The Emperor represents an important aspect of patriarchal civilization. We may not always like his influence because of how oppressive it has been through history but we must learn to understand it. Also, it is not all bad; it has just been out of balance for a few millennia.
Before we dive deep into the energy of and correspondences for The Emperor, let’s take a look at some of the commonly attributed meanings to this card.
Positive Tarot Card Meanings for The Emperor
- Authority and Leadership: The Emperor symbolises strong leadership qualities and the ability to take control in a responsible and efficient manner.
- Structure and Organisation: This card represents a structured approach, providing stability and order in your life. It encourages you to establish a solid foundation and set clear boundaries.
- Protection and Security: The Emperor offers protection and security, creating a safe space for growth and development. It reminds you to prioritise your well-being and establish healthy boundaries.
- Achievement and Success: With the Emperor, you are likely to achieve your goals through discipline, perseverance, and determination. It encourages you to channel your ambition and make decisive strides towards success.
- Masculine Energy and Father Figure: The Emperor embodies masculine energy, representing a strong presence and guidance. It signifies the influence of a paternal figure or mentor who provides wisdom and support. Masculine energy is not inherently toxic but it becomes toxic (as does feminine energy!) when it is out of balance.
Negative Tarot Card Meanings for The Emperor
- Authoritarianism and Control: In its negative aspect, the Emperor can signify excessive control and dominance. It warns against becoming too rigid or oppressive in your approach to power.
- Inflexibility and Stubbornness: This card can indicate a lack of adaptability and resistance to change. It advises you to remain open-minded and avoid becoming too set in your ways.
- Lack of Emotional Connection: The Emperor’s focus on structure and logic sometimes leads to an emotional disconnect. It reminds you to balance your rationality with empathy and understanding.
- Abuse of Power: When misused, the Emperor’s authority can lead to abuse of power or manipulation. It cautions against becoming overly authoritarian or using your influence for self-serving purposes.
Remember, the interpretation of Tarot cards is subjective, and the context of the reading can greatly influence their meanings.
Feeling into The Emperor Energies
Deep inside you, hardwired in your brain, you have the voice of a stern father looping. He tells you what you must do in order to receive love and approval. Without the approval of this inner voice (called the ‘superego’ by Freud) we sometimes fail to feel loved, wanted or appreciated.
The Emperor knows how to do lots of things but unconditional love is not his forte. He lets his wife, The Empress, worry about that sort of thing. Yet we need his guidance through the maturation process or our lives would be in utter chaos.
The trick is to learn to recognise the voice of disapproval and shush it up when we are old enough to maintain self-discipline without the need for other people’s approval.
Structure and Strong Foundations
Corresponding to Aries, Cardinal Fire, the Emperor can indeed be a fire starter and a rebel. But this is not his most well-known persona. His respectable ordinary day-to-day appearance is that of an authority figure. Perhaps someone who is able to help us in a practical or financial way. He could represent a banker, military leader or politician; a grandfather, an overbearing partner or that pesky friend who always knows best… but he is always someone with authority.
I know a few Tarot readers who struggle with the authority of both The Emperor and the next arcanum, the tradition-bound Hierophant because they sometimes place obstacles in the way of the free intuitive flow of the High Priestess or the creativity of the Empress. We need both chaos and structure, of course.
Growing up, the conflict was centred on the polarity between the voices of the Empress and the Emperor for me. With a lack of structure and without a clear system for reward/retribution, gaining approval was tricky. Also, because my mother left when I was three, there was no way of balancing the lack of approval with unconditional love and nurturing. I spent a lot of time outside the body, daydreaming. But I had ‘safe places’ in life too. School (The Hierophant) was one and my grandmother’s (The Hermit/Crone) was another.
Back to the Emperor: We encounter him first in our father and father figures in our immediate environment. As we grow older, we encounter this archetype over and over again in authority figures – no matter how little power they sometimes hold. You know that bus driver who won’t let you on the bus because you didn’t bring the exact change even though he could? He’s expressing a shadow aspect of the Emperor to compensate for the lack of feeling empowered. Next time this happens to you, you can just remind yourself of the Emperor’s shadow and smile compassionately.
‘Computer says no’ from Little Britain is another example of this energy’s shadow.
The Gifts of the Emperor
But the gifts of the Emperor are many. Let’s not forget that spiritually he gives us power, emotionally he grants us stability and self-assertion, mentally we are better able to analyse situations under his influence and physically he gives us vitality and strong immunity.
The Emperor is one of the best cards for any entrepreneur. It is a sign of leadership, strategy and the will to succeed. It is one of the cards that act as a ‘green light’ in a reading when the question is about going self-employed.
Archangelic correspondence: Sariel
Zodiac Sign: Aries (Ruled by Mars)
Chakra: Solar plexus, root chakra
Colour: Red, orange, yellow, black
Crystal: Fire Agate, Hematite, Red Jasper, Garnet, Bloodstone
Body: Blood, bile, muscles, sinews, pineal gland, head, male genitals
Exercise: Bodybuilding, combat training, martial arts, boot camp
Stance: Seated (enthroned), with one hand extending a staff of power
Magickal Tool/Ingredient: Staff
Associated Minor Arcana Cards: All cards associated with Aries (these are the minors to use in the Healing Key Spread).
- 2 of Wands (Mars in Aries). Healing through conflict resolution.
- 3 of Wands (Sun in Aries). Healing through taking charge and assuming responsibility.
- 4 of Wands (Venus in Aries). Healing by laying firm foundations and bringing projects to completion.
- Queen of Wands. Healing through self-awareness and guiding others.
The Emperor Through The Elements
The Emperor is all Fire. He is extremely powerful in the Element of Fire and his logical acumen comes to the fore in the Element of Air.
A Water-logged Emperor can be very grumpy and prone to misuse his power. He may also be impotent or suffer from headaches. Temperance is the antidote.
In the Element of Air, the strategic power of the Emperor comes to the fore.
An Earth-bound Emperor may be rigid and stuck in his ways. He may be overly materialistic. On the plus side, he is very grounded in reality.
Remedies to increase the Emperor energy in your life:
- You can make a Tarot essence to increase The Emperor energy, using the Emperor card of your choice, along with any of the crystals above.
- Place the Emperor card or a piece of fire agate to increase your personal power.
- Use the essence of the Emperor card to increase virility.
- Wear red.
- Carry a piece of hematite with you to stay grounded.
- Create a tarot essence of one of the associated Minor Arcana cards (see above for uses).
- Start pumping iron.
- Make a staff.
- Lead rather than follow.
- Start your own business.
- Pay your bills on time.
- Be benevolent if you are in a position of power.
- Forgive your father. Better yet, think with appreciation about the positive traits your father handed down to you.
Affirmation: “I am powerful and organised.”
Angelic Invocation to Sariel
Dear Archangel Sariel, bless me with a healthy sense of authority and sovereignty. Help me see that I am not in competition with other souls and that compassion is the greatest power I possess. Amen and so it is!
- Martial arts is an excellent way of balancing the energy of the Emperor – especially the softer forms like Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
- Wear white to dispel excess Emperor energy. (White is a colour to avoid if you are low on Fire.)
- Learn to say ‘Let me think about that’ if you are prone to fly off the handle and be quick with a ‘no.’
- Avoid alcohol.
Love and Relationships
Because of his connection with the Father Archetype, the Emperor often represents an older man in a relationship with a younger woman. In a reading for a woman who is single, The Emperor could indicate that she is looking for a man who will ‘keep’ her, especially together with the 9 of Pentacles.
However, The Emperor could also represent a suitor who is willing to fight for her and who is mature enough to lay down the foundation for a lasting and mutually fulfilling relationship. Surrounding cards will tell you which. The Lovers and the 2 of Cups are an indication that this will be a good match.
In the relationship, the presence of The Emperor could indicate a need for or presence of stability. It could also indicate a carefully balanced power dynamic or the need for one of the partners to be more assertive.
Finances, health issues or organisational matters could be weighing heavily on one or both of you – especially together with the 5 of Pentacles. The reversal of The Emperor could indicate male fertility problems or impotence.
The ill-dignified or reversed Emperor card could also be a red alert for anger management issues, especially near the 5 of Swords. Next to The Devil, downright abuse (physical, psychological or sexual) could be the problem.
Due to his Martian connection, The Emperor can show up in readings for women who are attached to military men or who serve in the military themselves.
Stamina over Finesse
Let it not be said about The Emperor that he lacks stamina and sometimes uses this stamina to make up for what he lacks in finesse or sensitivity. That’s not to say that he is always completely lacking in the latter two though. With age and experience, The Emperor could be the consummate male lover by virtue of totally having embraced his masculinity.
He likes his woman to be overtly feminine. In a reading together with the 6 of Cups and The Empress, the presence of The Emperor could signify a case of soul mates who keep being attracted to each other through many incarnations in order to help each other balance male/female energy.