Whether you’re new to tarot or have been reading for a while, here’s some tarot interpretations and meanings for the Emperor card.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- Keyword & Phrases Meanings of the Emperor – Upright
- Keyword & Phrases Meanings of the Emperor – Reversed
Let’s begin with the symbolism and interpretation of the Emperor card.
Interpretation of The Emperor Card
The Emperor is associated with masculinity and fatherhood – but how you view this can be reflected in your own personal experiences connected to masculinity and fatherhood.
He is often seen as detached, stern and powerful having earned his power and authority.
However, some people have difficulty connecting with The Emperor’s energy and can see him as too barren, harsh and strict.
The Emperor represents authority and command and can be connected to the organization within business or a family.
He represents personal drive and is the yang energy to the yin energy of The Empress.
The Emperor is often associated with masculinity and fatherhood as mentioned above, but this shouldn’t limit The Emperor only to people who identify as male or cis-males.
This is a universal energy that anyone of any gender can identify and see traits of the Emperor in themselves.
The Emperor can also be associated with a situation that has the markings or energy of the Emperor.
When the Emperor is reversed, he can be seen as weak and feeble like an old king or emperor that has decreased in vitality and has aged, losing his authority and power over the people.
However, looking at The Emperor in the Rider Waite Smith tarot, he wears armour on his throne – even upright, he still has his armour on.
This can represent that the Emperor can be vulnerable, that he can be susceptible just like everyone else.
His armour can be a status of protection, but underneath it all, he is flesh and bone like the rest of us.
It’s reminds us that even while masculinity is often seen as harsh, barren and lacking emotion when compared to the feminine, nature-loving Empress, there’s still humanity within masculinity and therefore, the Emperor as well.
Creating a personal connection with The Emperor can help break down the disconnect between feminine and masculine.
There is a commonality that both The Emperor and The Empress reside in everyone.
The Emperor and The Empress are a mated pair; they compliment one another; they need each other.
Next we’ll see how the astrological sign Aries is connected to The Emperor.
Astrology and The Emperor Card
All the major and minor arcana cards are associated with the planets and signs.
The Emperor is associated with Aries – the first sign in the astrological zodiac.
Aries is a fire sign that jumpstarts the zodiac, which the first day of Aries is also the first day of spring (in the northern hemisphere.)
As Aries, the Emperor is seen as an initiator, bold and daring – he gets things started.
However, this doesn’t always mean that he will be the one to carry out the plans.
The Emperor is a master delegator like a modern day project-manager.
He has the vision, he knows what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, he can motivate people to get it started, then can watch closely to see how the plans are carried out.
Aries is associated with Mars (which in tarot Mars is associated with The Tower), but as you will see in the Rider Waite Smith tarot, the Emperor wears red clothing over armour.
As noted below in the numerology section, four is a stable and foundational number.
The Emperor is the number four and is connected to Mars. Mars is connected to The Tower.
While The Emperor is a card that builds a solid foundation so that you can take initiative and build something new, the Tower (associated with Mars) destroys that solid foundation to rubble.
These two aspects of Mars being a powerful creator and destroyer in two frames:
- one as a structural foundation in Aries to take command and leadership, channeling and harnessing the power of Mars
- two as in The Tower, Mars is left on his own to smash and destroy what the Emperor had created as his symbol of power and status.
Red is the colour of Mars and even in the night sky when Mars is visible, you’ll see the red glow of the red planet.
Mars is seen as aggression, war and passion, but combined with Aries, together Mars has purpose and a reason to channel this energy into something productive and to take initiative.
Mars in Aries has purpose, coming into full power, channelled more precisely to create something and start something new out of nothing from before.
Next we’ll look at how the number 4 in numerology is connected to the Emperor.
Numerology and The Emperor Card
The Emperor is the number 4 in tarot, which the number 4 is often seen as stability and structure.
Four is a foundational number: to build a stable house or building, you need four walls.
The number 4 is seen as masculine, also representing the four elements of air, fire, earth and water.
Four is also considered a building-block number.
Not only with the four elements can things be created (as in alchemy), four is a structural number such as can be seen in geometry with the shape of a square and its uses in sacred geometry.
Four is a number of patience, structure, stability and foundation.
Even in the Rider Waite Smith version of the Emperor, there are four ram heads on the throne (representing the astrological sign Aries), echoing the symbolism of four and its combined energy with Aries.
Keyword & Phrases Meanings of the Emperor Card – Upright
- Structure & Organization (this can be a corporate organization or the act of organizing at work, school or home – how something is structured and organized in ways of chain of command)
- Fatherhood / Parenthood (being the one who “wears the pants” so to speak or the one who “puts their foot down” – doesn’t necessarily always mean a male-gendered person)
- Leader / Boss / Command / CEO (someone in charge of a project, group, company or organization who takes charge and command with little to no emotion or feelings in the way)
- Someone or someplace with a tough exterior
- Someone hot-tempered or forceful when making a point or taking charge (but not to be mean or hurtful, it’s just their attitude)
- Someone with an Aries sun, Aries moon, progressed Aries sun or progressed Aries moon (astrology)
- A situation that is stable and solid or “not going anywhere” (e.g. in it for the short- or foreseeable-future)
- A person that is stable, solid or “not going anywhere” (e.g. seeing things through ‘til the end)
- A powerful person (can be someone who commands respect which can be earned through experience, position of authority, career or age)
- Military (can be connected to someone in the military or the armed forces)
- Feeling stable and secure enough with a solid foundation to take initiative to start new projects, ventures and take charge
Keyword & Phrases Meanings of the Emperor – Reversed
- Issues with father(s) / parenthood (this can be from a parent / child perspective if you’re the parent or can be your connection to your own parent)
- Loss of authority or power / feeling weak or having little to no power to command or give orders
- Feeling walked on or trampled by others who disrespect your authority, leadership or parenthood
- Someone who is no longer seen as powerful and mighty (realizing they are human after all or have vulnerabilities)
- Someone being too strict / harsh in their leadership, authority or orders
- Disconnection from divine masculinity or a skewed image of masculinity (feeling / “heart” from masculinity removed and becoming barren and deserted)
- Corrupted image or representation of masculinity (not in balance)
- Problems in the military (may be regarding a military person)
- Not having a solid foundation (what you thought would support you isn’t strong enough)
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3 thoughts on “Learn Tarot: The Emperor Card Meanings”
This is a great overview of the card, and I appreciate your understanding of its function. Modern readers often skew the masculine/feminine qualities in favor of the favorable feminine, but you describe the balance of the Emperor in its rightful place. Well done.
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