The Emperor (IV) Upright

The Emperor – IV

(Card  Content will be Re-Worked Over The Coming Weeks.  Any Updates Will Be Posted)

The Emperor Upright


Astrological Association – Aries

Sun Sign – Aries –  First sign of the Zodiac.  Cardinal sign of Fire.  Masculine Initiator/Leader

Kabbalistic Tree of Life –    Walks the 15th path between Chokmah (Supernal Father/Wisdom) and Tipareth  (Beauty/Balance/Son of God).  The Emperor provides the stabilising masculine force to balance the free flowing energy of the feminine EmpressThe Empress needs the seed of the Emperor in order to create.  The Emperor’s seed needs the womb of The Empress to incubate.  The union of the Masculine with the Feminine complies with the laws of polarity and the Universe.  One cannot exist without the other.  The Magician and Emperor represent the two Masculine Archetypes in the Tarot .

Hebrew Alphabet – Heh – Window (Enlightenment)

Tarot  Connections – Minor Arcana 4’s (Stability) and Death by sum of its digits (1+3=4)


The Fool content and carefree continues upon his journey safe in the loving and indulgent warmth of The Empress.  His every whim and desire attended to, he delights in the freedom of his new found world.  However, The Fool must learn that he cannot live on love alone and that not everything he wants he will get.  The Empress protects him from the consequences of his actions by forgiving and dismissing any of his juvenile silly behaviour.  However, a time will come when The Fool must grow up and take his place in the world.  To do so, he needs to understand the way of the outside world and not just the pampered and cossetted one of The Empress.  As he travels forth on the 15th path, he encounters The Emperor, the Paternal Father who will take him firmly by the hand and instruct him in matters of responsibility, order, control and discipline.  It is through the Emperor he will learn that society has established laws, rules and regulations put in place to create order and stability for the good of its people.  Without it, chaos would reign along with a breakdown in morals, respect and lawful behaviour.

As a conscientious and caring father The Emperor first prepares The Fool for the harshness of the outside world by setting examples and laying down easy to follow guide lines within the family structure and home.  In The Emperor, The Fool experiences the second love in his life – the love of a child for his father.  In his positive sense The Emperor can become the perfect Role Model for his son and the Hero to his daughter.  The son’s future relationship with women and how he treats them will be influenced by his father’s attitude and behaviour towards his mother.  The daughter’s future self-esteem and relationship with men will also be strongly influenced by this.

As the archetypal father, The Emperor will be strong, firm and assume leadership and authority within his household.  A man of honour and respect, he is a commanding figure.  He will provide his family with stability, security and protection.  Not afraid to go into battle, he will rush to defend their honour and do what has to be done during times of crisis or trauma.  He will be responsible for setting rules and boundaries that The Fool must obey.  He is also the disciplinarian who will enforce and administer the necessary punishment should The Fool fail to comply.

The Fool must now learn that for every action he takes there will be a consequence.  The Emperor helps him to understand that even though he may not appreciate these often harsh lessons at the time, he will one day be grateful to his father for curbing his impulsive behaviour and unruly thoughts.  The Fool still turns to his mother, The Empress, for comfort and nurturing but he has now learned that it is to The Emperor, his father, he will turn to when in need of sound advice or guidance in practical matters.  He respects not only his authority but also his seniority and vast experience.   The Fool in turn will one day pass on these values to his own children.

Card Description and Spiritual Message 

The Emperor  – Masculine Counterpart to The The Empress

The Emperor sits on a grey slab-like stone throne.  Gone is the lavishness of The Empress, gone are the luxurious comfortable cushions and glorious surroundings.  Instead we see a plain, hard and cold looking seat.  The only relief or hint of adornment is found in the carving of ram’s heads on the armrests and on each side of the backrest.  This gives us very strong clues as to the nature of the The Emperor.  Here is a man who has no need or want for frills or fuss.  A seat, is a seat, is a seat and so The Emperor chose his throne for pure functionality and not style.

This very important observation opens the doorway for us into the personality of The Emperor.  This imposing looking man is practical and down to earth.  He does not need a fancy throne to showcase his position or authority for he is fully aware that a seat, is just a seat.  It is somewhere to rest when tired, somewhere to be stationery when you need to focus your attention or concentration.  It is not a place to languish on all day.  Indeed he spends little time there for he is a busy man with lots to occupy his time.

The Emperor understands that it is the man who occupies the throne that holds the power and not the other way round.  It is important that his subjects understand this for wherever he goes; be it at home, leading his people, in the office, on the battlefield, in courtroom or on the pitch he is a man to be respected, obeyed, listened to and deferred to.  His subjects must also hold a healthy fear of their Emperor and work consistently to keep within the boundaries and parameters he has set.

The ram’s head is the symbol for the sun sign of Aries.  The Emperor, together with the King of Wands and the Knight of Swords represent the sign of Aries Aries is a Masculine Fire Sign and those born under this powerful sign are thought to be natural powerful leaders who are fiery and fearless.  They like to be in in control in almost every area of their life.

The Emperor is dressed in a deep red gown and robe.  Together with the orange and red background we get strong impressions of how this man approaches life and situations.  He approaches them with authority, power, passion and fieriness.  These colours epitomise the nature of his governing Element, Fire.  The Emperor embodies all aspects of his Element and his powerful Sun Sign AriesAries is the first sign of the Zodiac and heralds new cycles, new beginnings and the power to strike out on new paths. The Emperor represents the ultimate male ego.  The Emperor faces us head on with shoulders squared.  This is how he lives his life and how he deals with whatever challenges comes his way.

The Emperor appears to wear a suit of armour beneath his gown. This again suggests his power and fearlessness.  Regardless of his outer attire, The Emperor is always ready, always prepared and not afraid to go into battle, defend his position or attack his enemies should the need arise. This is not a man who shirks his duty or is afraid to stand his ground.  Like the ram, he will put his head down and charge forth.  Built like a tank be it only in our minds or imaginations (as children we all see our fathers as big strong men) he is a powerful and loyal ally yet a fearsome and ruthless adversary.

The Emperor holds an orb in one hand and a sceptre in the other again suggesting his power and authority. There is an ankh at the top of the sceptre. The ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol. It represents the transition of the soul into the afterlife and its continued existence in the afterlife.   This connects The Emperor to the other Major Arcana 4 card Death (1+3=4).  The Emperor understands that his power is everlasting, even in death.

His hair and beard are both long and white suggesting an older man who has experienced life and has learnt valuable lessons from it.  The Emperor has been there, done it and has seen it all.  He has taken hold of life and become Master of it.  He has pioneered and trail-blazed his way through life.  In his young self he was the maverick who boldly ventured out into new territory and built his empire through gritty determination, blood, sweat and tears.  He represents expertise and a wealth of successfully tried and tested methods and skills.   He stands for the highly professional man.  The Emperor is now hard to impress and maintains a sceptical approach to most things in life.  He has learned his own hard lessons on his journey and through self-discipline and self-mastery he has succeeded in gaining total self-control. He will rarely if ever drop his guard.   He is a mine of information and the giver of sound, practical and solid advice.

The Emperor governs his own world and those within it.  He sails his own ship and is answerable to none.  He is steadfast and constant even though others can see him as dull, rigid and sometimes controlling.  However, he is fair and honest in his dealings with others.  His life is one of order, stability, routine and hard work.  He believes that these are the ingredients of a happy life.  He has little time for frivolity or silliness but will tolerate it in his children and partner up to a degree.  If it all seems to be getting out of hand then his hand will go up and he will draw a halt to the proceedings.  He abhors chaos, noise and disruption so will come down hard on those around when it erupts.  He is so constant and fixed in his behaviour, opinions and personality that one would really need to be a fool to expect him to bend or yield to anything other than what he perceives as correct and acceptable.

The Emperor strategically positions his throne on an elevated site.  He appears to sit on top of a mountain.  From this view point he can keep an eye on all his subjects as he directs, rules and governs them.  Should one of them step out of line, he will be up off his throne and after them in a flash.  The position he has taken on top of the mountain suggests his impeccable high standards and principles.  However, we must also note that The Emperor is alone.  It is a hard job that he has taken on and not one which many would voluntarily sign up to.  He carries immense responsibility which he knows does not always sit well with his subjects.  He does not expect them to understand a man like him for he is not one of them.  He is a man who rules with his head and not his heart.

 We see a tiny stream of water at the very base of the mountain.  It is too far away from The Emperor to be of any real threat or consequence to him.  The stream represents his emotions which are totally overwhelmed by his will, ego and pride.  He has seen the influence that these so called emotions have on his subjects as they blow hot and cold, enthusiastic one moment and downright lazy and lethargic the next.  He has even seen his wife and daughter happy one moment and then burst into tears at the drop of a hat.  He believes emotions to be strange things that get in the way of stability and solidity.  A practical man down to his toes, he quite willingly accepts his role.  Even though his stone seat can At times become as cold as a marble tomb,  he realises that someone has to take charge of the sorry mess below.  He is the best man for the job.

There is a worry with The Emperor that his standards and principles are set so high that only few can ever reach them.  He is also in danger of cutting himself off from his subjects or family.  While he is busy guarding, controlling and leading he can easily lose the close connections of the normal everyday ups and downs of simple family life.  He can become a stranger to his children, a man who on his return from work will put an end to any fun or play, a man who you must always be careful to say the right thing in front of for fear of punishment or put downs.  In his unrelenting bid to protect and provide for his family he may lose sight of his purpose and turn into a tyrant.  One of the karmic lessons for Ariens is to learn to rule without force or control.  He demands total honesty of all which is all well and good once his response is balanced, forgiving and constructive.

Unfortunately, all too often The Emperor is oblivious to any real drama that is going on around him.  He may sit atop his mountain but his subjects do have the ability to cut him out of the loop and conceal disturbing matters from him when they believe that being truthful or honest will work against them.  Fearing the wrath of their leader they can try and sort things out or lie to cover up their mistakes or failures.  Instead of encouraging honesty The Emperor in his negative sense drives the issues underground.   He may hold the key to their salvation, the answer to their prayers or the solution to a problem but the price is too high to pay.  This is a terrible pity and a mistake that is sometimes only realised in later life when old age and infirmity brings loneliness and regret.

The Emperor is the archetypal father and the perfect masculine balance to the ultra-feminine Empress.  Whereas The Empress represents fertility, the Emperor stands for virility and maintaining the family line.  He provides the seed and she provides the womb.  They are the perfect combination.  He is the consolidating and stabilising force that keeps the excesses of The Empress in check.  He provides a solid and firm foundation in which his family can nicely mature steeped in security and a sense of propriety.  The Emperor can represent fathering in general, your attitude to your own father or being a father yourself. He also represents the older male or a mature man in a position of power or authority.

Tradition has it that the father figure in the house represents the provider, leadership authority, power, discipline, protection and structure. It is he who sets laws, rules and boundaries.  He also carries out punishments. He is the Master of his own domain, he who gives orders and expects them to be followed.  Tradition also has it that the father figure will selflessly give of his life for his family, he will offer himself up in their stead or put himself in the firing line to protect one of his own.  He will shield his family from upsetting and worrying issues and deal with unsavoury tasks during times of trauma and strife.  He must protect the family at all costs.  As a result, The Emperor demands certain privileges, respect and attention.  The Emperor has the responsibility of maintaining order in life, upholding the laws of the land and maintaining social stability.

On the surface he appears quite unapproachable and a force to be reckoned with.  He doesn’t soften much inside, however, he is known to be fair and many can benefit from the advice he has to offer. He considers his advice to be very valuable indeed and like his orders, will expect you to heed it.  If not,  he certainly will not be offering any more. The Empress rules with her heart and the The Emperor rules with his head. He is her intellectual counterpart and does not let his emotions or feelings get carried away.  He uses his logic in all aspects of life and analyses everything.  He has no time for frivolous gaiety or silliness.

The Emperor is a man for striking out alone, he doesn’t like to work for anyone else and would certainly feel stifled by others rules and regulations as he likes to set those himself.  However, the structure and discipline of the army or any military environment would be very desirable.  It is in the army that The Emperor sees his true worth.  He will work hard to rise in the ranks to become Captain or General.  He also feels he is fulfilling his duty or destiny by following a career in law.  Here he becomes the incorruptible, fair and highly respected Judge.  If you come up against him in court, he may be quite lenient with you the first time as he offers advice, a lecture on how to rehabilitate and also a warning on reoffending.  He may not be so lenient the second time round and punishment will be harsh and severe.

The Emperor sees everything in black and white.  There are no grey areas and he is a stickler for detail.  He lives his life by facts instead of abstract thought or imaginings.  He understands only that which he can see and feel.  The Emperor uses his amazing powers of self-discipline and control to get where and what he wants.  His presence in a reading may be reminding you that you need to assert yourself in certain areas.

The Emperor is also associated with establishing organisations and governments, often first appearing as the rebel, finding fault in all around.  He can set out to overthrow an oppressive government or leadership with worthy and lofty ideas of how he will do a better job.  He believes he knows exactly what needs to be done and what the people want or need.  However, once in power and once he has climbed that mountain to ascend his throne, he can lose touch with the rest of the world and his people.  Then The Emperor can become worse than that which he replaced.  As he moves the Tyrant out he can move the Dictator in.

The four 4’s in The Minor Arcana  also link to The Emperor.  In numerology, the number 4 stands for stability and security.  4 is consolidating and provides strong foundation.  Structures with four walls provide strength and solidity even if they also result in rigidity.   In The Minor Arcana  the Four Suits, Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles attempt to find stability within their individual Elements.  They seek physical stability in the Wands, emotional stability in the Cups, mental stability in the Swords and financial stability in the Pentacles.


In general, The Emperor appearing in a reading suggests a period of great stability and security in your life.  You are on top of things and have everything under control.  Keep up the hard work and keep focused.  Self-discipline, self-control and sheer blood, sweat and tears have got you this far.  However, do not lose sight of the simple things in life and become too serious.  Make some time for fun.

The Emperor suggests that you are taking charge of your life, owning your own space and setting your own rules and boundaries.  You have come into your own power and those around you are becoming more aware of that.  No longer do you dance to the tune of someone else’s fiddle for it is now you who leads.  You may be asserting your authority or expertise in a certain area and feel confident and assured in your abilities.

How do you see yourself as a dad?

Arming yourself for battle

A strong mature powerful man with great expertise and advice

Stern and formidable but fair and honest

Use your head not your heart. Do not be swayed by any appeals on your emotions.  Look at the facts in front of you.  See through to the heart of the situation and assess it for what it really is.  Look past the faerie glamour.

When The Emperor appears in a reading he often highlights the need for discipline or control in some area of your life.   He asks you to take a grip of yourself, pull yourself together and get your house in order.  Think of him as the archetypal father who turns up at your flat or apartment unannounced only to find you in some sort of disarray, dishevelment or with people you shouldn’t be with or perhaps he has discovered that you have been maxing your credit cards and cannot meet your repayments.  You know you should have sorted the situation out long ago but somehow or other you just let it slip and now have lost control.  However, it really depends on what type of spread you are doing, the question and the position of the card in the spread but if this is the kind of situation he is representing, then you or the querant will be only too well aware of what he is talking about.  The Emperor faces you squarely and it is impossible to avoid his penetrating gaze.  There is no point in arguing with him or trying to come up with some lame or feeble excuse for he has heard it all before and it won’t wash with him.  He has come to force you to sort the situation out and whereas you desperately need his help, he will not make this easy for you.  You will have to learn from this the hard way.

The Emperor represents the archetypal Dad so his appearance may suggest issues with your father at present.  Your father may be exerting a strong influence or control over your life.  He may be on your mind at present or you are wondering what he would have to say about your situation.  The Emperor may be prompting you to visit your father or discuss your problems with him for he may be able to help you and offer sound advice.  He may suggest that your father is aware of your situation but is exerting self-discipline.  He may be waiting for you to come to him.  The Emperor may be bringing a message from your father so pay attention to the surrounding cards or draw an extra card for each side of him.  This may unlock the message.

You may be comparing yourself to your father or trying to be like him.  You may be questioning your attitude to fathering in general and wondering whether to take that step and become one.

theSelf discipline and a practical approach will lead to success. Keep focused, work hard and let nothing stand in your way. Now is the time to strike out and be independent. Time to be assertive and take more control in your life and its direction. Stand up and be counted. Break away from what everyone else is doing and what is expected of you. Make your own rules, establish your own empire, set your own boundaries. Don’t let your heart rule your head. Use your logic and experience to solve a problem. Anyalyse the facts and listen to both side. Be fair and just in your dealings with other.  The Emperor stands for the successful businessman.

The Emperor may suggest your father, a father figure or any sort of authoritive figure in general such as a judge, a policeman, a boss or landlord etc. It may suggest that you are having dealings with the law at present or that some legalities such as contract are been signed.  You may be getting advice from an older man or professional. This advice is sound and should be paid attention to.

In relationships The Emperor will represent a partner, husband or older male who exerts an influence over it.  He may have the tendency to appear older than he looks. Extremely responsible and practical this man will be very assertive and assume control of the relationship.  He is a wonderful material provider and very reliable but may be lacking in the romance department.  He doesn’t go in for all that pink fluffy stuff and displays of emotion or affection.

When The Emperor appears as a partner in a relationship spread you can be safe in the knowledge that the man he represents will be there for you and wants to look after you.  You will be able to rely on this man through thick and thin.  Here is a strong man who you can put your trust in.  This man is held in high regard by all who know him.  The man represented by The Emperor may indeed be a man of great influence so you may find doors opening into areas or social circles that would normally be closed to you.

The Emperor may suggest that you are taking on the full responsibility of the practical side of your relationship such as finances and major decisions.  The Emperor rules with the head and does not understand the ways of the heart too well. If this is your partner then he may not notice if you are emotionally upset or hurt.  This may be causing regular problems in your relationship.

The Emperor in a relationship spread can sometimes highlight the search for a father figure in your life and a man who resembles your father.

All in all, The Emperor represents great stability and order.

Back to Lesson 3


The Fool Upright  The Fool Reversed

The Magician Upright  The Magician Reversed

The High Priestess Upright   The High Priestess Reversed

The Empress Upright   The Empress Reversed

The Emperor Upright    The Emperor Reversed

The Heirophant Upright    The Heirophant Reversed

The Lovers Upright     The Lovers Reversed

The Chariot Upright   The Chariot Reversed

Strength Upright     Strength Reversed

The Hermit Upright   The Hermit Reversed

The Wheel of Fortune Upright   The Wheel of Fortune Reversed

Justice Upright   Justice Reversed

The Hanged Man Upright   The Hanged Man Reversed

Death Upright     Death Reversed

Temperence Upright     Temperence Reversed

The Devil Upright   The Devil Reversed

The Tower Upright     The Tower Reversed

The Star Upright     The Star Reversed

The Moon Upright    The Moon Reversed

The Sun Upright     The Sun Reversed

Judgement Upright      Judgement Reversed

The World Upright     The World Reversed

Lesson 1   Lesson 2


Copyright © 2006-2016 Vivien Ní Dhuinn

5 replies »

  1. Hmmm… “Someone has to take charge of the sorry mess below.” The Emperor sounds sort of misanthropic with that kind of attitude O.o


      • I believe you misunderstood me, Vivien, I was simply commenting on a particular piece of the article, I had no complaints this time.


      • Hi Jack,

        I had to go back quite a bit in time, to April 9th, to find the comment you were relating to on September 25th. You got me there for a moment cause I couldn’t remember you posting a comment about The Emperor in recent days or weeks. Thought my memory was failing me. I didn’t see it as a complaint at all.


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