Are you in control now? Has a situation bent to your authority? Have the principles you live your life by created an orderly world for you? Have you been obsessed with alphabetizing your collections and files or otherwise turned into an organizational obsessive? Is there an authority figure in your life showing you the way? All of these situations call forth The Emperor card from the Tarot deck. This is the card that asserts authority, organizes systems to retain maximum control and is the paternal influence of the Tarot deck, assuring that protection and security are provided to all those playing by the rules.
A bearded man sits alone on a stone throne. His white beard extends to his chest. He is crowned and wears royal robes. But his legs and feet are still in a suit of armor. In his right hand he holds a royal staff of gold. In his left, he holds a golden globe. An orange sky glows behind him, lighting the mountainous landscape into a brilliant yellow. The ornamentation of the throne, though, does not glisten, as the ram skulls adorning the corners of his armrest and chair back are a solid gray stone. He is looking straight at you.
The long beard is, of course, an indicator of wisdom accrued through age. The crown asserts his status. The staff and globe are his authority and his domain, respectively. He is still wearing armor, assuring us that he will do battle if necessary, but that his sitting on the throne alone should assert that which has already been established through conflicts now settled. The sky and background are unique in the Tarot. The deck delivers cloudless blue skies on cards that favor positive outcomes, black backgrounds when there are hopeless elements to our situations and all manners of grays and cloud formations to be interpreted as positives, negatives and neutrals regarding your outlook. An orange sky occurs in sunrises and sunsets near large bodies of water. The card that asserts so many absolutes again has the final word, as The Emperor himself is lit by the light that only exists at land’s end.
Meaning in Past, Present and Future Positions
When your Tarot reading is dealt out, the cards are placed in a pattern. Each position of this pattern represents your past, your present or your future. The Emperor may represent you or someone in your life depending on where it lands in your reading.
In the past position, The Emperor represents a father or other authority figure who laid down the law and set a firm definition of acceptable behavior for you. Perhaps you rebelled against him or his teachings, or maybe they helped to keep you out of harm’s way. If you are in a secure position now, you have The Emperor in this position to thank. But some people do abuse their authority and if you are alone and alienated after being witness to the abuse of authority, this card confirms that the blame is there. Often we are given rule over our world and mess things up ourselves. Other times, the trust that put us in the care of another is at fault when this person goes overboard and so The Emperor represents a tyrant.
When The Emperor is in the present position, you have the rule of law before you to guide you on your journey. This card is especially strong in the present position as it gives you an absolute confidence to move toward a goal. This can also represent the influence of another person in your life right now. Are you so enamored of a new friend or lover that you have started following the advice and lifestyle habits of him or her? Have you discovered a new hero in the arts whose work has expanded your consciousness to the point that it is hard to relate to people who have not had a similar reaction to this person’s artistic output? Is there a new teacher in your life who has changed the way you think? Perhaps a new person at work is transforming the way you approach your on-the-job goals. The theme running through all of these possibilities is that one way of seeing the world is coming to dominate the way you experience life.
The future position is an uncomfortable position for The Emperor. The days and weeks ahead are vague and quite affected by the smallest decisions of the here and now. The Emperor card demands to assert itself. When The Emperor card is here, anticipate a change to come into your life in a bold manner; expectations to conform in the way you carry yourself may be part of this picture. Regardless of the situation, understand that new demands to follow a specific behavioral prescription will be coming your way and coming in the near future. Prepare now to submit, evade or resist.
Your Tarot reading features a selection of cards from the deck. While every card has its own complex meaning, each one has a relationship with other cards in the deck that is expressed when they join up in your reading. The presence of each card influences all of the cards spread before you.
Numbered 4, The Emperor is related to card #14: Temperance. This is the card of self-discipline. When Temperance and The Emperor are in a reading together, it is a Tarot reading reveling in your astounding level of self-control.
When any of the Minor Arcana cards with the number 4 appear, this reading is underscoring aspects of The Emperor’s reign: The Four of Wands emphasizes establishing structures to make a joyous life. The Four of Swords underscores the patience and virtue of The Emperor. The Four of Pentacles reinforces the absolutes of this card and reminds us that in some circles, The Emperor is downright close-minded as he is so set in his ways. The Four of Cups is a card that convinces us to do without in the name of personal integrity, a hallmark of The Emperor.
When The Chariot is in a reading with The Emperor, you will be rewarded with a leadership position after a hard-fought victory. When The Devil card is present, an authority figure is being cruel with you and those close to you – or you are abusing your authority and could be closer to a crisis than you realize.
The High Priestess interferes with the reign of The Emperor as this card can represent a love interest far out of your league and simply becomes a roadblock to your enjoyment of life. If The High Priestess is not pursued, though, you can benefit from the wisdom of a platonic friendship. The Empress is the best card to pair up with The Emperor in your reading, as she is open-minded enough to balance the rigidity of The Emperor, but still regal enough that you can succeed on your own well-established terms.