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The Emperor

Tarot Card Meanings

He is a symbol of the masculine principle – the paternal figure in life that gives structure, creates rules and systems, and imparts knowledge.
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The Emperor Tarot Card Description

If The Empress is the Mother archetype of the Tarot deck, The Emperor is the Father. He is seated on a sizable stone throne with four rams’ heads on it (symbolic of his connection with Aries and the planet Mars). The Emperor is depicted holding an orb, which stands in for the world he rules, in his left hand and an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, in his right hand.

His red robe symbolizes his strength, passion, and vigor for life. He appears to be protected from any danger because of the suit of armor he is wearing underneath it (and any emotional response or vulnerability). He is a figure of authority who demands to be heard because of his long white beard, which represents his age-old knowledge and experience.

A tall, impenetrable mountain range is visible behind his throne, denoting his strong support and his reluctance to change anything unless he deems it necessary. There is some hope that despite his hard exterior, he is still an emotional being. It will just take a lot of digging and trust to open him up to his softer side. A small river flows beneath the peaks.

NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.

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The Emperor Keywords

 Upright Keywords:
  • Authority
  • Establishment
  • Structure
  • A Father figure
Reversed Keywords:
  • Domination
  • Inflexibility
  • Excessive control
  • Lack of discipline

Upright Emperor Meaning

The Emperor, who represents the father figure in the Tarot, suggests that you are taking on this fatherly role (whether you are male or female), supporting your family, and defending and protecting those you care about. For those who depend on your security and stability, you might be the family’s primary provider or the “rock.”

The Emperor, in a similar manner, stands for a strong leader who demands authority. You value recognition, status, and power, and you feel most at ease in a leadership position where you can order people around. You exercise fair but firm rules as a leader. You organize those around you to help you realize your vision because you have a clear idea of what you want to create. You take advice from others into consideration, but you still like to be in charge. You are not intimidated by conflict, and you won’t think twice about using your authority to defend the people you care about. And those people will give you the loyalty and respect you deserve in return.

Don’t let others undermine your position of influence or leadership.

The Emperor is a representation of a structured system. By putting rules or principles to use in a particular circumstance, you can establish law and order. By dissecting any issue into its parts and then outlining the steps required to fix it, you can bring order out of chaos. Be extremely organized, strategic, and methodical in your approach, and follow your plan through to completion.

The Emperor card also represents global knowledge and proficiency. You have acquired valuable knowledge and experience throughout your life, and you now take pleasure in giving direction, advice, and guidance to those who could use it. You might be a mentor, coach, boss, or just a good friend who enjoys sharing what you have learned so that others can develop similar wisdom and strength as you.

Reversed Emperor Meaning

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You are persuaded by The Emperor Reversed to evaluate your relationship with authority, discipline, responsibility, and control. Do you currently express these elements in your life either too much or too little? Do they support you or oppose you?

When in the reversed position, The Emperor can be tyrannical and narrow-minded. The card may allude to misuse or excessive use of the authoritative power that surrounds you. It might come from you or someone else, frequently a boss, partner, or father figure. And it might be a result of profound insecurities or early father issues.

Think about the influence power has in your life. Are you acting in a way that makes others feel ineffective as you assert your dominance and power? Or are you ceding your authority to appease someone else—often a father figure or someone in a position of authority? Find a solution that allows you to take the reins with confidence and empowers others to do the same. You don’t have to take from others or give your power away; it can be shared equally and productively.

The Emperor Reversed may indicate that even though other people look to you as their leader or as an authority in your field, you are hesitant to assume that position. You might avoid the spotlight or hide in the shadows out of fear of being perceived as the leader. You might also train others to reach a wider audience or write a book as additional ways to impact and influence the world.

The Emperor Reversed may occasionally ask you to defy the established order. You might feel forced to work in a more adaptable environment because you’re tired of your boss’s or company’s hierarchical structure. Maybe starting your own business will allow you to achieve your goal of working for yourself. Alternatively, you might look for a job that allows you more creative freedom and flexibility in how you complete your tasks. You want to break free from having to constantly operate within the constraints of a specific structure or method of doing things because you are tired of having to do so.

When The Emperor Reversed appears in a Tarot reading, focus on your dedication to your objectives and your self-discipline to complete the task at hand. Check to see if you have a plan in place, a routine to support it, and the commitment to see it through if you are finding it difficult to see any real results. You might need to be a little harder on yourself and perform the unpleasant tasks you’d rather avoid. But your efforts will be fruitful if you can channel The Emperor’s uplifting, upright energy.

The Emperor Reversed’s relationship interpretation suggests that you might be in an unfair partnership that is ultimately making you unhappy. Your partner has grown obnoxious, possessive, dominant, and authoritative. These qualities have gone too far, and it appears as though much of your independence and freedom has been taken away, even though you may have been looking for a partner to take care of you and provide a stable foundation for the future. This dynamic is straining your connection and obstructing the flow of energies between you.

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