun intended!) out to me as a symbol of fertility, as bunnies are notorious for how fast they can reproduce, and I suppose this then links in with birth, as none of the goddesses look pregnant as the traditional Empress usually is.

Abundance I see depicted in the platter of fruit and vegetables denoting the bounty of the earth, there is definitely plenty to go around there.

Creativity I see less of in this card, though I usually struggle to see it in the Empress anyways. This is certainly a creative depiction of this card!

This card is certainly dark, usually this card it is summer, set in the fields and is a bright and lush card. But then it is the goddess and not the Empress we have to remember. She is the dark to the god's light. She is the moon and night, and I wonder if this card could be depicting being in a dark place, reminescent of the womb, which is the ultimate place of creation.

In the companion book it states that the goddess can be a, "Mother, Hunter, Destroyer" (page 18). This sparked something in me, seeing the Crone aspect of the Goddess encased as it were. It made me think she had been trapped or locked away. What if she is the Destroyer goddess, the one with the power to destroy the world?

Interestingly when I did some googling, the goddess Diana came up and on this website described as, "Fertility Goddess. Moon Goddess. Huntress Goddess. Triple Goddess- Lunar Virgin, Mother of Creatures, the Huntress or Destroyer", she ticks a lot of boxes for the descriptions in the book. As a huntress I can imagine her eyeing up that rabbit lol.

I also note that the appeture through which we see the Crone Goddess is egg or womb shaped. I found this interesting as I have found references to Crone goddesses who gave birth to the world:

"Caillech
Old Celtic name for Kali-the-Crone, the Great Goddess in her Destroyer aspect. Like Kali, the Caillech was a black Mother who founded many races of people and outlived many husbands. She was also a creatress. She made the world, building mountain ranges of stones that dropped from her apron." on this website (my use of bold font)

Please read the entire article if you have time, as I found all of it very interesting and provided lots of information, that I related back to my understanding of this card.

I'm still researching but thought I would add these first few thoughts into the mix, this card has a lot to chew on!
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I also have to agree with you Eeviee regarding the tie-ins between this card and the myth of Persephone.

Kore=maiden, birth
Demter=mother, life
Persephone=crone and also destroyer goddess, death
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Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
In the companion book it states that the goddess can be a, "Mother, Hunter, Destroyer" (page 18). This sparked something in me, seeing the Crone aspect of the Goddess encased as it were. It made me think she had been trapped or locked away. What if she is the Destroyer goddess, the one with the power to destroy the world?
This is very interesting. You have provided a good take on the Crone! Does the book make any reference to the Crone and her armour/chair/throne?

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Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
Interestingly when I did some googling, the goddess Diana came up and on this website described as, "Fertility Goddess. Moon Goddess. Huntress Goddess. Triple Goddess- Lunar Virgin, Mother of Creatures, the Huntress or Destroyer", she ticks a lot of boxes for the descriptions in the book. As a huntress I can imagine her eyeing up that rabbit lol.
Ahh, yes! I believe to some Wiccans and Pagans Diana is often referred to as "Queen of the Witches" due to her Triplicity, and affinity with both hunting and destroyer persona.

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Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
I also note that the appeture through which we see the Crone Goddess is egg or womb shaped.
Good eye! I did not see that and I too, find that it holds a special symbolism.

I hold a special spot in my heart for these "dark" and "destroyer" Goddesses. <3
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No the book doesn't talk at all about the strange chair/armour/whatever it is that the Crone goddess is encased in/wearing. What I said in my post is currently all just my suppositions.

I'm still researching to see if I can find anything similar anywhere! There are so many goddesses and myths and pagan beliefs and Wiccan beliefs, there is just so much info to sieve through!

My other thought currently on the Crone in the card (why does she have to be so damn mysterious lol!), is that as the goddess of Death, she is in the underworld and as such cannot come up to this world/realm, so we have to see her through this device/altar...there is so much swirling around my head on this card!!
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WOW! You guys have done an outstanding job on writing about this card! I really am not as well versed in the meanings of all the God's and Goddesses you guys have mentioned so I am learning a lot from reading your posts. I don't know that I have much to add, but wanted to express my appreciation for all you've already written. It will surely benefit a lot of people.

One thing I'm wondering (because I'm trying to make connections with these cards and the "traditional" meanings from RWS so they stick in my mind better) is...since The Empress traditionally represents fertility and abundance, couldn't the Maiden, Mother, and Crone be from the same family? If so, an Empress being pregnant on the card wouldn't be necessary, because her fertility and abundance would be evident in that both the Crone and the mother have produced an offspring. They are abundant in their ability to create generations. What do you think? At least, this was my first impression when I looked at the card, generations.

The rabbit and the bowl of fruit make good connections for the "traditional" fertility and abundance, but they weren't the first things I saw.

I have to admit, the Crone's head being encased in the egg-shaped portion of the "chair" does pique my curiosity. For some reason I get the mirror mirror on the wall vibe from this- as though the crone is the one they are asking for advice and she has somehow been set apart from them.

Also, I had the feeling that the maiden was the woman on the left, and the mother the one on the right. I felt the woman on the left with her hair down and her dress more revealing would be the maiden. The woman on the right with her hair up and covering more of herself reminded me of the mother. To me, it's hard to tell based on their faces who is older. My daughter has long blonde hair and I have brunette- so maybe that's causing me to think as I do?

Anyway, very interesting observations all around. What depth this card has!
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I have to admit Disa I was starting to see our Goddesses as one family as it were, to me they do all resemble each other in facial features, which would also tie in with the Persephone myth that we have correlated to this card thus far.

I also saw the Goddess on our left as the Maiden and the Mother on our right.

I love your "mirror mirror" theory on the Crone, I can definitely see that take. This really is an interesting card, so much can be applied to it I am finding!

I was also starting to wonder if it were a kind of sarcophagus surrounding the Crone...
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I was also starting to wonder if it were a kind of sarcophagus surrounding the Crone...
This crossed my mind as well, but I couldn't make it work in my mind if the Crone were dead. Unless of course they are speaking to her from beyond to gain her wisdom, and the offering of fruit is for the Crone? It could very well be.
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Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
No the book doesn't talk at all about the strange chair/armour/whatever it is that the Crone goddess is encased in/wearing. What I said in my post is currently all just my suppositions.
Gah! So much to ponder over!


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Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
My other thought currently on the Crone in the card (why does she have to be so damn mysterious lol!), is that as the goddess of Death, she is in the underworld and as such cannot come up to this world/realm, so we have to see her through this device/altar...there is so much swirling around my head on this card!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Disa View Post
I have to admit, the Crone's head being encased in the egg-shaped portion of the "chair" does pique my curiosity. For some reason I get the mirror mirror on the wall vibe from this- as though the crone is the one they are asking for advice and she has somehow been set apart from them.
These are very interesting interpretations! -I never thought to wonder if she was *actually* there... As you both think that the Crone may not actually be there, I have much more thinking to do in regards to that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Disa View Post
One thing I'm wondering (because I'm trying to make connections with these cards and the "traditional" meanings from RWS so they stick in my mind better) is...since The Empress traditionally represents fertility and abundance, couldn't the Maiden, Mother, and Crone be from the same family? If so, an Empress being pregnant on the card wouldn't be necessary, because her fertility and abundance would be evident in that both the Crone and the mother have produced an offspring. They are abundant in their ability to create generations. What do you think? At least, this was my first impression when I looked at the card, generations.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
I have to admit Disa I was starting to see our Goddesses as one family as it were, to me they do all resemble each other in facial features, which would also tie in with the Persephone myth that we have correlated to this card thus far.
This is interesting input! I never thought to look at these women as a family (aside from the Demeter/Persephone vibe I got)... Also, one could consider it as The Goddess is all of these three aspects as one: She is Maiden, Mother, and Crone simultaneously. Or, she progresses through each aspect with the Moon as it Waxes, Matures, and Wanes...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Disa View Post
Also, I had the feeling that the maiden was the woman on the left, and the mother the one on the right. I felt the woman on the left with her hair down and her dress more revealing would be the maiden. The woman on the right with her hair up and covering more of herself reminded me of the mother. To me, it's hard to tell based on their faces who is older. My daughter has long blonde hair and I have brunette- so maybe that's causing me to think as I do?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyebright View Post
I also saw the Goddess on our left as the Maiden and the Mother on our right.
Yes, they *do* both appear to be young... My thoughts were: The Maiden represents innocence and purity at times, so I thought (along with other symbols) that she was the Maiden even at first glance. For me, the Mother aspect represents a fully discovered sexuality; fertility and abundance bring to mind desire and lust... In some authors opinions, The Empress card is also linked with female sexuality as well. -After all, in order to get pregnant and procreate you have to do the deed! ;]
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Originally Posted by Eeviee View Post

This is interesting input! I never thought to look at these women as a family (aside from the Demeter/Persephone vibe I got)... Also, one could consider it as The Goddess is all of these three aspects as one: She is Maiden, Mother, and Crone simultaneously. Or, she progresses through each aspect with the Moon as it Waxes, Matures, and Wanes...
I guess because we've always had so many generations alive on my mother's side I see generations of women anywhere I can. There always seemed to be something special about my grandmother, my mother, me, and my daughter being together at the same time. In fact, for some reason, when it's just the girls, siblings, aunts, daughters, nieces, etc there's a certain connection between us.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Eeviee View Post
Yes, they *do* both appear to be young... My thoughts were: The Maiden represents innocence and purity at times, so I thought (along with other symbols) that she was the Maiden even at first glance. For me, the Mother aspect represents a fully discovered sexuality; fertility and abundance bring to mind desire and lust... In some authors opinions, The Empress card is also linked with female sexuality as well. -After all, in order to get pregnant and procreate you have to do the deed! ;]
I totally get where you are coming from. I guess when I was a teenager and before I was a mother I was the "fully discovered sexuality" you mention. When I became a mom I toned it all down - as far as my clothing goes, etc. The cards will reflect our own circumstances and associations to some degree.

That's the fun of it all, seeing all the possibilities from another's perspective
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