The Emperor

The Emperor – Revealing the secrets you always wanted to know

The Emperor - Revealing the secrets you always wanted to know

Have you begun reading tarot and are a little unsure as to what The Emperor card may mean? Do you find yourself struggling to use the card in readings for yourself or for clients? Or do you simply want to find a place where you can get a concise understanding of the card?

I’ve been there too. Tarot cards are rich with symbolism and sometimes the meaning can get lost. Like you, I searched for articles to give me a short primer on the card. I finally began summarizing the cards myself. That’s what I’m going to share with you today. In this primer, you’ll learn about the history of the card, it’s symbols and meanings, and how you can interpret the card in your readings. Let’s get started, shall we?

The Emperor


Details About This Card

The Emperor is a complement to the Empress; he is the masculine mirror to her feminine principle. He is the patriarch and symbolizes authority, logic, and power. He is deeply rooted in knowledge and wisdom. This card is ruled by Aries.

This is a very straightforward card. The main image is that of an old man with a long white beard sat on a throne. This throne is nearly always mounted with four ram’s heads. The old man holds an ankh in his right hand and a globe in his left. He’s also nearly always depicted in red and orange robes.

The symbols are pretty simple to decipher. For example, the card depicts an old man with a white beard, which depicts wisdom from experience. He sits on a throne, intimating he is in a position of authority. He holds the ankh, a symbol of life, in one hand and the globe, his jurisdiction of rule, in the other.

In many decks, he’s also shown with a barren landscape behind him. This indicates the rocky road that life often takes us on. If you have a deck that depicts four ram’s heads on the throne, know that they symbolize four things: determination, action, initiative, and leadership.

Story and Evolution of the Card

The story of this card follows most of the other tarot cards in terms of how it has evolved. Beginning with the Rider-Waite deck, this card has changed little since it was first illustrated. This is probably because the original artist nailed the meaning in visuals so well.

the deck of Tarot cards on white background, top down card tow of cups

However, with the recent wave of new artistic talent, this card has begun to change. Like all tarot readers, there are some symbols, like nature, that I respond to better than others. Artists understand that. Now there are a variety of theme-based decks that do away with the original art in favor of muted meanings.

Interesting Decks Featuring This Card

Most tarot decks feature this card as detailed above; however, more recent artists have eschewed the traditional art in favor of other symbols.

For example, my favorite deck is from The Wild Unknown. In this deck, the card is illustrated with a tree and a sun that seems to be blotted out by the moon. This card can take on several meanings, but the symbolism is generally thought of as resembling structure and order, which is rooted in society and authority.

The Wild Unknown


The yellow and orange hues around the sun represent wisdom that is firmly rooted in logic. Unlike The Magician card, where color is everywhere, this card localizes it to the sun. That’s because while The Magician’s energy is expansive, this card’s energy is rooted, hence the importance of the tree.

Standing Meaning of the Card

The standing meaning of this card is authority and structure, often seen in a positive light. As the ruler of his kingdom, this card reflects the responsibilities and duties of the head of a family or business. He works his entire life for the benefit and well-being of those who have entrusted him to lead.

If you or your client is reading for a difficult situation and this card shows up, it could mean that structure, self-discipline, and perseverance are in order to see the situation through to a beneficial end. Especially in situations dealing with relationships and family, this card indicates to decide with logic and not emotion.

This card could also arise in readings to do with particular situations, such as a business meeting, an interview, or familial problems. The card might indicate that a firm yet fair mind will win the day. It may also mean that you should focus on your goal and mask doubt or weakness, at least for the time being.

In readings associated with personal development, this card is very powerful! The card indicates the gatekeeper that could help you through with your goals. The card may be telling you to be courteous to this gatekeeper so that you may enjoy the wisdom and support this person has to offer.

opening book

Reversed Meaning of the Card

The reversed meaning of this tarot card takes logic and authority to a negative space. It may represent an abuse of authoritarian power by domineering communities or people, both in your personal and work life. It could also depict someone that is out of control and struggling to take back power.

This card in reverse may indicate that you or your client feels powerless in a relationship. It could represent an unyielding loved one, a domineering boss, or a structure that will not bend, not even to reason. It may indicate that you need to lay low and follow the rules until you can find a safe way out.

Ironically, the reversed card can mean the opposite as well. You may get a reading in which the card is urging you to leave an unhappy workplace or relationship and to stand up to authority. You may find walking away will be difficult, but well worth it in the long run.

On a personal level, this card can depict that you have little self-control and dislike authority, even when it’s a positive influence. It may be a sign that you need a little structure in your life. Order may be the only way to get what you want out of life.

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When this card comes up, it generally correlates to authority, family, and status in society or politics.

A lot of people, myself included, see this card and The Hierophant card as twin cards. I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite cards in the deck. If you do a spread and get both cards, it might be a sign to pay attention to the role that authority does or doesn’t play in a particular situation.

We hope that this article will help you interpret The Emperor card. It is an incredibly important sign within the deck, and learning about it will hopefully make your readings easier.

Did you like this article? Please share it with all your like-minded friends! Have we missed something you think is important? Don’t hesitate to share it down below in the comments. We would love to hear your thoughts. And, as always, happy reading.

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