Jean Grey by Mike Mayhew

3 Empress: Jean Grey

Today we continue our look at the Major Arcana through the lens of Marvel’s X-Men comic book characters! Thus far we have discussed Professor X as The Magician and Storm as the High Priestess.  This week we honor the telekinetic Marvel Girl, Jean Grey!

Jean was ten years old when she was playing with her best friend Annie and Annie was hit by a car.  Jean held her dying friend and experienced Annie’s last thoughts and feelings as Jean’s telepathic powers manifested. The trauma of this experience led Jean to withdraw into a near catatonic state. A psychiatric recommendation a year later led Jean’s parents to Professor Charles Xavier who was able to reach Jean mind to mind with his telepathy.

Jean Grey became the first student to enroll at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Professor X erected mental barriers around Jean’s telepathic talents even as her telekinesis manifested. He trained her in these abilities and Jean became the fifth member to join the X-Men taking on the code name of Marvel Girl.

X-factor -  Jean Grey by Walt Simonson

As the only female on the team, Jean received a lot of attention from the other X-Men, especially from Warren Kenneth Worthington III, the Angel. Scott Summers long carried a torch for Jean but sublimated his emotions due to his leadership obligations as Cyclops. Jean was attracted to Scott as well but their mutual attraction would stay unrequited for many years.

After graduating from Xavier’s School, Jean’s folks had her transferred to Metro College. Scott was devastated. When Jean returned to Xavier’s revealing she missed being a full-time super-hero, Cyclops finally expressed his love for Jean and they began dating. It was also during this time that Professor X removed the mental barriers blocking Jean’s telepathy.

On a mission with the All-New, All-Different international X-Men team, Jean died piloting a space shuttle and the entity as the Phoenix Force put her body into a healing cocoon and took her place. This era is known as The Phoenix Sage and then later as The Dark Phoenix Saga. Jean was later found in the bottom of the ocean in a cocoon. Jean was a member of X-Factor and then the X-Men of good standing for some time before her demise and rebirth. And then she died again and was reborn. She is currently classified as dead even though she appeared to “retire” to the White Hot Room, a kind of cosmic purgatory.

It has always been a hallmark of Jean’s character to be supportive. In her love affair with Scott, in her student mentorship with Xavier and her sisterly friendship with Storm, Jean is a portrait of compassion. She represents a foundation of trust in all of her roles with her fellow X-Men.  Her cyclical relationship with the Phoenix Force is a testament to her connection to the cosmic power of love. With its power boosting her telekinesis she was able to repair Emma Frost’s shattered diamond form on the molecular level. As the Phoenix of the White Crown she was able to create new timelines. Jean has died and been reborn several times representing the natural life cycle. Love never dies.

Jean Grey by Ed Benes

In Tarot, the Empress is the archetype of the mother, nurturing, mature and devoted. The Empress relates to the Queens in the Tarot as well, individuating her maternal powers into the four elements. An Empress sees the beauty and grace in themselves and this opens her up to the beauty of the world and those around her. There is also guidance and leadership in this card. This relates to Jean being the confidante of many of the X-Men as well as having led the team and the school at times. Headmistress was Jean’s final title before she died of a magnetically induced stroke.

In my X-Men Tarot series, Jean is represented by the Nines. They represent challenges relating to personal integrity and completing our lessons. Nines also correlate to the Major Arcana Hermet card which represents one’s inner sage or guide. As a telepath of great power, Jean has always been challenged to rely on her inner voice as she can “hear” everybody  else’s.

Jean could be considered a candidate to represent the Death card as she has died and been reborn many times. However, I feel that this characteristic belongs more to the Phoenix Force than to the personality of Jean Grey. The Empress is the archetype of unconditional love. Jean has always had an open heart for her loved ones and teammates, never refusing anyone in need. Her rivalry with Emma Frost came about because Emma represented a threat to her marriage but Jean still used her powers to help bring Emma back to life. Before Jean died, she gave Scott her blessing to be with Emma because her love for Scott was greater than her feelings of jealousy. She is the embodiment of unconditional love.

Jean Grey by Frank Quitely

I gave consideration for the Empress card to Emma Frost because she owns the title of Queen and she does have unconditional love for her students. However, this love does not translate to the world in the way that Jean’s generosity does. Jean simply works better as Empress. Do not despair, Emma Frost fans! A future post contains our White Queen as representing a different Tarot achetype.

Artwork in this post by Mike Mayhew, Walt Simonson, Ed Benes, and Frank Quitely, respectively.