Updated: Jun 9, 2018
Are you searching for more structure and masculine energy in your life? This week in our tarot series we’re featuring at the The Emperor, diving deep with tips for readings and advice for bringing the lessons of the card into our lives.
The Spirit of the Emperor
Those who follow the path of the righteous
Shall have their reward
And if they fall
As Lucifer fell
In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness
With order and light
You are the sentinels
Silent and sure
Keeping watch in the night
Keeping watch in the night
You know your place in the sky
You hold your course and your aim
And each in your season
Returns and returns
And is always the same
And if you fall as Lucifer fell
You fall in flame!
And so it must be, and so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!
- “Stars,” Les Miserables
Although words such as “patriarch” and “patriarchy” are often loaded terms in modern society, the Emperor embodies the superlative and most beneficial aspects of these ideals. If the Empresses is the feminine principle within the material plane, than the Emperor is the male complement. He is Zeus or Odin incarnate, far-seeing and wise, willing to take a firm hand to difficult decisions, he is the epitome of the fatherly ideal, providing order and structure to all within his kingdom.
Most often the Emperor is depicted sitting on his throne, stern and wise on visage. In his hands he frequently hold signifiers of his pedigree: an Ankh, a royal orb, or a scepter. Most of often he will appear as Medieval king of yore, with ermine robes and crown, while in other decks he is depicted as Caesar, crowned with laurels. In either case, the color of his robes — often red, but sometimes purple — gesture towards the passion of his character.
The Emperor offers us guidance and wisdom in our lives. He has experienced much in life — and has the battle scars to prove it. From him we can learn much. When you are on the good side of the Emperor, he represents security, stability, and comfort. Through his firm rulings he brings order from chaos.
If the Empress governs the emotional realm, the Emperor’s domain is mind: logic, order, and structure. He executes on plans in a practical and ordered fashion, and because he is the pater familias of all, he holds the resources needed at his fingertips.
While historically a very positive and supportive card, it’s important to know that in modern time the Emperor has also taken on the connotations of contemporary patriarchy, including the injustice of hegemonic patriarchal governments or institutions. For many, the Emperor has taken to represent the claustrophobic and mindless order of bureaucracy and passive fascism.
The Emperor does not always represent this — for many he still represents a positive, fatherly, and reassuring influence on our lives; however, it’s important that we take context account when reading for ourselves or others. What may seem like comforting stability to some may feel stifling — if not outright oppressive — to others.
In a Reading
When you receive the Emperor upright, you are being called to channel your inner leader and to make manifest your dreams. He represents status & recognition, stability, authority, law & order, strength, and self-control.
If you receive the Emperor reversed, ask yourself if there is currently an abuse of power in your life? This may represent an individual who is volatile, domineering, exploitative, and stubborn. They are likely a boss, lover, teacher, father, or otherwise masculine energy figure of authority in your life. His inconstancy in mood and emotional outbursts underly deeper insecurities.
If the question you are asking deals with your career or work life, the reversed Emperor suggests that you need an occupation that is less structured, more emotionally supportive, and less fraught with power imbalances.
In personal relationships, the reversed Emperor is a yellow flag that there is likely deep inequality in the relationship. Your partner may even appear possessive, overbearing, controlling, and emotionally manipulative.
Alternatively, they may be inflexible and too rules oriented, focusing more on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it.
The Emperor’s Advice
When you come across the Emperor, ask yourself if your life is too structured, or not structured enough? Consider the creeping vine on a trellis: the lattice work supports the green tendrils as they take shape so that they may eventually break free to bloom. The human spirit functions much the same way, seeking stability and shelter in order to eventually evolve beyond. Make sure that you have the right amount of structure in your life.