Let's talk about who The Empress is for a minute. For my astrology folks - think Venus...actually, I don't think there's a card that's more Venus than The Empress. Think about Taurus and Libra - both signs ruled by Venus - the grounded quality of appreciation for anything we can take in with our five senses that is so quintessentially Taurus - the regard for love, relationships, and harmony that is uniquely Libra...that's what we're talking about here.
When I look at this card, I see beauty and abundance. In the Smith Rider Waite artwork, the Empress is depicted as a full-figured woman on a cushioned, red velvet throne with Venus' symbol carved in it. She's dressed in a robe that's printed with pomegranates, and a lush forest is depicted behind her. There's a running stream, trees, and golden wheat all around her feet. The symbolism is all about fertility, sensuality, art, creativity, emotions, and abundance. She's the Queen Mama, the HBIC in all matters relating to art and beauty, and the concept of emotional nurturing embodied.
When The Empress show up upright in a reading, it's an invitation to include more of those Venus qualities into our everyday life. Go outside, take a walk in nature, eat something really tasty, do anything you can enjoy with your five senses, spend time with friends and partners who make you feel good, or create some art. This card is all about enjoying these softer aspects of life.
I have also seen the Empress appear in readings for people who are trying to get pregnant or are in the process of fostering/adopting (this includes fur babies as well as babies of the human variety). Also - this card pops up a lot when I'm reading for people starting on new creative ventures (arguably, another sort of "baby").
So, let's talk about this reversal...when The Empress turns up reversed in a reading, we're talking about creative blocks, a void in the emotional aspect of our lives, giving too much of ourselves in our relationships, or bottling things up. Anytime we're lacking in what Venus represents or we're acting our Venus inappropriately (see - smothering behavior, over-emotional outbursts, etc.), we can expect to see this reversal.
One interesting thing I've noted is that I've seen this reversal tied to deep, unhealthy co-dependency in many readings.
We've discussed in a number of places throughout my blogs how Western Culture doesn't value a lot of what Venus represents. So, it can become easy for us to become somewhat deficient with regards to our relationships, our creativity and our overall softness. This card is a red flag that you're getting out of balance, and you're starting to lack some of the very important things that The Empress brings to our lives.