2. L’Imperatrice

The Empress from Tarocchino Arlecchino.

About the Card

English Name(s)

The Empress


  • Grand Etteilla: Card Number 6
  • Tarot de Marseille: Trump III

Image Description

The Empress wears a crown decorated with alder leaves and catkins and shoes with the same motif. In her right hand she holds a globe with a crescent moon and a seven-pointed star. Her left hand supports a spear that rests across her body. Her costume includes red, black, pink, yellow, blue, and green diamonds and she wears a black mask. She sits and gazes slightly to the left, toward her spear and the red marks rising from its point. There are also winding red marks on the ground, and a black and gold sun in the upper corner behind her.

Further Notes

Neither the Empress nor the Emperor appears in the Etteilla tradition, nor in the modern Bolognese tarocchino. In later Bolognese decks, they were replaced by Moors (along with the Popes), in some effort at political correctness. In the Grand Etteilla, the Empress is replaced with the Stars or Firmament, part of the Biblical days of creation sequence that begins the trumps.

This card depicts Harlequin as the Elf-king’s daughter, as told in the Danish ballad “The Elfin Shaft.” The poem is about a valiant young knight named Sir Olf, riding on the eve of his wedding day, who to his misfortune comes across an elf-dance. The Elf-king’s daughter propositions him, offering all sorts of gifts in exchange for a dance, but he stays true to his fiancée. Loyalty does him no good – when she realizes he’s a hopeless case, the Elf-woman runs him through with her spear.

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Night, darkness, eclipse, mist, obscurity, mystery, secret, hidden, unknown, clandestine, occult, parable, allegory, mystical meaning, mask, veil, cover, sheath, envelop, unvoiced, blindness, oblivion, obfuscate, cover.


Day, light of day, brightness, clarity, truth, visible, enlighten, manifestation, demonstration, evidence, engender, give life to, uncover, bring light to, publish, come out, bloom, emerge, come to light, zodiac.