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. A jewel encrusted crown signifies his power.
He is quite the authoritarian figure staring back at us. In the previous Tarot card, the The Empress was the symbol of motherly love – she represented the natural order of life and had all the gentle power of Mother Earth.
In stark contrast, 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, systems, rules and authority all imposed with force if necessary. He sits on an artificial chair, one that had to be carved from rock to enhance his power status. The Empress sat on soft cushions, within nature. The Emperor has no hint of anything natural about his stance. He is the medieval King who’s authority is absolute.
The armour beneath his robes hints at man’s willingness to subdue by force those who do not heed his authority. The rams engraved on the throne remind one of Aries and the willingness to go to war for what they desire. Also the first astrological sign of the Zodiac, Aries is represented by the Ram and they want to be first.
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. His jewel encrusted crown is what gives him status and power. Material wealth allows him to exert his authority but it is not a natural authority.
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. You may feel like you have no say in your path or rules enforced on you are leaving you feeling oppressed.
In relationships, this card can signify a partner who controls the relationship. It may be very lopsided, perhaps you are always doing his (or her) thing rather than doing things by mutual agreement. In business, it may mean stifling authority with no say in company direction.
At best, the Emperor can signify that you may require some order in your life. Ideally, this should come from within and not from someone else. You may need to plan your activities better, map out how to reach your goals, plot how the day, week, month or year will pan out. If you tend to go through projects and life freewheeling, being dragged towards every corner, maybe it’s time you decided to put in place a system that works for you.
At worst, The Emperor 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. It may even be us that are imposing our rules and expectations on another.
The Emperor Reversed
The Emperor reversed suggests that artificial rules and authority currently dominate to an extreme. The Emperor has become a bad King. He dictates and rules so much 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, that we need to escape this authoritarian dictatorship, 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! Too often, we are our own worst enemies and we talk ourselves our of endless possibilities because we are afraid of breaking the mould we have cast ourselves in.
Do not be afraid to listen to your gut instinct. The Emperor reversed is a warning to us that the control we are experiencing in whatever sphere of our life that concerns us, is stifling us and preventing us from traveling further along our path.