Card Meaning: IV The Emperor

The Emperor
Element: Fire
Zodiac: Aries
Hebrew letter: Heh, ה


   If we are to know The Emperor, first we must know The Empress. There is an obvious contrast between the two. We can say that in a way they   complement each other. The Emperor sits serious and uprightly, upon the comfortless throne of a granite while The Empress leisurely lies on a soft and comfortable chair. Lifeless rocks fill the background of the card. He holds a glass ball in his left hand and an Ankh cross in right. A crown on his head shows his authory. The Emperor is the law and rationality, konwledge and consciousness. He is a more mature version of The Magician. Where The Empress and the High Priestess have rich symbolism, the symbolism of The Emperor is actually very simple. While The Empress is focusing on her feminine side, creativity, wisdom and subconsciousness, The Emperor brings all that in the conscious realm and enforce structure and control. The granite and rocks behind the emperor signifies solid, fixed state. The Empress card is full of plants, life and fluid lines, it's all about change, growth and progress. The Empreror is constant. His card signifies the law, and true laws are not subjected to change, they are eternal. Both are working together, one representing the Nature and the other representing civilization, structure and order. The Empress is shown as being always young and caring, The Emperor is shown ancient, strict and wise. The Emperor brings stability, endurance but also a danger from stagnation. The two rams on his side shows authority, masculinity through the astrological sign of Aries. There is a glitch of dictatorship in this picture, thirsting for war and power. The Emperor is about control and accepting control for the higher good or changing circumstances against all odds. It is no coincidence that the number of this card is number four, the number of material world. This card signifies the methods and ways to get the things done in the material universum.


As The Empress card, the symbolism of this card hasn't endured much change. Most of the changes applied to this card in the past actually had their causes in changes involving other cards, usually when there was a censorship on Papess (The High Priestess) and the Pope (The Hierophant). In some Italian decks The Emperor is numbered with number three because Papess was removed from the deck and in some decks The Emperor was replaced by the card Moor.


In readings The Emperor is very clear. It is all about authority, power and discipline. There is a need for self-control to show power and attain goals. Mind over matter. Base your decision on a firm foundation. Maybe some conflict is needed for victory? Maybe some leadership is needed to resolve situation? Some man of authority might help you and stand by you in your endavours. This card has potential to manifest authority so if it appears in reading, there is a good chance that you can resolve situation by your presence alone. Negative aspect of this card can show failed ambitions or abuse of power. Sometimes indicates plans falling apart, distraction from greater goals, loss of discipline or struggle with authorities. Also, try to make decision on sound principles, review your plans and modus operandi, be realistic.

rams, throne, crown, spectre and ball

  The Emperor is the older, wiser version of The Magician, he is sitting firmly on his throne. The throne has a distinct blockish character. Manifested in conscious material universe, the throne with four side clearly symbolizes our human perception and interaction with the world. We know about four sides of the world, four elements and four winds. Four corners of the world is echo of the number four of the card. His throne is also decorated with rams' heads. Significance of the first astrological sign of Aries is obvious. Male, strong principle is a lightmotif of this card. The big, granite throne gives us a sense of immutability. The laws that this card signifies are not changed easily. Those are not petty human rules on day to day basis, they are the higher laws in this realm. The scepter in his right hand is Ankh, a symbol of life.  In his left hand he holds a glass ball, representing the world and his rule over it. He is obviously in some sort of the mountains in the rather lifeless surroundings indicating a seclusion from the realm he controls. Explanation is maybe found in Hebrew letter of this card, Heh, that stands for a window, indicating that through "window" he sees and controls the world outside of his abode. On a personal level it can be explained through a window of perception that every one of us has and use to experience the life. If you look carefully you will notice the subtle indication of river, the same river that is in The Empress card. This is a strong message that there is no separation between the nature and the higher law.

  He has a form of the Crux ansata for his sceptre and a globe in his left hand. He is a crowned monarch--commanding, stately, seated on a throne, the arms of which axe fronted by rams' heads. He is executive and realization, the power of this world, here clothed with the highest of its natural attributes. He is occasionally represented as seated on a cubic stone, which, however, confuses some of the issues. He is the virile power, to which the Empress responds, and in this sense is he who seeks to remove the Veil of Isis; yet she remains virgo intacta. It should be understood that this card and that of the Empress do not precisely represent the condition of married life, though this state is implied. On the surface, as I have indicated, they stand for mundane royalty, uplifted on the seats of the mighty; but above this there is the suggestion of another presence. They signify also--and the male figure especially--the higher kingship, occupying the intellectual throne. Hereof is the lordship of thought rather than of the animal world. Both personalities, after their own manner, are "full of strange experience," but theirs is not consciously the wisdom which draws from a higher world. The Emperor has been described as (a) will in its embodied form, but this is only one of its applications, and (b) as an expression of virtualities contained in the Absolute Being - but this is fantasy.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A.E. Waite

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