Hi Oddball, here's how I understand these cards (with the caveat that this is of course all my interpretation).
Right now, everyone looks up to you as the Empress. You have a reputation for being responsible, dependable, mature, and generous; either you are a mother, or in some kind of caretaking role that requires you to be "mothering". However, your Shadow indicates that, whether you know it or not, you are chafing underneath that pressure. You're young, but you already feel that being that kind of adult is a loss. I get the feeling that you're grieving some "roads not taken", that you had to give up some youthful dreams to be the Empress (that grief is represented in the 5 of Cups). Although you don't hate your reputation of being dependable, you wonder: what if this is it for me? What if it never changes?
What you fear about the Empress is that you'll always have a stable and predictable life, but one that is utterly boring and unfulfilling. You may already know someone who is like this -- someone whom you pity because they gave up on their dreams for security. You never want to be like them, but you're worried that this is where you're going, and one day in 20 years you'll wake up and realize you are just like them.
On the other hand, the Queen of Pentacles (who is really quite similar to the Empress) asks you not to be afraid that this will happen. The Queen of Pentacles is a deep and critical part of you -- I sense that though you act the Empress in day-to-day life, you haven't quite tapped into the Queen of Pentacles yet, aligning your outsides with your insides. She is a reminder of the best possible qualities of the Empress -- someone who is strong, resourceful, and practical (as you already are). But she also has a great sense of humor and knows how to have a good time too (probably surrounded by loved ones and family). She can be as unyielding as the oak, and also as supple and flexible as the willow tree. You know that if the Queen of Pentacles because dissatisfied with her lot and life, she could just as easily change course. In that case, her strength, groundedness, and resilience would be your assets, not hindrances. (Is the Queen of Pentacles perhaps someone in your life already?).
How do you go about doing this? It seems like, if it hasn't happened already, the Tower is coming your way. The Tower might be an intimidating card, but I've learned not to be so afraid of it (at the beginning of 2015, I drew the Tower as a significator for my entire year. I was so nervous -- but it brought on so many great changes for me!). There is some kind of opportunity that has the potential to totally change your life, though it may be disguised initially as a crisis. If you're willing to take what the Tower has to offer, it may help you tap deep into that inner strength and rootedness that the Empress and the Queen of Pentacles have to offer, while embracing the change.
If you can do this, the Hierophant represents the outcome. I associate it most strongly with education -- is there an educational opportunity in your future, or perhaps a desire to be the educator? Either way, in my favorite deck, the Hierophant is represented by a tree or treant
. I see that as the perfect symbol of what integrating your Shadow and your Light would be -- someone who is strongly rooted, but also is growing and changing.
I'm surprised by how many Major Arcana cards are in this reading -- seems to me to represent some pretty deep forces in your life that go beyond some temporary circumstances, possibly dating back to childhood. As you can tell, the suit of Pentacles seems to have a very strong influence here, and you may also want to reflect on your relationship with the element of Earth.
So that's my interpretation. Would love to hear your feedback, good or bad! Thanks!