The woman in the picture above is the Navaho and Apache earth goddess of change. According to the theology, she created mankind from white flour and corn meal she dusted from her chest. The chest is the place where we, from the time we are born, receive food and comfort. The Empress is a mother archetype, making sure all have all they need. Estsanatlehi (pronounced broken down into syllables--est-san-at-lah-hee) has the ability to age, but then grow young again by walking toward the East, the place of creation. So, she never dies. This immortality is granted to the Empress archetype. The Mother is as old as time, and will last until the end of time. It is the same with generosity, I think. The Empress can represent a person in the person's life who is extremely generous and is waiting to give blessings to the person. The Empress usually represents a mother figure, or a man who is very supportive, caring, and giving. It is also very fitting that Estsanatlehi is associated with the Earth, as is the Empress. There is a reason we call our planet Mother Earth.
The generous energy of the Empress, when in balance, is unconditional. There are no strings attached to the gifts, except perhaps gratitude, and taking the Empress' cue and sharing what you have in turn. Gratitude is generosity's twin, I think, and so the Empress represents gratitude to me, as well as generosity.
The shadow, unbalanced side of the Empress is someone who is stingy, someone who is incapable of giving, an abusive mother, or someone who is ungrateful. She can also represent someone who is giving too much, at the expense of his/her own well-being, or someone who is smothering instead of mothering.
In more esoteric views, the Empress is all about the fecundity--meaning the sex. As you can see in the Barbara G. Walker interpretation above, the Empress is seated in a very generous posture, if you know what I mean. This hearkens to a time of the temple prostitutes, who were treated like queens for providing not only sexual but spiritual services. They were the conduits of the ultimate empresses, the goddesses. In this context, the Empress is less mothering and more sex queen, but she is still an empress, in every sense of the word. Sexual power is also another meaning for the card, but it is up to you to determine whether this energy is strictly femme fatale or a combination of lover/possible wife/future mother to the children. Even as I type this, that is not a very accurate way to describe it. It's just that the energy is not just about sex--it's about a deeper bonding where the beloved takes on multiple roles, each of them extremely important. If you are familiar with the Maid/Mother/Crone triad seen in matriarchal religions, it's like that--this is a woman of such powers she juggles various life roles seemingly effortlessly.
Questions for consideration:
1) Think about the women in your life, and their various roles--girlfriend, wife, mother, sister, best friend. Which relationships are positive and which are negative? What have you learned about being a woman, or relating to women, from these relationships?
2) Who nurtures you in your life? Whom/what do you nurture? What defines "nurturing" for you, as opposed to smothering? On the flip side, who leaves you feeling neglected and abandoned?
3) What creative ideas, projects, or dreams are you incubating? What are some steps you can take to make the dream real, or to move it to the next level?
4) Are there any dreams that you may have abandoned, but still think about? How can you nurture them back to life?