Seated on his throne, the Emperor faces the querent full on. In one hand, he holds the Egyptian Ankh. Rams’ heads are engraved upon his throne, four in total. The Emperor wears armour beneath his robes. His throne is hewn from stone. Mountains are depicted in the background with a red sky overhead. An jewel encrusted crown signifies the emperor.
The Emperor is the opposite to The Empress. As the symbol of motherly love, the Empress represented the natural order of life. The Emperor represents authority, man’s dominion over all that comes before him. Despite his human form, the Emperor is unnatural – he is artificial order, rules and authority all imposed with force if necessary. His armour beneath his robes hints at man’s willingness to subdue by force those who do not heed his authority. The ram’s engraved on the throne remind one of Aries and the willingness to go to war for what they desire. The throne is of cold hard stone in contrast to the soft furnishings of the Empresses’s throne.
The Emperor imposes an order of sorts on the world – his own order. He is not an authority that obeys any God. He is his own God. The Egyptian Ankh (also known as the key of life) symbolises eternal life and holding it, the Emperor offers himself as powerful as any God. In his other hand is possibly a globe, a symbol of the earth he rules.
Whereas the Empress was the secret of the High Priestess revealed to mankind, the Emperor is the ruler that attempts to bury and control that secret. The Emperor does not like man knowing the truth – it would threaten his authority and so his rule is enforced, an artificial order that demands obedience is enacted. He is big government, the ever watchful authority that prevents and guides people to act only in the manner desired by those in power. Freedom, love and natural order are anathema to the Emperor.
In readings, the Emperor signifies an autocratic ruler or rules being enforced on a situation. Pragmatic and orderly rule will replace randomness and spiritual progress. There may be an element of domination, of no room for mistakes or free wheeling.
At best, the Emperor can signify that you may require some order in your life. Ideally, this should come from within. You should plan your activities, map out how to reach your goals, plot how the day, week, month or year will pan out. At worst, it suggests domination and an enforcement of an artificial order. It is the corporate company dominating the natural environment. He is the head ruling the heart.
The Emperor reversed suggests that artificial rules and authority currently dominate. The structure of the Emperor has gone to extremes, so much so that we are feeling enslaved and disenfranchised. It may be at work, at home, in a relationship or friendship but at some level we are being denied (or are denying ourselves) the freedom to follow our own path. Our gut instinct screams at us that the path we are on is wrong, yet we feel forced to follow it.
This card reversed can suggest it is time to loosen the restrictions that prevent us from living free. That may mean standing up to those in power or bluntly ignoring their autocratic rules and demands. It may signal a profound shift in our lives, a rebalancing of the power in our relationships, work or family life. It should not be ruled out that the card itself does not point at us as the source of the authoritarian rule!