Keywords for the Emperor
We see the Emperor seated at his throne out in the most dry, arid desert. His throne, which is made entirely of a gray stone, bears the symbol of the Ram’s head, representing the astrological sign of Aries, on each of its four corners. This correspondence is strengthened further by the appearance of the astrological glyph for this first sign of the zodiac atop the Emperor’s crown.
The Emperor’s right hand holds a scepter shaped like an ankh, the Egyptian symbol said to represent life. It is interesting to note that the vertical portion of the ankh represented here is unusually long, taking up much more space than the small golden circle resting at the top. This rounded portion of the ankh is typically thought to represent the spiritual dimension of life, leaving the remainder to stand for material manifestation.
In addition, we see that the Emperor wears a heavy suit of armor, indicating his status as a warrior. This armor stands as a testament not only to his power and strength, but also his potential for rigidity, intolerance and lack of receptivity.
Interpretation of the Emperor
When the Emperor appears in a tarot reading, it often represents a person who acts as an authority figure, setting rules and limits, establishing laws, and making sure that these boundaries for appropriate action are honored and respected by those under his dominion. As a result, this card represents the archetypal Father figure of the Major Arcana.
The Emperor also represents the more abstract concepts of reason and order. In contrast to the Empress, this card represents the power of limitation and restriction. The Empress says “yes” to all, nurturing all in an act of unconditional love, the Emperor embodies the force of the word “NO.”
When compared to the unrelenting mercy of the Empress, his severity may seem harsh, but we find that this limiting power is essential in the process of creation and differentiation into form. Without the order of the Emperor, we would face an unyielding chaos whose anarchy would likely make life as we know it impossible.
However, there are times when an excess of the Emperor’s energy can prohibit the very life it is meant to protect. If the force of the Emperor’s discipline exceeds its bounds, his rule can turn harsh and authoritarian, leading to an unnecessary rigidity that inhibits the natural flow of life and prevents new growth.