The Emperor: Structured Leadership
I didn’t expect the Emperor to resonate with me, and yet I find that it did. It’s hard to consider the Emperor without comparing him to the Empress, the yin and yang, though not necessarily in opposition but in completing the whole. Growing up, I felt most comfortable with structure and rationality and found my emotions challenging and chaotic. As a water sign (Cancer) and growing up with three brothers, I spent most of my time hiding in the bathroom, crying and getting frustrated with myself for being “a girl”!
During this period of isolation, I find myself being more accepting of my emotional side and actively working to not pass judgement on it. It’s a start and still a work-in-progress as I thrive when I feel in control, but you can’t really be “in control” when the pandemic makes the future feel utterly unpredictable and uncertain.
4. THE EMPEROR
What you see: The Emperor sits on a throne, adorned with four rams heads, and in front of a mountainous landscape with a tiny stream running through. In his right hand he holds an ankh, and in his left he carries a globe. He wears a suit of armour, draped with red garments and with a ram on his left shoulder. The Emperor has a long white beard and wears a gold crown.
What it means: Just as the Empress is the mother archetype, the Emperor is the father. The rams are a symbol of Aries (or emblem of Mars), and the throne against the mountains denote the Emperor’s dominion over the material world. The Egyptian ankh symbolizes his rule over life and the globe, his rule over the world. The armour depicts protection, the white beard his experience and wisdom, the crown his rule, and the red robes signify passion and energy. Finally, the stream indicates that he is still an emotional being.
The story: As a character, the Emperor is the ruler and father. He is the Magician after his union with the High Priestess, makes him a father. He provides wisdom, protection and leadership. As an event, he symbolizes structure and stability; bound by rules and regulations he brings calm to chaos. As a relationship, the Emperor brings mentorship and guidance. As a sign, the card urges rational and strategic action to bring fruitful results.
As part of the Fool’s Journey: The Emperor is the father figure; guidance and support during the formative childhood years.
Reversed meaning: Upside down, the card signifies loss of control and power, chaos and immaturity.
In mythology: The Emperor is associated with Mars in Roman mythology (or the Greek God Ares; Aries in the zodiac), the God of War, husband to Venus and the founder of Rome, as he was the father to Remus and Romulus. He can also be likened to the Egyptian God Horus, the personification of divine and regal power, and the Norse God Odin, a relentless seeker and giver of wisdom.
Potential insights: Just as motherhood is traditionally characterized as nurturing and bringing growth, fatherhood offers rules and order to further shape that growth. A balance of both is required — structure and spontaneity, strength and vulnerability, rational and emotional intelligence.
I never considered that a lot of my self-perception and outlook, at least that parts that I have accepted, are masculine. I am a very rational and practical person, and I love system and order, justice (we’ll talk about this later, I’m sure!) and stability. However, I am also emotional, compassionate and nurturing—parts that I hope to pay more attention to in the future.
My research sources:
A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Eden Gray, 1970
Tarot Card Meanings, Biddy Tarot
Deck: The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®