The Empress is all about creation. It's about planting the seed, nurturing it, growing it. It's about patience and "motherhood" in all its facets, with the Empress as the ultimate mother - both the caring motherly kind, and the more distant, elegant kind, but in either case, the hen watching over her brood. Note that there is always a danger of the Empress over-watering the plants or having trouble (as moms do) in letting their children go when the time comes.
1) Opposite: Using negatives of the card reversed, we get neglect instead of attention. The woman who doesn't water her plants - or doesn't pay attention to her children. There is a danger in the upright Empress of smothering the child. In the reversed Empress, the danger is that she won't nurture the child enough. No affection, no protection, no care to make sure the child grows right. Here is the woman who takes a child to a restaurant, and then ignores the kid as he goes racing up and down, playing under tables, interfering with the staff, getting into trouble.
This can go for anything, not just children. Neglecting a business or project that OUGHT to be dear to one's heart, ought to be one's baby but you just don't have the patience for it.
2) Blocked: This goes one step further, I think, then the opposite. In this case, the Empress' nurturing, growing energy is blocked. It is almost as if the child were not merely neglected, but abandoned. There is no desire to help anything grow. The watering can is left to rust.
All the instincts of the Empress - knowing when to transplant that tree to a new pot so it can spread its roots, knowing when to prune it, fertilize it, are blocked. In this instance, the querent doesn't know how to help their business, children, or project grow and develop. They may be clueless, have no such instincts and need outside help - or they may need to find a way to re-discover their mothering instincts.
3) Upside-down: Turn the Rider-Waite image upside-down and we not only unseat the Empress, we uproot all her trees and scatter all her grain. Her crown of stars falls off her head, and the stream (the one that starts in the High Priestess card), drains away. Her feet are no long planted on the Earth.
If we turn this card upside-down we go farther than just not being able to grow - we tear out what is already growing and living and kill it. We uproot everything, including the Empress. Viewing this card upside-down gives us perhaps the most terrible interpretation of it, the wanton destruction of all that is growing and thriving and beautiful. This is the card that might come up when discussing the cutting down of rainforests or desecration of natural landscapes or anything beautiful, the destruction of works or art, of someone's business or home or family.
The nurturing isn't merely blocked-it is actively, wantonly destroyed. This is abuse or even violence. Growth isn't merely neglected or stopped; it is actively, vindictively prevented.
Curious about this card when upright? Go to our Tarot Card Meanings.