The Emperor Tarot Card MeaningKerry Ward
The Emperor is a powerful, strong, commanding presence in the tarot, a symbol of authority and security, a ‘father figure’.
In an abstract sense, The Emperor governs the notions of structure, law, rulings, order and hierarchies, the things which keep us all in our place. Society is made up of many, many of these structures, pecking orders, and systems of law and order. Some good and necessary, some maybe outdated and corrupt, some trying but struggling, some pure evil. You decide. You determine what a ‘good’ structure looks like and delivers. The Emperor is the best of this notion- a necessary, protective and grounding force for good.
This is what a psychologist Dr. LeMeita Smith, Ph.D says about The Emperor card: “Each card of the Major Arcana represents an archetype defined by Jung, which carries a significant meaning. Within the collective conscious lies authority, structure, and order represented by the tarot card known as the Emperor. The emperor depicts the role of provider, tasked with protecting and defending your loved ones. When the Emperor appears within tarot it symbolizes a journey towards personal growth and conformity. Jung describes this journey as necessary to build the foundation needed to embrace your whole psychological self. An instinctual motivation to attain love and power is a central goal within this process of revealing the divine self. The Jungian viewpoint further defines the emergence of the Emperor to represent a time for overcoming challenges in life to achieve goals. This archetype encourages purposeful movement towards embracing the innate qualities designed to guide you through your current situation. Within the journey of the Emperor an individual is encouraged to face conflict with confidence. The Jungian viewpoint describes this journey as a representation of the conscious and unconscious mind merging to overcome inadequacy. The Emperor becomes a valuable ally during the transition to one’s higher self, described by Jung as the process of individuation.”
The Emperor is pro active and purposeful. A character who is self disciplined and inspired by an ambition or goal. There’s something to aim for as well as the control and determination necessary to take the right steps to make it a reality. The Emperor takes control, assumes the leader role, and gets sh** done. It’s hard to be like The Emperor all the time, in real life, but there are certainly phases in all of our histories when we can see we have taken on this attitude and behaviour. Or maybe we’d like to. Or maybe we feel we’re under the spell of another Emperor and need to detach in order to make our own magic.
The Emperor favours practical outcomes and pragmatic solutions that will work in real life – nothing too flash, outlandish, risky or inconsistent. Slow and steady wins the day. A proven solution is worth much more than a powerful notion. The Emperor will always favour stability, the norm, the status quo.
The Emperor often turns up when we need to evaluate our relationships with others, particularly if we need to set (or adhere to) new boundaries. In the give and take, sometimes one person can take too much or become accustomed to setting the mood, agenda, tone. Don’ get pushed around – summon your Emperor-y energy and push back.
Reversed meaning: A reversed Emperor brings the shadow side of this card’s energy to the foreground. The root cause of it is likely to be connected to the theme of unhealthy dominance. This can play out in unhealthy relationship dynamics, where one person is a total Alpha and dominates the other. Maybe even bullying. This could be a rigid or dogmatic approach to a situation or a commitment to an ideology that doesn’t work or serve the situation well. It could be an upfront power struggle between two entities. There is probably conflict ahead.
Astrological significance: The Emperor is the tarot talisman for Aries and embodies the Mars-fuelled power of that sign- passion, vitality, charisma, energy, ambition (also- dominance, aggression, selfishness…). Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, its literal ‘baby’ in that Aries people have an in-built selfishness and self-absorption that matches The Emperor’s thirst to do what’s best for him first. I suppose we all have to learn to put ourselves first at some point, otherwise we end up as supporting cast members in other people’s stories.
Mars is a planet of passion and ambition, fuelling and driving our goals and activity. The Emperor is always on the front foot, taking the next step, being led by his true desires and passions.
Aries is a cardinal sign, positioned at the start of a season, which lends The Emperor the cardinal ability to be a great self-starter and initiator, a person able to work with a blank sheet of paper and invent or design a new lifestyle or path.
Mars is, relatively, close to Earth (unlike the outer planets) so its influence is fairly fast and furious- days possibly weeks, rather than months and years. Aries season starts at the end of March and lasts until the end of April, which may be when this card’s influence unfolds.
Numerological significance: The number 4 represents builders, process-creators, improvers, practical and pragmatic creators. The Emperor is a builder and, in fact, is symbolically linked to building structures- be they metaphorical or physical. So, build, create, design, and organise. Make your environment work for you, put yourself in a good place, create what’s needed to make it safe, secure and fulfilling.
- Bring structure and routine to your daily life. Focus on the small, humdrum, everyday things you do EVERY DAY and make them as perfect, easy, fulfilling, or successful as possible. Id you make the everyday excellent, then that’s 80% of your life running smoothly and well.
- Examine your relationship landscape for imbalances. Where are the dynamics off or skewed in one person’s favour unfairly? Seek to redress balances by discussion, adapting new behaviours, or serving a period of withdrawal to recalibrate.
- Take care of others, look after those you feel are under your wing, be protective.
- Stand up for yourself. Voice your opinions. Express your desires. Demand your needs are met.
- Set boundaries. Think about areas where you are intruded upon or pushed around and consider what you can do differently or organise in an alternative way to stop that happening. Put measures in place.
- Ask for a promotion or more responsibility at work.
- Take the lead. Step into the role of leader. Set an example. Make the big decisions.
- Look at the ‘father figures’ in your history and current realm. What lessons, good and bad, can you learn from each?
- Make a 10 year plan. Where are you heading and what do you want?
- Be consciously self disciplined. Force yourself to do your chores and tasks, on time and well, and create a ritual or routine that makes this easy and a default.
Yes / no meaning: This card has YES energy if you are truly doing what it is YOU authentically want to do and it’s serving your own best interests. If not, or there is any doubt, then pause. Are you being pressured, persuaded, or even steam-rollered into accepting or initiating a course of action that isn’t entirely in your best interests or is 100% your own choice.