Although the idea of an emperor may, for some, be synonymous with dictatorship, certainly not all emperors fit this description. In the case of the tarot Emperor, this image could not be further from the truth. Our Emperor is calculating, composed, and benevolent. He represents extraordinary kindness, but in no way should this be taken as a weakness. He strikes a perfect balance between compassion and self-interest. Likewise, he is a skilled listener and a discerning judge. With the weight of his responsibility to society, he is no stranger to stress. But instead of cracking under pressure, he only gets stronger from each test.
The Emperor is a conservative figure whose duty is to optimise his empire. He is not a conqueror, but a protector. He works to make the world a better place by serving the public’s needs. At the same time, he is well-armed and knows the importance of self-defence in maintaining peace. He is skilled at making tough decisions, such as weighing the needs of the individual vs the group. Although he is compassionate, he is disciplined enough to sacrifice lives when necessary.
As government’s responsibilities involve undesirable duties, the same applies for the Emperor. While his wife is a fertile nurturer, he complements and supports her by being a virile protector. To be respected, he must know when to show aggression (and when not to). He is a philosopher who knows the value of human life. A such, he knows that ends should never be used to justify means.
When this card appears, it implies that stability, ambition, creativity, and ethics are coming into play. This may represent an ideal time to build something up. This is likely to involve career, finances, or romantic relationships, which are favoured by the energy of this card. Indeed, the Emperor is a strong sign that establishing or building on relationships would go quite well.
This card indicates maturity and power over your domain. It shows that you are serious about building long-term relationships, in business or in your personal life. You have established stability and may even be ready to start or build a family. The Emperor represents solid foundations that can be developed into great things.
The period associated with this card is bound to be conductive to growth and development. It is a great time to start new projects and achieve great things. The stability that comes with maturity invites many opportunities.
Questions to Consider
- In life, what have you learned about your dark side, or the dark side of humanity? Is there a way you can use this to your advantage, such as using this knowledge as a means to protect what you care about?
- What does your empire consist of? What would you do to protect these things?
- If you can build success on top of your stability, what will be gained from this? Who will benefit? The process may be challenging, and it is important to weigh potential risks vs rewards. When it seems like the effort may not be worth it, consider how it may benefit those you care about.
Is there a project you have been thinking about starting, but not ready for yet? Maybe it is time to lay that first brick. What’s stopping you? You could begin a new online group, build a garden, or start an art or writing project.
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Variations of the Card
As usual, for this card, Langustl and bifrost stay well within standard tarot traditions. Langustl pictures the Emperor’s crown and the ram sign of Aries, with him – or you, the reader, holding the royal orb and sceptre. Langustl and bifrost bear RWS influence, all three decks showing a man holding a sceptre in his right hand and an orb in the left. Apart from the heavy Thoth influence in bifrost and Langustl, and it should be noted that bifrost’s version makes a direct match with its mate, as if the two are essentially one card.
Diary of a Broken Soul also stays close to occult tradition on this card, showing the Emperor seated on the ram-head-throne. In matching with his Empress the same way bifrost does, the Emperor’s throne is surrounded by roses. Instead of standard tools, he brandishes a sword. Like his wife, his strength lies in his laid-back confidence. Believing in one’s self helps others believe too.
Surrealist puts a weird twist on this card, showing the Emperor’s not-so-benevolent side. The Surrealist version has a monster deity who has impaled one of his subjects unmercifully. Some decks just don’t need reversed interpretations, and this one is a good example why. Despite the pair’s matching lust to abuse power, there is a distinct dark humour in their methods.