The Empress and the Tower

Spring is coming. You wouldn’t know it to look out my window right now (we had a massive snowstorm across the northeastern US this week), but the vernal equinox is only a week and a half away. So I thought now would be an appropriate time to talk about two cards that I associate with spring: The Empress and the Tower.

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Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I have a personal system mapping the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana to the eight holidays of the Neopagan Wheel of the Year. This system is based largely on Kabbalistic symbolism and an alternate structure of the Tree of Life, which I believe is to be credited to the 18th-century Lithuanian rabbi Vilna Gaon. This Tarot Wheel of the Year plays an important role in my personal Tarot practice and in the devotional work I do with the cards.

The two cards I associate with the vernal equinox are the Empress and the Tower. The connection with the Empress is easy to see. She is all about fertility, nourishment, motherhood, and the like; her themes all tie in neatly with springtime. The imagery on the RWS Empress card is a bit more summer than spring (note the grain and the fact that the trees behind her are fully green, rather than flowering), but this has always felt like a vernal card to me. The Empress is about the ability to make things grow, either figuratively or literally.

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The Tower, on the other hand, is a less obvious choice. After all, we tend to associate the Tower with wanton destruction, with tragedy and failure. The Tower shows up when things are falling apart, not when we’re thriving and plants are blooming and adorable baby deer are frolicking through the woods.

But at the same time, I think the Tower does represent growth. It’s just a very different kind of growth than what we see in the Empress. The Empress nurtures, protects, creates a safe space in which we can grow. The Tower, on the other hand, is a kind of wild, uncontrolled, unrestricted growth. It’s a sudden, explosive outpouring of creative energy. The Empress is the kind of growth we experience as babies, when the world is safe and kind; the Tower is the kind of growth we experience as teenagers, when we have sudden acne and hair in new places and uncontrollable hormonal angst.

There are other ways to think of the Empress and the Tower as playing off each other as cards of growth. The lessons of the Empress are kind, the sort we get from a mentor or teacher; the lessons of the Tower are harsh, the sort we learn from adversity. The growth we get from the Empress is teleological, guided towards some higher aim. From the Tower, it’s confused and directionless, a feeling of “I don’t know what my destination is, but I’m hurtling towards it at 600 miles per hour”. The Empress gives us slow, sustained growth, while the Tower gives us erratic growth in fits and starts.

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Ultimately, though, I think both cards represent the growth, both literal and psychological, that I associate with this time of year. They just capture very different aspects of it.

Right now, the earth is starting to warm up. The trees around my home are starting to bud, wildflowers have sprung up from the earth, and the days are progressively lengthening. In all this, I see the Empress. But at the same time, there have been wild (wild) storms that have uprooted trees and caused significant property damage. That’s still the energy of springtime–the whole bit about March coming in like a lion–but it definitely does not belong to the Empress. In that, I see the Tower.

There’s another way in which I see the Tower and the Empress as coming together for the spring equinox, and it has to do with their astrological correspondences. The Empress is associated with Venus, and the Tower with Mars. These two planets together scream fertility to me, both because of the classical myth about the affair between Aphrodite and Ares and because of their astrological associations. I see the spring equinox as a time that the energies of Venus and Mars come together, and consequently, I like to honor both the Empress and the Tower at this time of year.

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Who’s that? The next girl.

This is a short post, I know. I don’t have a ton more to say, but I did want to sit with these two cards for a little bit. This morning, I went on a two-hour walk and just soaked up the feeling of the coming spring. I love snow as much as the next girl (see image above), but more than anything I love the progression of the seasons. It’s time for spring to come. I’m ready for more sunshine, warmer days, flowers, and green grass. I’m ready to welcome the Empress and the Tower.

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