The Emperor (IV) Reversed

(Card Descriptions Based On Original Rider-Waite Colors – Still Under US Games Inc. Copyright. )



Not Taking Responsibility For Actions Or Life

The Emperor Reversed often points to a reluctance to accept responsibility for your own life, situation or circumstances. When Upright, he looks to no one but himself when personal problems need to be solved, or when he must handle unpleasant situations. He is a very different Emperor when Reversed. In this aspect, he struts around pretending to be all-powerful, in command of himself and others. He poses on his throne and woos photo opportunities that flatter and appeal to his grand sense of self. However, as soon as crisis or dilemma hits, he moves rapidly to detach himself from the matter, to remove any sense of responsibility or accountability. Instead of sitting on his throne and holding special councils to determine what the best move would be, he hides behind it, cannot be found and is unavailable for comment. He throws others out front to make excuses for him or to take the rap. It is never his fault – he got the wrong advice, wasn’t aware of what was happening, was nowhere near it, didn’t see it, never said it. When he is eventually tracked down, he denies all responsibility for any mess he might be in or has caused for others. Instead, he is quick to name others, to point the finger of blame at anyone but himself.

In this manner, you might be well-grown up, a so-called mature adult, supposedly autonomous and independent, but still look to others to make everything alright for you. If your life is anything but successful, then it is certainly not your fault. Why take the rap when you have parents to blame, a disadvantaged area, the school or college you went to, the lecturer you found boring, the interviewer who took a disliking to you, the boss that never appreciated you, the opportunities that never came your way, the partner or spouse who let you down, the bad luck you are cursed with etc.

Anything But A Hero – Of Little Help

The Emperor Reversed is not someone you will turn to during a time of crisis.  You might find him to be of little help. He may be totally devoid of interest or extremely judgmental of your role in the situation. He may refuse to help or hear you out. He might avoid you altogether, fail to return calls or text messages. He could also be in a situation where his hands are tied. Even if he wanted to help you, he can’t. If you have crossed this Emperor in the past, he may  seize on your predicament to reek revenge, adding to your woes instead of easing them.  You will have to knock on another’s door.

If the Reversed Emperor does offer to help if may be of little use or is impractical. His advice could go against your better judgment. Indeed seeking your own counsel may be preferable as he is liable to lead you astray or into further trouble. What he suggests may also be illegal and irresponsible. He may be advising from a place of aggression and needs to calm down. He may add fuel to the fire.

In the midst of disaster, The Reversed Emperor can lose his nerve or steel, freeze or be incapable of making a logical decision. His courage may fail him which could come as a shock to both himself and those who are relying on him. One never knows how one will react until it actually happens. The Reversed Emperor may also lack bravado or the conscience to do the right thing. He prefers to shift that responsibility onto others. He is the type who on coming upon an accident or incident, will take it all in before moving swiftly past. If you are caught up in an altercation or violent attack, the Reversed Emperor will cross the street and get as far away from you as possible. He may see that you are in danger, but doesn’t want to get personally involved. You will not find a Hero in the Reversed Emperor who prefers to watch the drama from a safe place, recording it on his phone and later regaling others about how close he was to the action and danger. He is quiet prepared to let others lay their life on the line for him, but is nowhere to be seen when volunteers are urgently needed.  It’s not his problem or responsibility. Sure what can he do about it? His attitude is that someone else is bound to stop and help as he hurries on his way, relieving himself of any obligation or civic duty to his fellow human being.

When there is shortage of resources, food, medical supplies, or fuel, the Reversed Emperor will hoard. Impervious to the plight of others or their urgent need, he will make sure he does not go without. He will lower the Portcullis gate and pull up the drawbridge. Secure in his fortress, he ignores the call for help and mercy from the miserable wretches who stagger by. Their woes are not his concern.

Preying On The Misery Of Others – Cash Is King

In the Reversed Emperor we find the corrupt leader, organisation, or individual who seeks to capitalise on the misery and misfortune of others. Here is the leader of a criminal organisation, a brutal dictator or tyrant, despicable mercenaries and opportunists who care less about the suffering of others. The see opportunity in the most hell-like of situations. During times of drought, they stockpile bottled water to sell at great profit. Only those who have sufficient funds will survive. They hijack trucks carrying essential medical supplies and then sell them on the black market while children die in hospital. The Reversed Emperor will head organisations or gangs who take extortionate sums from desperate refugees attempting to flee war-torn countries and persecution. They over-load rubber dinghies with terrified and exhausted men, women and children, fully aware the vessels are not sea-worthy and unlikely to make the journey without sinking. It is of no concern to them. Life is cheap and cash is King.

The Reversed Emperor can represent the Mafia Don who rules his empire of murder, vice, drugs and crime. He may sit in his fancy house with swimming pool, dote on his children and front an apparent legal business, but he is nothing but a thug, a money launderer and murderous savage. He surrounds himself with henchmen, extortionists, torturers and villains.

Live By The Sword – Die By The Sword

The Reversed Emperor who lives his life by the Sword, very often dies by the Sword. This is very apparent when the struggle for power in criminal gangs for Mafia organisations makes everyone a legitimate target. The Reversed Emperor can also fall on his own Sword. Surround yourself with enough power-hungry venomous snakes (unscrupulous people) and you cannot expect them not to bite. You may send them out to do your dirty work and believe you have possess control and power, but at some point in time, they will turn on you or come for you. The Reversed Emperor must sleep with one eye open. Your luck will eventually run out.


The Emperor Reversed can highlight a personality that will think nothing of deserting you in your hour of need. This can be on a personal level, in business, work, or relationship. The personality in question may only stay by your side as long as the going is good and their security and position is not threatened. When the Emperor Reverses, he will quickly discover who out of his entourage, team, friends, family, colleagues, associates or staff will stay loyal and stick by him. Those who jump ship and switch camp during your time of need, will quickly show their true colours, leaving you in no doubt as to why they flanked you in the first place. This card can suggest you are no longer of use to certain people, especially if  your star is in descent, your reign coming to an end. They only wanted to be around you when the going was good, when there was real hope of your power rubbing off on them. Many gained power through association with you and their abandonment could imply you are being stripped of power, lost it to another, are weakening your hold on it, or are walking away from it. You are quite worthless to them now, so they must hitch a ride with the next big thing and ply their trade elsewhere.

On a certain level, this must be expected when we see The Emperor Reversed. After all, it was he who actively discouraged allowing emotions cloud judgement or ambition. Those who are hurriedly packing their bags are only doing as he would expect them to. Nonetheless, it is a bitter pill to swallow. You can see the vultures among them circle, waiting to scavenge on your bones and anything that might be worthwhile salvaging. They are cold and calculating, just like you taught them to be. You wonder if you did too good a job of this and you may be shocked and dismayed at their speed of disloyalty. From here on you will answer your own phone, fetch your own coffee and sort yourself out. Everyone has someplace else to be. Your power defined you in their eyes for only as long as you held onto it. Now that it is gone, they see you as nothing more than ancient history. Time to move on. You have no friends here, only opportunists who are already onto the next big thing. You will have to suck this up and get on with things.

The Emperor Reversed could imply that it is you who is the deserter, you who has abandoned those who relied on your loyalty, protection and defense. You are afraid of losing power or it being contaminated by such associations. You think only of saving yourself. You cannot risk your throne and you will probably expect people to understand this. You may think it too big an ask for you to even contemplate. Do they not realise what you stand to lose by standing by them? It is out of the question.

Still Living At Home

The Reversed Emperor can represent a more than mature individual who still lives at home. He could be the stereotypical ‘still living with his mammy’ man in his forties/fifties who never felt the need to move out and find a place of his own. This person is unlikely to have formed any meaningful relationships outside the home, his whole life centered around his mother who he is devoted to, and their set-up. This arrangement may have happened naturally, or was encouraged by a domineering and manipulative mother who encouraged her son to stay in and keep her company rather than go out, make friends or fall in love. They are seen out and about together at the weekend, having coffee or lunch,  sitting on the pier eating an ice-cream cone, going for a Sunday drive and grocery shopping for their bits and pieces. They resemble a typical older married couple except for the son who is much younger. However, his style of dress may be more fitting for a man much older as he tends to match his mother’s style or age rather than his own. The Reversed Emperor in this manner can be reclusive and even odd in his habits. When he speaks, his voice is low, his tone almost apologetic. He makes little noise or impression as he moves through life. His colour is grey – grey hair, grey clothes, grey coat, grey gloves and grey scarf. One wonders what his story is? Did he venture at any stage out into the world? If so, how did he find it? What happened? What ambitions, dreams or goals did he have when younger? Was he ever younger? He appears old before his time, caught up in a world of simple routine and habit, which may seem outdated and old-fashioned to the observer.

A Sense of Entitlement – Making A Career Of Living Off The State

NB** This interpretation should be taken in proper context. It does not refer to those who are forced by circumstances to seek government assistance or social welfare. The Reversed Emperor can imply someone who has made a career out of it and not those who have fallen on hard times. It represents a certain archetypal aspect of the Reversed Emperor only.

Because The Emperor symbolically represents the system, the government, when Reversed he might be implying a lifetime of transferring all responsibility for your life, income, housing and health onto it. Instead of going out and finding your way in the world, carving out a life, career and future, you prefer to sit at home and allow the system to look after you instead. You may have grown up in this culture. Where your seat should be a throne and you in command of your domain, it more so resembles a couch, armchair or bed that is hard to get up out of.

You complain about the government not doing enough for you, are the first to moan on social media, to voice your grievances on the airways when the slightest hint of a cut in your benefits is mooted. Oh yes, you act like the Emperor as you sit in your cosy armchair, having an opinion on how the country should be run, and which politician is to blame for this, that, and the other. Everything is a ‘should be’ scenario that of course especially benefits you in the long run. You have a disdain for those who have made a success of their life through hard work, tenacity and sacrifice. ‘It’s well for them’, you declare regularly to anyone who will listen, and speak about how unfair it is that he/she can afford a fancy house or car. You whine about inequality and label successful people as privileged. However, there is a sense of grand entitlement about yourself. You believe the world owes you a living and want it all done for you by others. You don’t want to have to worry about where your rent is going to come from, or whether you will have enough for the utility bills as everything in your life is subsidised or taken care of by the government.  The Reversed Emperor is this manner loves to pontificate. If he represented the above situation in a  reading for you, or someone you know, the advice would be to get up off your backside and start to take responsibility for your life. Want a nice life and all the trappings that go with it, then go make it happen. Stop blaming everyone but yourself.

Power of Attorney

Alternatively, depending on surrounding cards, the Reversed Emperor may be in a position where his responsibility has diminished for one reason or another. Whereas once he took full command and control of his life, he can no longer be trusted to make sound decisions or act rationally. It is terrible to see the once powerful Emperor reduced to a state where he cannot look after his finances, business, legal issues or even personal care. Even ordinary day-to-day matters such as paying bills on time, the collection of pension, lodgement of money, and the safe-keeping of any cash he might have on him, must be overseen by others who have his best interests at heart. If not, he is liable to make grave mistakes, be taken advantage of, be forgetful of how much money he withdrew and where he put it. He has a tendency to lose things and is very forgetful.

Should this card fall alongside The Six of Cups, Five of Pentacles, The Hermit, Justice, Judgement or certain Sword cards, we might be looking at a situation where a family need to take steps to seek power of attorney over an ageing parent or other family member. There may be the onset of dementia or advancing senility. The Emperor’s crown no longer fits, his suit of armor, no longer required. Seeking power of attorney can be an extremely emotionally and psychologically draining process. No one ever wants to think of themselves incapable of making even the simplest decision or carrying out the most ordinary of tasks, but the time comes for many of us, when we can longer be look after things, or ourselves in the way we used to.

Haven’t The Right Experience To Handle This

The Reversed Emperor can warn about trying to sort a particular problem when you do not have the adequate skills or ability. You like to think of yourself as an in charge and in control Emperor who can take anything in his stride but you are biting off more than you can chew in this case. You are tackling a job on your own that requires an expert’s input. You stand a very good chance of making a mess of things. This could apply to any area of life. For example it could be as basic as deciding to re-wire your whole house or sort out a major plumbing crisis. You see yourself as a person who can turn their hand to anything, that it can’t be that difficult, but you are wrong. Stop now and call the proper tradespeople and allow them do what they are best at. In another instance, you may decide to defend yourself in court in an attempt to save money. The case is tricky and complicated but you have read a few books and feel sure of your chances. You must understand you are completely out of your depth. Walking into a courtroom without proper legal advice is akin to suicide. On a different level, you may decide to sort out issues between staff, neighbours, or even family. You think your position and rank will quickly sort the matter, that your presence is enough. You are wrong. Wading in now before properly thinking things through could make a contentious situation even worse.

The Reversed Emperor can imply a lack of essential skills, education and qualifications when seeking employment. With little or no experience behind you, you are heading out in the hope of securing a good job. You might know yourself to be a good worker, dedicated, reliable, trustworthy and consistent, but when the Reversed Emperor appears, these admirable qualities will not be enough. These will be naturally expected of you, but you will fail to impress at application or interview if you have no formal training or qualifications on  your resume. It is an employers market today and regardless of how ordinary a position may seem, they will have a long list of requirements you will need to meet.

Lack Of Ambition

The Reversed Emperor can imply a lack of ambition or the drive to make anything happen in your life. You may be too passive, prepared to take what comes your way instead of going out and seizing the best on offer. There is no desire to develop one’s potential, to push the boundaries or aspire to anything. This could suggest someone who is prepared to settle for anything in life. They follow orders, live by someone else’s rules, stick within the boundaries set down for them and never challenge or question their position in life. They live in mediocrity, expect little in career, aspire to nothing more than a run of the mill relationship and a very basic lifestyle. You may wonder at them and ask ‘do you not want more’? But they may not understand the question if they have never questioned their life before. You may see great potential in them and aim to bring it forth, but you will get no assistance on their side. You are at nothing here, wasting your energy and time. If you are aiming to motivate this individual or get them enthusiastically involved in something  you are doing, it probably won’t happen.

Lack of ambition could be the result of poor education or a disadvantaged background, but it could also be down to laziness, apathy and disinterest. It could be someone who was never encouraged to dream, think about their future or what they wanted from it. Instead there is a sense of drifting, of ending up wherever the wind blew them. They may have been conditioned from childhood to expect little or to aim low to avoid disappointment. Lack of ambition may have been born out of direct experience. Don’t bother, cause you won’t make it attitude. They have never contemplated sitting on a throne. It never crossed their mind. The Reversed Emperor may have been born in a time when dropping out of school early was the norm. His circumstances may have dictated  he follow a pre-set path that was laid out for him by others rather than chart his own course. This is not a worldly person. The world he lives in is small and uninspiring. The Reversed Emperor could be content to live at the bottom of the mountain and want for nothing more.

A Lecture From An Elder – ‘In My Day’

On the other hand, the Reversed Emperor may be intent on giving us a lecture. He could be a concerned father or grandfather who feels he must have a word with you. He sees all the opportunities that are available today and cannot understand people failing to seize them. Today, you can dream and aspire to be anything you want, as it is there for the taking. Education is a basic human right, not a luxury. There is so much to do, so much more open and readily available. The only thing that holds you back is yourself. You cannot blame anyone else for not seizing as many opportunities as possible and making the very most of them. He tells us that in his day, there were was little choice in life and probably little money too. Only a very privileged few could aspire to bettering their station, to dream about developing their potential, to achieve success. Education at best was very basic and probably short-lived. If he had his time over again with what is available today, he would take advantage of all of it. He would achieve everything he set out to and more besides. He cannot understand the apathy and moaning he hears from younger people who say they don’t have this and don’t have that. He tells them they have no excuse and are extremely lucky and blessed. He would happily swap with any of them.

Lacking The Necessary Qualifications & Skills

The Reversed Emperor can especially represent job seekers who are older than the average. They may have been made redundant and now seek a new job, or perhaps they are going back into the work force after being absent for many years. Unless they have up-skilled, re-trained, and added some new qualifications to their resume, it is unlikely they will be successful in their search. For example, a person has worked as a secretary for the last 30 years but has now being made redundant. They are excellent in administration and computer skills, but have no formal qualifications behind them. When they seek a similar position their lack of qualifications will be pointed out to them and they may not be considered for the role even if they can do it in their sleep. They would be advised to do the relevant course and exams to gain their diploma. Then again, you may have the qualifications, but not the experience. Many employers look for a minimum of two years experience, even for entry-level positions. It is impossible. You may need to seek an intern role to address this gap in your resume.

You might also be aware of your lack in certain areas and are only applying for positions you stand a chance of getting, not ones that you would ideally like. Any job you get will be a hollow victory as you will not enjoy job satisfaction. You are working for the money, working to live, not living to work. Your personal circumstances may dictate your access to training and gaining experience. You may not have the money to attend expensive courses. You might not have the time. Money is crucial to you now, so any job will do as long as you get paid. There is a chance you think yourself too old to learn, that the training would be beyond you, that you haven’t got what it takes, but that is not so. It is never too late for education and it can open up a whole new world to you. It certainly will increase your chances of securing a more interesting position and likely higher salary too.

Out of Your Depth With Job Application – Punching Above Your Weight

The Reversed Emperor can also suggest you are applying for a position, possibly a senior one, but do not have the necessary experience to make the cut. You might believe you can bluff your way into it, but when the Emperor appears, he suggests you are punching above your weight and will be totally out of your depth. It will become quite transparent that you are not suitable for the position as the interview will be in-depth and challenging. The interviewers will pick up on any attempt to hoodwink them and have heard all the bluff before. Only those with the highest qualifications and greatest experience should apply.

Emperor Wanted – But Don’t Expect To Get Paid Like One 

Alternatively, you may be applying for a position where the job spec reads like a senior role, yet the pay on offer is barely entry level. This company will expect you to take on great responsibility, work extremely hard with possibly long hours, but are not prepared to pay you for it. You may be tempted by the role because it sounds senior, but if it reads like ten positions rolled into one, it probably is. You could end up doing several people’s job for the price of barely one. I was once offered a job to run a local pub which also served food. After working in the hospitality industry, I decided to check it out and arranged a meeting with the owner. The pub was a quaint Irish pub with traditional music sessions. I quickly developed a romantic notion about the role and was keenly interested. That is until I found out what the job spec was.  The owner of the pub met me and was very enthusiastic about my suitability for the position (looking good, looking good), but I had to pursue him over the details of it. It turned out the role was to manage the pub which I understood but the breakdown of it went as such.:

  • Run the bar – keep bar stocked, keep beer lines clean, order stock, deal with deliveries. Serve at bar, serve at tables,clean bar and toilets
  • Run the Food Kitchen – Order the food, cook the food, serve the food, clean kitchens, plan menus.
  • Entertainment – Book musicians, pay musicians, advertise music sessions
  • PR – Promote and advertise pub. Organise events and special nights at pub.
  • Administration – All admin.

Needless to say I was quite breathless when he came to the end of the list and was already preparing to leave. When I pointed out that it was impossible to cover all those areas and do a good job, he told me I was underestimating myself and I should be more positive. I asked him what salary he was offering and he told me it would start low to begin with until he saw how I was getting on, but that it had the potential to grow over time. Ha, I knew it. He was looking for a machine and didn’t want to pay. I politely declined his offer and left him to it.




Working for another. A simple job with little responsibility.

Demoted. Failed to secure promotion. Set aside to make room for family

Reaching Too High, Too Far, Too Soon

The Reversed Emperor in a career situation can suggest you are ambitious and seek advancement, but would like to fast-track it. You believe you know everything there is to know and do not wish to linger too long in any particular area for any length of time. You have it all worked out in your head. You are a quick learner and have impressed your seniors. Be careful. You are in danger of climbing too high, too far and too fast before you are truly ready. Regardless of what you think, you lack the necessary experience to be a long-term success. You must earn your stripes at the various stages if  you want to be taken seriously. You have your eye on the top position but have little interest in understanding the steps on the ladder below it. With such ambition you might easily reach your goal ahead of time and secure the coveted throne, but how long will you be able to hold onto? Will you overstep the mark and topple off the throne before your seat is properly established? Without sufficient experience you could flounder at the first hurdle. People may be watching and waiting for this to happen, or even encourage it along. You may not get the support you need from your peers if they believe you lack proper authority, command and integrity. Will they see you as the true and rightful Commander in Chief who has given his all and put in his time, or are you the interloper who does not deserve the privilege? Taking the lift to the penthouse instead of climbing the stairs may be less tiring and ageing, but sometimes it is the journey that is more important for long-term success than the actual arrival itself.

The Reluctant Ruler/Leader/Boss

The Reversed Emperor can find you ill-placed as a reluctant ruler, leader or boss. Let’s face it, you are not cut out for the job. You know it and so does everyone else. You have landed on a throne, not by desire or design, but by need, circumstances, tradition or fate. You don’t have the skills or personality traits that go with the job of being in charge and it is wearing you down and causing considerable stress in your life.

You may have been asked to take over a role of another on a temporary basis, or perhaps you accepted a promotion or advancement that has put you in a position of authority and command over others. You may have moved from a role where you answered to others, got on with your work and bothered no one. You appreciated the fact you were being rewarded for your loyalty and hard work, so may have felt obliged to take the promotion. Your bosses believe in you, so they must think you are the right person for the job. However, the throne does not sit comfortably with you. You find handling and directing staff challenging and stressful. You are weak with them when you should be strong and they can sense your discomfort. Some are taking advantage of you. You were never the best at making important decisions so this is particularly worrying for you. You might have gained an office of your own, removed from the regular working area you are used to, and now feel a fraud sitting at your big desk. When you go home at night you find your sleep is not great. You lie awake worrying and fretting over things you said and did that day, wondering if you made any mistakes and psyching yourself up to confront the staff member who is consistently late back from lunch. This is not you and you might regret ever taking the job. You want to go back to being one of the crowd; go to work, do your job and come home. This job is taking over your life and having a negative effect on you.

Then again, this dilemma may have come about because you thought you would be good at being a boss, at ordering others around, problem solving and making important decisions. You eagerly stepped forward and declared you were a contender for the position, going all out to secure it. You certainly did a good job at convincing everyone of your suitability. Now the post is yours and the reality of it does not live up to your expectations. Neither do you live up to your own expectations and are quite taken back at how changed you are since accepting the position. Changed in  a bad way, not good. You had always fancied yourself as cut out for a leading role, but it is not working out that way. You are enjoying the extra money, and perhaps a company car, but it’s the rest you don’t like. It’s all a bit cut-throat and competitive at this level, with work colleagues friendly and cooperative to your face, but back-biting and scheming in the background. Too much pressure and responsibilities rest on your shoulders and weigh you down. You are in charge of reaching targets and deadlines, the book stops with you. It certainly is tough at the top and you are not sure what to do. Can you step down without losing face and the confidence of others, or must you soldier on?

How To Be An Effective Boss Course

If you are struggling with the role of being boss, of managing staff, meeting deadlines, project managing and organisation, it doesn’t have to mean the end of the road for you. Only very few can take on this position and blend into it seamlessly. Some are natural leaders of course, but the rest of us must find our way through trial and error. Before you chuck it all in, hand in your notice, or admit to making a mistake, give yourself an opportunity to grow into the role by attending courses that specifically focus on areas of leadership in business. Go to the experts, get some training and learn how to perform. Such training may be available through your company, so make enquiries. If you are asked why you think you need it, explain that you want to be the best you can in your role and it will benefit everyone. This demonstrates you are taking your role seriously and have the best interests of the company at heart.

You might also have your own business but feel you lack the necessary skills and traits to be a good one. Your business could be suffering because of it. You may not be dealing with staff in an appropriate manner, or giving a less than Emperor impression to clients or customers when you do business with them. If so, investing in training and self-development in these areas through bespoke courses will be money well-spent. If being an effective and productive boss does not come naturally then learn how to be one. Study the greats, model yourself on those rulers and leaders you most admire and watch how they operate.

Power Trips And Affectation

The Reversed Emperor can appear in a work reading when you are experiencing issues with a boss, or a colleague who has recently being promoted and is now your new boss. This type of boss is the equivalent of a bridezilla in that they develop an inflated sense of their own importance, take their status to extreme levels and become obnoxious and demanding in their dealings with others. Your boss or new boss may be throwing their weight around and relishing the power and control they have over others. This normally occurs when a ambitious individual seeks the role as a power trip and not because of what they can bring to the job. There is also a chance they have been chosen because of their nasty streak if the aim is to keep staff on their toes through intimidation and insecurity. This boss could set out to find fault in all you do and critcise your every move. Your work is never good enough and you may be asked to redo it, stay late or come in early just to satisfy their contrariness.

We have dealt with a Reversed Emperor scenario where he is not cut out to be a leader or boss, or is ineffective in his attempts. However, he is conscientious about his short-comings and wants to find a solution. If he can’t, then he will admit failure and step aside. In this instance we have a Reversed Emperor who’s focus is not on whether he has the skills to be a good boss or not, but rather that he has power and authority over everyone. Here is a person who wants the throne, but is not too interested in the responsibilities that go with it. He/she is ambitious where power, prestige and status are concerned but not the hard slog that is involved. In this manner, they will seek a way to the throne but leave the burden of duty and work to others. They are looking for a cushy number where they don’t have much to do. They are not keen on hard work or getting their hands dirty. This person’s desk will never be overflowing with ongoing work. Instead a lonely biro may sit on a blank notebook. They have a fondness for carrying clip-charts or files in their hand as they move through the corridors, walking with purpose and intent as if they have someplace important or urgent to be, but if observed closely this is just a ruse to make it look as if they are doing something. If their senior asks them to do something, they immediately pass it on to one of their own staff, but will happily take the credit when it is completed. They can manage to work their way quite high up the career ladder by giving  the impression they are working hard. They certainly look and act the part of a boss on the surface, so this may be why they get away with it.

The Reversed Emperor could suggest you are attracted to a position that may be up for grabs and could be planning on putting yourself forward for it. The position offers prestige and a significant hike in salary. There might be bonuses and great perks that have your head turned. However, you must understand the nature of the work and what will be expected of you. This is not a role where anything goes, or where you can rock up late or leave early. It will require a full-on commitment from you.



Up Against The System

The Reversed Emperor in a reading can suggest a situation where you have become increasingly frustrated and bogged down with bureaucracy and the system. You are being held back from forging ahead with plans by convoluted archaic processes and endless red-tape. You have no idea why it should all be so complicated and drawn out. You might be applying for planning permission, a mortgage, bank loan, grant, dealing with probate or other legalities, or even support systems for an elderly parent or relative but you keep hitting endless brick walls. Nothing is straightforward and there is endless paperwork and documentation to get together. Just when you think you have supplied all that is required of  you, more is requested. This has gone on so long, some of the original paperwork or deadlines have expired, forcing you to go back over old territory as you clamber to pull it all together once more. Your patience is running out and you may also be running out of time in certain areas. You do your best to impress the urgency to the officials you meet, but they have no power or authority in the matter. When you ask to speak to the person in charge, the top official, the decision maker, the one who has the final say, they are impossible to reach. Every time you ring, the Emperor is in a meeting, on scheduled leave, or offsite. You leave your contact details but no one ever returns your call. The Emperor is Reversed, unreachable and un-contactable. It is just impossible. You feel you are just another number. There is an old school approach at play which infuriates you. Everything goes by the book, moves at a snail’s pace, with no exceptions made whatsoever. You are likely dealing with longstanding governmental institutions and establishments. You are apoplectic with contained rage but what can you do?

With the Reversed Emperor, you may have reached the end of the long drawn out process only to discover you have been unsuccessful, turned down, denied or rejected. You can’t believe it and desperately seek a meeting in an attempt to sort it out. You might ask how you can tweak things here and there to make it work, but are met with blank stares. A rejection is a rejection, a refusal. Perhaps if you want to apply or submit again at another time they might re-consider. There is a stubborn and rigid attitude. You are not going to get anywhere. Appealing to their emotions won’t work. You now wonder if you should have been so honest in the first place. Perhaps if you told them what they wanted to hear, rather than the truth, they would be more giving, You were upfront and thought to be doing the right thing, but in this instance it has got you nowhere. Back to the drawing board.

Challenging Out-Dated Policies/Taking On The Lawmakers

Now this is not an easy task and certainly not for the faint-hearted, but if you feel sufficiently aggrieved about something or believe a decision or outcome to be outrageously unfair, unjust or discriminatory, you might feel obliged to do something about it.  You are not the first one to have been affected in this manner and certainly won’t be the last. With The Reversed Emperor, there is a tendency to rant and rave at the establishment with its pathetic laws and systems, but not actually do anything about it. You may talk of how things ‘should be’ but leave it to others to take up the issue. The Emperor Reversed, suggests that something needs to be done, and you might be the one to do it. You need to bring public attention to the contentious issue. You cannot reach the Reversed Emperor by normal route, so perhaps you can find another way to lure him from his lair. Contacting the media, ringing phone-in radio stations and circulating the issue on social media may draw him forth when the irritate public start voicing their opinion and demand answers. The Reversed Emperor, is the ‘not available for comment’ guy and detests having to deal with such inconveniences, but he may be forced into making a statement. Public opinion could eventually sway the lawmakers into addressing outdated and discriminatory policies. Have you got what it takes? Can you rebel and make a difference, challenge authority and the powers that be. Can you stand up for yourself and others too?

Can’t Control This One

The Reversed Emperor can represent a time or situation where your position, rank and influence holds no weight. You are used to being in control of everything and everyone,  calling the shots and laying down the law, but it won’t work this time. This does not sit comfortably with you and it may take some time before you begin to realise how powerless you are in the grand scheme of things. Throwing money at problems and obstacles in the past, using your name or connections, and throwing your weight around solved everything. It gained you the desired outcome regardless of who or what stood in your way, but it will not get you anywhere in this instance. Shouting, roaring and threatening behaviour may make you feel better, but it won’t change things. You can rail against god, but your power and might means nothing  now. This interpretation can be directed at any area of your life depending on individual circumstances. It could be a legal issue, a final ruling against you –  a custodial sentence, banged up abroad in a brutal regime. It could represent a health issue for you or another – a dreadful and final diagnosis that nothing can be done about. It could be a failed business due to a collapsed economy, the plane that you just missed or was cancelled, the forgotten passport, the hotel without a single vacancy, the restaurant that is booked out. It might be the incorruptible cop who pulls you over after speeding or DUI.  Really, it can be a little or large matter depending on how one grades such issues. Being told there is no table at your favourite restaurant could be a big deal if you have grand notions about your importance. You will probably make a fuss and adopt a confrontational stance, demanding of staff ‘do you know who I am?’. Indeed, the harder you try to control this issue, the more counterproductive it might be for you and any others involved.  Someone else is in charge and your protests fall on deaf ears. The shoe is on the other foot now.

White Collar Crime

The Reversed Emperor can suggest being on the wrong side of the law, but especially White Collar Crime. Instead of you ruling and judging on the misdemeanors of others, figures of great power and authority hold your life in the balance. You may be in trouble with the law or inland revenue. This could be a case of grand theft, fraud, embezzlement or corruption. Criminal organisations or elements may be involved. You have used your position of power and influence to work around or outside the law, thinking you could get away with it, but have been caught red-handed or strongly implicated. There may have been a whistle-blower, a terrier-like journalist, dogged investigator, or undercover agent. Perhaps you slipped up after getting too cocky. You might have thought to be protected from the full rigors of the law, untouchable on your throne, shielded by many, but all have deserted you. It looks like you are heading in the same direction as the low-lifers you disdain so much. This is a fall from a great height and you will be stripped of rank. Your reputation lies in tatters. Inland revenue may seize your assets, possessions and property.  There could be a public inquiry, a grand jury trial. You could go to jail.

Resenting Rules and Regulations

In the Reversed Emperor we can see  a complete turnabout from his Upright state in that he abhors, and actively avoids, anything he deems restrictive or confining. His presence in your reading could suggest you are stuck in such a situation or environment and are desperate to escape. You may have entered voluntarily, taken in or impressed by the established order and being a part of it, but that has all changed. You might have believed  you craved security and certain stability, but you feel the very life being sucked out of you. You may feel too young or too spirited to stick with a regime that seeks to tie you down, pigeon hole or institutionalise you. You are sick of being told what you can’t do, coming up against brick walls and objections to every attempt you make to be unique and individual. You are a rebel hemmed in by four thick walls and gate keepers intent on following orders and doing their job. You cannot communicate with these people or express yourself in any creative way. Your need to be different lies in stark contrast to those who surround you. All the rooms of your castle look the same, are decorated in dull uninspiring colours. You might see those around you as grey or colourless, bowing to the system, afraid to step out of line or question authority. Everyone wants you to act and behave in a certain way but you have had enough and are sick of the oppressive nature of it all. At times you feel so stifled you can barely breathe. Check for the presence of The Hierophant.

In the Reversed Emperor, you are contemplating making a bid for freedom. You do not fit in here, or perhaps have outgrown it. Others may think you have it made, look at you enviously, and would think you mad for even thinking out giving it all up. Well they can have it if they want for you cannot comply with it any longer. Moving away from this environment or influence will have its downside. Any stability or security it offered will disappear or be taken away once you detach or disconnect. The Emperor will no longer be there to protect you.

In this aspect we could be looking at a stifling job or career that is grinding you down, a suffocating or controlling relationship, a boring living environment or lifestyle, or a strict and regimental parent. Part of you may be over-reacting to your situation, making it out to be worse than it is, loathing what is familiar and samey, resenting and rebelling against everything just because you want something different. Leaving the clutches of the Emperor involves saying goodbye to his fortress castle and taking your chances in the outside world where he will not be there to help you. You must figure things out yourself and find your own way.

The Price of Freedom

When you break free from rules, order and restriction, it throws open a big gate. You will want to run through it quickly, but from here on you will be required to make decisions or choices that are not dictated by another. Without set order you can do as you please, but that does not mean to say you will get it right. You are bound to make mistakes or be led astray by your wayward mind. When you do, you may look fondly back on the rule of The Emperor and even wish yourself back under his protection. However, it is never a good idea to allow another exert full control over you. You seek self-governing, and in doing so, must become your own Emperor. Life and the system, will always demand you  keep in line with it. Thinking you can operate completely outside of it is unrealistic. At this point in time you wish to be the one who sets your own rules, mark your personal boundaries, draw up parameters, and issues decrees to govern your own life. When you have a tendency to run from rule and order as in the Reversed Emperor, you must accept there will still be some expectations made of you by others. Finding the right balance is important. If you wish to be accepted as your own Emperor, you must accept the Emperor in others, and in society too. It will require much give and take. How do you follow certain orders set down by others, whilst still retaining your own sovereignty?

Free From Paternal Control

The Emperor Reversed could mark the time in life when you move out of the family home and away from the control of your parents, especially your father. You may be fleeing a harsh father, or simply removing yourself from his direct protection. Leaving home, the Emperor does not need to imply the end of a relationship between you, or the escape from an unpleasant environment. Essentially you are changing the father/child relationship when moving out. He can no longer treat you as the child he probably still sees you as. Out from under his watchful or critical eye, you can now do as you please, come and go when you wish, and do whatever you want.  The Reversed Emperor will still worry about you and may try to exert control from a distance, but the dynamics have changed and the power balance altered in your favour. However, you may still seek him out when in need of his assistance, or when his power and influence are required to assist your goals or ambition.

Vulnerable / Exposed

The Reversed Emperor can be throwing the spotlight on how vulnerable or exposed you feel at present. In this aspect, he is caught without his armor and chain-mail, leaving him in dangerous territory and at the mercy of enemies or opportunistic attackers. This could reflect any area of life from work to personal. You may have taken a risk, gone into something with your eyes wide open, knowingly accepting you may not come out intact the other side. Depending on which Suits dominate the rest of the Spread we could be looking at financial/physical/health risk and exposure if we find worrying Pentacle cards, career/travel risk with Wands, emotional vulnerability with Cups and psychological attack with Swords. If you are dabbling with the occult or psychic practices, the Reversed Emperor could suggest you are not cleansing or protecting during this work. In doing so, you leave yourself at risk of psychic vampires, energy depletion and depression. Should the Moon appear alongside, the Reversed Emperor may be warning of the dangers of travelling un-escorted at night in unfamiliar territory. He may not be able to be by your side but he would advise you take precaution. Carry your phone, keep your wits about you, walk with purpose, and stay out of known danger zones. You are taking potentially dangerous risks with your safety. The Fool appearing could imply leaving yourself without a get out or contingency plan as we see him teeter on the edge of a cliff. In some decks the dog appears to bite a piece out of his trousers, suggesting trying to cover up or expose something. The Magician could suggest making ludicrous claims or declarations without anything to back them up. He risks being exposed as a fraud or liar. The Chariot could warn of car trouble or accident, if you fail to take precautions, belt up and maintain your vehicle. The Devil warns of being vulnerable to the negative influence of others or addiction should you drop your guard. Following these examples, we can see how The Reversed Emperor can be applied for this interpretation.

You have acted out of character for the Upright Emperor and you may be aware of this. It might be something you would never dream of doing normally. The Reversed Emperor suggests you have not gone so far you cannot go back and armor up. Don’t head out unprepared and unprotected.

Dropping Your Guard

The Reversed Emperor can suggest your enemy has discovered a chink in your armor irrespective of how intent you were in concealing it. You have done well defending your territory up until now, but be advised of attempts to attack on your blindside, to distract you with meaningless words or actions so they may catch you off guard. You cannot afford to drop your guard at this crucial stage of negotiation or action. The moment you do, you will be invaded and possibly defeated. Keep vigilant and alert. Victory under these circumstances is uncertain. Your throne, castle or kingdom is vulnerable and insecure. Observe closely approaching riders. The Six of Wands figure on horseback may seem benign at face value, but you may be letting the Trojan horse in the gate when you see his back-up army rush forth in attack. This interpretation can be applied to your home, car, business, person or possessions. The Reversed Nine of Pentacles would raise  a flag about a possible breach of security on your land or property when the Emperor is Reversed. Double check all locks and be suspicious of strangers.

Softening Your Stance

The Reversed Emperor may show a softening in your stance about something. You have been blocking and restricting something or someone for much time, acting defensively and are very protective of your space. You may have been under siege against a force your believe threatens your sovereignty. However, you are ready to raise the portcullis and lower the drawbridge as you cannot keep it, or them, at bay any longer. There may have been a battle of wills, a grim determination to be the last one standing, but compromise is close at hand. Both sides, or at least one, has risen from their throne and are making their way forth. Be sure to keep your suit of armor on.

Be On Your Guard

The Reversed Emperor could highlight a situation where you feel others have deliberately stripped you of protection and exposed you to danger. You may be led to believe you have the control of the Emperor but you may actually be a pawn in someone else’s game or plans. They may use your position, rank or status for their own agenda, extracting value out of their close relationship to you, but when the shit hits the fan, or when you no longer serve their purpose, they will have no hesitation in throwing you to the wolves or under the bus. By drawing you from  your throne they seek to isolate you from your allies and friends. When they make their move, you might be caught without a protector or defender. Move quickly back towards the upright Emperor who knows to keep his distance from such power-meddlers. Traditionally, The Emperor dealt with daily plots against his life, and trusted no one. Question everything and everyone who approaches. Do not let others draw you away from your throne or rightful place or you may regret it.

An Unexpected Defeat

The Reversed Emperor depending on surrounding cards, such as Reversed Chariot, Reversed Six of Wands, Ten of Swords, Tower etc. could imply it is too late. You have been defeated, overcome by the enemy who outsmarted or out-skilled you. You may not have seen this coming, thought your position strong and you untouchable. As a result, you may not have taken proper care, or paid attention to the seriousness of the threat. Perhaps your expected an automatic victory because of who are what you are, but it has yielded no leverage. You have been treated like everyone else when you thought you could influence the outcome, or that your presence alone was enough to make it happen. Your throne has been confiscated and castle seized. You might be cast out or thrown into the dungeons. You may feel powerless and frustrated. Where you guilty of resting on your laurels, your previous successes? When power is lost, you will quickly come to know who your true friends are. This is bound to be a humbling if not leveling experience for you as the Emperor Reversed suggests you are not used to such things.

A Dangerous Enemy/Adversary

In the Upright Emperor, we find a strong ally and staunch protector and defender, even though his personality can be rather formidable. He backs those he believes in and the just and honest. When he Reverses, we can find a very different person altogether. Remember he can wield great power as an Emperor, whether Upright or Reversed, in a similar manner to The Magician who’s power is more deadly when Reversed. However, it is how he wields his power that determines whether he puts his power to good use or for abuse. When Reversed, the Emperor can become extremely intimidating and scary if he declares you his enemy, should you dishonor him, challenge him, question him, or make him look bad. He can make life very difficult for you as his power is far reaching and relentless. As a boss he can make sure you ‘never work in this town again’, ruin your career, smear your reputation and destroy your personal life. He has friends in both high and low places and believes himself to be above the law, with the right to do as he pleases. Very few will stand up against him for fear of suffering the same fate.

In a relationship, he will aim to take you down and leave you with less than nothing if you choose to walk away from him or seek to end your marriage. He will make sure you never get a cent and will go to great lengths to transfer money and assets which will come as a shock when you discover and leave your legal team scratching their heads. Take him to court and you will find he has the elite of legal representation who won’t stop in their attack of you until they have dragged you through the mud and back again. You may think the law is on your side, but you will quickly discover he can jump through many loop holes to avoid doing the right thing. You will be powerless against him which feeds his enjoyment of your destruction. He has a great capacity for cruelty and revenge. Put nothing beyond his capabilities, and importantly, do not fall into any of the traps he may set. The Reversed Emperor in this manner, may lure you into doing or saying things to suit his agenda. He could turn up at your door out of the blue, in feigned remorse  or benevolence, wanting to sort things between you. He may present you with a way out which he will declare is a win win situation for all, but in reality the only one who will benefit is him. You may be tempted to sign papers that he assures you are so above board, there is no point in showing them to your lawyers, as you can trust him and only has your best interests at heart.

If you find yourself in a confrontational situation with The Reversed Emperor he will be either weak and pose no threat, be all bark and not bite, or be terrifying in his demeanor and actions. Surrounding cards will quickly sum up which one applies. You need to find out fast which side of the coin you are dealing with.

In the Reversed Emperor, there is no point appealing to his better side for he doesn’t have one. There is little hope in holding out for mercy, or in him losing interest in his pursuit of you. Neither will he take into consideration the inequality of the situation where power is concerned and agree to cut you some slack. This is the wealthy guy who wants for nothing and has more than he will ever need but relentlessly pursues an individual with little, but who has crossed him on some matter, innocently or not,  and is intent on stripping them of everything, just to satisfy his thirst for blood and victory. He sees himself as God Like, The Sun King and deems his prey of little consequence and very disposable.

Power Vacuum 

The Reversed Emperor can suggest a power vacuum has occurred, leaving an opening or opportunity for you to jump on. You weren’t expecting this as it may have been sudden, or perhaps you have been keeping your ear to the ground. Others are aware of this too, so you must moving quickly to capitalise on such an occurrence. Perhaps it hasn’t happened yet, but rumors are spreading, the jungle drums increasing in volume by the day. This could be a work-related situation, a personal issue, to do with relationships, family, or even the purchase of a property or business. Perhaps you should approach and make yourself known before the throne is officially vacated, before anyone else can get a look in. For example, the wonderful house you have had your eye on for years is rumored to be going up for sale soon.  Get around there now and make it known that you are interested in purchasing. The owner may be grateful for cutting out the middle-person and securing a quick sale on his house. If you don’t act quickly, someone will get there before you. If there are rumblings about a business closing down, or a premises becoming available move rapidly. You could get a good deal on it.

It might be you who is the Reversed Emperor, knowing your time on the throne is coming to an end. You may be relinquishing it voluntarily, happy to hand it over to another, or you need to be dragged away very reluctantly. Make no mistake, The Reversed Emperor’s throne and domain in question is extremely attractive to others who are salivating at the very thought of getting their hands on what is or has been yours. Rest assured that while your plan to give up your throne may only be in your head, others are aware, have smelled it in the air, and are already mobilising to get there first and claim it as their own. Like vultures they will descend, pushing and shoving, fighting over the scraps of your life and achievement. Once they sense your power is diminishing the respect and fear you were once assured of, will vanish and they will pick over your bones in their hunger for power.

In medieval times, once a monarch reached a certain age or became ill, the powerful noble families of the land began to plot and scheme. Each wanted to seize the throne for themselves, irrespective of their support for the current owner. Power could be grappled even from those who rightfully stood in line to inherit once the individual declared themselves a challenger to the throne and rallied enough support behind them. Should a monarch die without warning, the power vacuum created a very dangerous situation. The dead monarch’s family or rightful heir’s life immediately had a price on their head. They were at risk of being kidnapped, murdered, incarcerated or executed to clear the way for any number of challengers. This was especially true if the heir to the recently vacant throne resided far away, or in another land. Their journey back to claim their throne was treacherous and often deadly. They could expect to be under constant attack by supporters of challengers who wanted them dead. Even children were brutally slain to prevent them reaching their destination and coronation.

What was especially horrendous were the dangers Queens faced when the King died, especially if they too were in possession of great territory. An example of this can be found with Eleanor of Aquitaine after she eventually secured the annulment of her marriage to Louis VII of France in 1152. Eleanor was the Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitou after inheriting it from her father who died in 1137. Aquitaine (South of France) was a powerful and prestigious territory, and upon marriage to Louis, he became ruler of it, making his domain even larger. However, Aquitaine belonged to Eleanor, and should she not secure a male heir with Louis, it would go to another member of her family. Women were also allowed inherit, just like Eleanor had, so if there was just a daughter, Aquitaine would go to her. Eleanor’s possession of Aquitaine made her greatly sought after by all the powerful rulers in Europe. Her father upon growing ill had quickly arranged for her to be put under the guardianship of Louis, King of France. Once dead, Louis quickly sent an envoy for Eleanor before promptly betrothing her to his own son, another Louis. They were married and within days, the father, Louis was dead, leaving his Son, Louis to become King and Eleanor, Queen France. Eleanor’s father knew she would be a sitting duck when he died but it is unsure if he would have agreed with the match. He knew that once he drew his final breath, his daughter, Eleanor would become a most powerful woman, ruling over great swathes of rich territory. Whoever claimed Eleanor as his own, either voluntarily or by force, would be a force to be reckoned with when they took power of it. Eleanor’s father ensured she was not left to the wolves when he died. However, she was miserably unhappy with her husband Louis, and also failed to produce a male heir after years of marriage. She did have two daughters with him, who upon her death stood in line to become the next Duchess of Aquitaine.

Eleanor was a woman before her time and doggedly pursued an annulment of her marriage based on the law of being too closely related to her husband by birth – consanguinity. Eventually Eleanor’s persistence paid off. She was granted her annulment in  1152. The moment the papers were signed, she immediately lost the protection of her husband Louis and the French Army. Eleanor was a target for many who sought her kingdom. She knew she had to move fast. She was already packed to go before signing her release papers. Travelling light and with her closest of allies, she fled the royal palace near Orleans and headed for her true home in Poitiers. She dressed as a man and rode hard and fast, careful not to take the most obvious route. He flight was terrifying but she was very brave. She knew that word of her annulment had spread and that already there would be many who had gathered armies to go after her. Whoever successfully got to her first would drag her from her horse and slay those who protected her. She would then be raped and forced to endure a lightening marriage complete with witnesses.  She would have no say in who she married. Her new husband would then lay claim to Aquitaine. Many attempts were made to capture her en route but she managed to escape and safely arrive home. She married Henry II only a matter of weeks later. Henry went on to become King of England in 1154, making Eleanor Queen once more, thus beginning the Plantagenet Dynasty and Reign that would last until the death of Richard III at The Battle of Bosworth in 1485, defeated by the young Henry Tudor who would go on to father Henry VIII.  Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor united their land. Eleanor bore several male Heirs.


The Reversed Emperor can suggest a time of anarchy or anarchistic behaviour. Lawlessness and complete lack of respect for authority leads to loss of control and order. It may be related to a real life event, perhaps looting after street riots, or in the aftermath of a natural disaster. It may be as a result of pickets and striking, political unrest, disgruntled and angry sport hooligans, or due to excess consumption of alcohol. It is  a dangerous time when there is little to protect you, when ordinary people go mad, when those who seek opportunities as such, run amok causing mayhem and mobocracy.  When the mob takes over, mayhem and pandemonium sets in. Anything can and will happen. The streets are not safe and you can no longer rely on the decency in people. The appearance of any representatives of authority or leaders at this time is fraught with danger, as they are seen as the enemy who must be taken down. Police and riot squads come under heavy fire and are treated with lack of respect and obedience. The mob can incite and provoke the authorities and law enforcers to engage in open combat with them, leading to compete nihilism.

The Reversed Emperor may feel powerless, but must look to himself to see what part he has played in fanning the flames of such anarchy. Why the need for such uprising and revolt? Could it have been avoided, did he see it coming, did he underestimate the threat?

Personal Anarchy

On a personal level, The Reversed Emperor could imply that mob mentality is at play in your life. It may be coming from within, or being imposed on you by others who are intent on dragging you into their forays. This energy may encourage you to thwart the law, sneer at figures of authority in your life and be damned about your responsibilities. Your work could be in disarray with you caring less about it, you might be dodging your landlord to avoid paying your rent, preferring to spend it on socialising and excess. Bills and debts could be building with no effort being made on your part of clear them. You might be throwing your thrash into other people’s bins rather than pay for your own,  or are taking stuff that does not belong to you. You justify your actions as you go, feeling angry with the world for all your ills. If you can’t beat them, you might as well join them is the attitude. Instead of order and calm, chaos and panic may dominate our life. It might have reached tipping point. Your back is against the wall and you may not know where to run which is causing you to act out of character.  His reversed presence is a strong indication that some area of your life is spiraling out of control .  You may be in a right mess and don’t know how to fix things.  You may have set no boundaries or rules for yourself or others. You will be in trouble when the authorities catch up with you.


The Upright Emperor commands undying loyalty and respect from his subjects, family and friends. He can count on their support and backing in everything he does. It is essential for the Emperor to surround himself with reliable people who will circle the wagons with him in times of trouble or willingly take a bullet for him. When he Reverses, this may not be the case. Loyalty is a fleeting thing and can be sold to the highest bidder. Those that surround him are self-serving and seek their own advancement. They may look and act trustworthy but are not. They run with the hair and hunt with the hound. Instead of loyal Knights there are mercenaries who thrive on treachery. In this manner, the Reversed Emperor could be warning of the risk of betrayal from close quarters. It might be the time to closely guard confidential information and private details about you. Someone could be acting friendly, helpful and interested but there is a hidden agenda. They will show their true colour when you most need them. Instead of running to your assistance, they could get the boot in instead. You might be shocked and gravely disappointed. Those around you may be overstepping the mark and operating in your territory.  Your failure to chastise or assert yourself leaves you open to abuse. You are too loose in your personal security and sharing of intimate details.

On another level, you may be betrayed by someone you have been consistently loyal to, even helped get them to where they now are. It could be a friend, family member, partner, spouse, work colleague or boss. You have been there for them every step of the way, and although you gave without expectations of receiving, you had hoped for some form of reciprocation should you need to call on it. Well, that time has come and they are nowhere to be seen, or are too caught up with their own things. They may even distance themselves from you during your time of need, or come up with a million excuses as to why they would love to help but can’t. Then again, they may blatantly recoil, be disparaging towards you, adding to your woes instead of easing them. You have been let down by those you should have been able to rely on. You are on your own and must fight your way out without help.

The Fall of A Dictator 

The Emperor Reversed can represent the leader or ruler who has been toppled from his throne or disgraced. There may be several reasons for this. A rightful and just Emperor could be ousted by a tyrant or dictator who is power hungry and ruthless. When the Reversed Emperor is involved in this however, it is likely he is the one who has been throwing his weight around and is held in contempt by his subjects or staff. It suggests not acting in the interests of others, but for personal gain and glory.

The Reversed Emperor may have held onto his throne for an inordinate period of time. His reign and rule has become fixed, his power absolute. He removed himself from accountability a long time ago, instead choosing to do as he pleases. He has surrounded himself with a wall of steel and those who are ready to do his bidding. He deals swiftly with any who attempt to stand up to or challenge him. His dungeons and torture chambers overflow with rebels who have tried to conspire against him. Punishment is swift and merciless, used as a threat and warning to others who might try to rise against him. He is invincible and might believe he rules by divine power. His leadership will be starkly marked by huge contrast between him and his subjects. He sits on the top level and issues order and decrees down to the other level which sits at the bottom of the mountain in the imagery. He cares little for the people down there who may be poor, hungry and homeless. He feathers his own nest through his corrupt use of power. When his kingdom and people lie in ruins, he is busy siphoning money from state coffers to make him look more splendid. When that runs low, he heavily taxes the already burdened, or removes essential funding from the sick and old to refill the coffers. His country maybe bankrupt, yet he manages to live in grandeur and travels by private jet.

Narcissist Personality

The Reversed Emperor manages to bring everything back to himself, to being about him and how he looks. He likes to talk about himself, to remind others of how wonderful he is and will sit there waiting until the crowd or gathering enthusiastically agree with him. He sees himself as the most handsome, most intelligent, most ingenious, most popular ruler of all time. He is deluded, and possibly even mad. In times of state crisis, he thinks only of covering his own back. He will leave his subjects exposed to dangers or threat while he hides in a secure location.  When he walks among his people he expects them to fall at this feet in adoration. He has a narcissist personality that needs to be constantly complimented and praised. He takes everything personally and gets easily offended. He can fly into a terrifying rage or tantrum, lashing out at those in his vicinity and punishes the innocent for perceived insults.

His temper and easily-upset nature can set in motion dreadful events or extreme crisis, which he then leaves to others to clean up. He will declare black is white and his staff will be expected to prove that it is. He likes to be difficult and ask for the impossible, yet little can be asked of him.

Coup d’Etat

The Reversed Emperor can survive for a long time if he has broken the spirit of his people who are too fearful to stand up to him. He has incarcerated all those who made previous attempts. His steel-like control is difficult to break, but there will always be those who want to give it a try. Fear of imprisonment, torture or death do not seem to deter them. Kill ten and another twenty will rise up to replace them. The Reversed Emperor appearing in a reading which represents the above situation either literally or figuratively, can suggest brewing dissent and unrest in the background. Those who oppose his rule, ideology or politics are mobilising to remove him from power. A coup is coming down the tracks and it is only a matter of time before it grows to sufficient strength. The Reversed Emperor’s days are numbered, and he cannot expect anyone to show him mercy when the time comes. No, he has upset, hurt, and traumatised too many. His actions cannot be forgiven or excused. He will be held accountable by his people and the law of the land. The coup may come from close quarters. It might be an inside job, a group banded together with a common cause – to overthrow the Reversed Emperor and replace him with someone who represents the will of the people and reform. The Reversed Emperor may get a tip-off and make good his escape, burning evidence of his wrong-doing behind him as he slips off into a lavish exile. Therefore, the element of surprise is necessary. The leaders of the coup want to seize evidence and proof of his corruption, and when they do, others will be implicated. A can of worms will be opened. The Reversed Emperor could not have managed his rule alone. Others were happy to do his bidding and were well-rewarded. They too will be exposed when the coup begins. There will be nowhere to hide.

Often the leader of the coup, literally or figuratively, will be the person least expected to carry it off. Because this is a Reversed card, we may be looking at someone from the bottom of the mountain, an ordinary person, an unknown, far removed from the halls of power. The Reversed Emperor may not even be aware of this person, or if he is, thinks them to be of little consequence. Because he remains apart from his people, he does not know their mood, cannot read them. If he did, he would see where the trouble is rising from and why. So the Reversed Emperor could imply attack coming from the least likely or suspicious corner, someone completely un-Emperor like.

Power Going To Your Head

This Emperor may have initially sought power and seized the throne from a previous cruel dictator, intent on bringing justice and democracy to the people, but power has a habit of corrupting the weak in mind and soul. He now has become what he ousted, simply replacing one tyrant with another. It happens so easily. The sense of empowerment experienced when others put you on a pedestal, give you privileges, ultimate control. A free hand to rule as you wish is heady stuff. In the Reversed Emperor ,there may be evidence that power has gone to your head. You have become self-righteous and arrogant. You are full of your own importance and care less for what others must endure under your command.

Foolhardy Action – Not Heeding Advice

The Reversed Emperor can warn of embarking on a course of action totally unprepared. The Upright Emperor would never consider heading into battle without a well-thought out strategy in place. Of course, if you have been caught off guard and need to defend yourself, you may be left with no choice but to draw your sword be it right on wrong. You may not have time to work out a game plan and must think on your feet. However, with The Emperor Reversed, it could point to a situation where you believe you don’t need one. You may be all puffed up with false pride, a sense of great importance, overestimate your strength and agility on the battlefield or combat skills. You may be putting too much emphasis on who you are, if you arrogantly believe yourself to be superior and invincible to others. So sure are you of success, you are prepared to put others at risk, lead your army and supporters into all sorts of forays and danger. You may be hell-bent on proving a point at all costs and keep forging ahead without much calculation. You could be calling the shots, making grand declarations and issuing decrees without working out the detail first. You then expect those around you to make it happen.

It is often the case with the Emperor Reversed that you are receiving poor advice or listening to the wrong people. They could be simply pandering to your whims, telling  you what you want to hear, agreeing with you. You probably have some level of power and such advisers want to keep on your good side or have learned from old not to disagree with you. They may also have learned their advice though sought, is never heeded as you will do as you please regardless of what they say. Then there will be those whose advice springs from a hidden agenda. They make all the right sounds, come across interested and supportive but are truthfully leading you down a path that may be in their interests but not yours. The sad thing is you think yourself clever and discerning, dismissing those who know what they are talking about in favour of the more impressive looking people, possibly people with higher connections and influence. You will believe them before you will believe those closest and most loyal to you.  You are putting your faith in the wrong people. An Emperor is only as good as the people he has around him. Unless they are persons of integrity, their influence will penetrate down through all the corridors and levels of your power. You will become a puppet King or ruler.

You could be heading for a fall, assisted on your way by those who seek to see you stripped of power. Often the Empress will try to appeal to the Emperor, get him to see sense or offer advice based on her wise observations and discerning nature. However, the Emperor is Reversed and will tell the Empress to leave such Kingly duties to him. She is just a woman at the end of the day and couldn’t possibly know what is best for him. He prefers to take advice and direction from his chamber of council who all seek power in their own right or are as every bit deluded as he is. The Empress knows the Emperor better than he knows himself but he would never accept her wise judgement on important matters.


The Reversed Emperor can highlight the desire to step down, abdicate or retire. You have achieved a high level of success and have nothing left to prove. You may have gone as far as you can and there is nothing left to do. You may not be as young as you once were, the years have passed filled with work, duty, routine and habit. You carried out your duties admirably and responsibly. The time has come to go and you know it. You see those who have been climbing the ladder behind you, full of new ideas and methods of implementation. There is a new way of doing everything, new systems, machinery and computers which can leave you feeling a bit frazzled. You are content to leave them to it and bow out. They have a progressive way of thinking which reminds you of yourself when you were young and starting out. Then you were intent on revolutionizing the world, of putting wrongs to right, making your environment a better place to be. It is funny how the passing years and experience have knocked the edges off you. You had sought to change so much but had to eventually settle for the status quo, what everyone else wanted or told you to do. Life didn’t bend to your will, but insisted you bend to it.

You eventually become part of the system, a cog in the wheel or machinations of worldly existence. The system you claimed to loathe when you were young and idealistic, eventually swallowed you up. You became its custodian, and were more than ready to defend it.  You climbed through the ranks just as those before you had done. Nothing really changes no matter how hard we try. So, now you have come full circle and are ready for the hand-over of power. You may be retiring from work, resigning as boss or stepping down as chairman of the board. You could be abdicating from the throne in favour of one of your offspring, handing over the reigns or command of business to the next generation who are intent on modernising everything. They too will learn in time that only certain things can be changed. The system and long established tradition are slow to evolve. They will only be able to exert limited influence over it during their Reign. Absolute or overnight change is probably idealistic and they must be prepared to compromise as you once did.

As you climb down from your throne, you do so stiffly if you have occupied it for too long. Your body is tired and perhaps should have retired much sooner if only you had agreed to let go. It is hard to step down from the role of Emperor as it brings much gain and privilege.

The Reversed Emperor could suggest reaching the age when you are entitled to a pension. The work you have done has been acknowledged and you are now free to enjoy the rest of your life as you choose in leisure, sport, hobby, travel or relaxation. You now have the time to write that book you always talked about. It is doubtful you will disappear altogether. You may choose to keep your hand in on some level, as an adviser to the new Emperor perhaps, official or unofficial, or offer mentoring to those who aspire to be one. There is still a lot you intend to do. The Reversed Emperor, depending on surrounding cards could suggest that failing health has had a hand in forcing you from your throne. You are not ready to leave but your body or doctor says otherwise. The transition may be difficult. You may lose sense of who you are if your role of Emperor defined you. Your self-esteem may take a bashing or you believe others look at you with less respect. For those who were forced out by ill  health, age, or against their wishes, you may feel it is the end of your world. A form of depression and apathy may descend. You will need time to adjust to the new order of things. You are still the Emperor, king of your own castle and personal domain. Be grateful for what you had and now have.

Over-Doing It – Injury – Ageing

The Reversed Emperor covers issues related to the loss or failing of male power on any level. This could involve having to resign yourself to the fact you are no longer as young as you once were, have lost your physical power or physique and do not command the respect or attention you once did.  Your reign has come to an end or is nearing it. It can be an especially bitter pill for many men to swallow.

Ageing is often suggested by the Reversed Emperor. This card can be a reflection of yourself, a father or grandfather figure, or male associate. Ageing is a strange thing and can be very sneaky. We can trundle on for years looking the same, fit as we always were, still able to get away with our signature look and style. We can appear and feel ageless, and wonder what all the fuss is about getting old as it hasn’t stopped us from doing anything. We might still be active in sport, hot on the social scene, and game for anything. We refer to other people as being old, but not ourselves. People ten years or less older than us seem ancient, and we congratulate ourselves on keeping our youthful looks when all around us have let theirs go.

When we look to our parents, the Emperor and Empress, we have a certain expectation of them staying as they always were, suspended in time. We do not contemplate the thought of them getting old, even though we ourselves are already adults. This can go on for some time, and we might think we, and our family, have managed to escape the human process of ageing. Then one day, we catch sight of ourselves in a mirror while out shopping or socialising, or see a photo posted by someone on social media and we do not recognise the person staring back at us. The person in the image looks much older than we do, positively middle-aged or worse. They are a little stooped, posture not the best, their hair not so luxuriant, perhaps thinner than it should or receded. The person is heavier, not the svelte or toned silhouette we had thought. The eyes look tired and lined, and the skin too loose. In horror, we realise that it is happening to us, just as it is to others around us too. Our mood plummets and we scramble to find a way back.

The same happens for our parents, The Emperor and Empress. You may have not seen them in a couple of weeks, were away on a work contract, or you pop in when they are not expecting you. They seem to have aged all of a sudden, while you were not looking or were distracted with other things. They look vulnerable and fragile. They too have been working hard to hide or conceal the advancing years. The Emperor and Empress appear to have shrunk. The father you once thought tall and big and strong in body, no longer towers over you. Instead he seems lost inside his familiar suit of armor (clothes). He no longer fills it as before, and it hangs on his changed frame. How did you not spot it before? The Reversed Emperor can suggest that time when we begin to notice the changes, subtle or strong, that ageing brings about in our father. This observation or realisation can bring sadness and conflicting emotion. Instead of feeling safe and secure under the protection of our Emperor, the situation has now reversed. It is we who must extend protection to him, keep him safe and secure. There is no going back from here, no turning back the clock, or trying to deny it. Yes, the Emperor could temporarily halt the advancing years should he decide to throw enough money at them, stay fit and healthy, eat well and maintain a positive outlook, but the decline has started.

Age-Related Health Problems – Ageing Parents

The Reversed Emperor can indicate the beginning of age-related health problems such as arthritis and other ailments. Surrounding cards would need to back this up. Possibly the Five of Pentacles could suggest failing health, the Six of Swords slowing down and the Six of Cups, senility, the need for extra care or assistance in the community. The Emperor in this aspect has not lost all his power. He may still be a commanding presence and a force to be reckoned with, but he will be advised to take a back seat or retire from the battle field and any non-essential business. He will be encouraged to allow his Knights take over and do the hard work for him. He risks injury or worse if he tries to keep up the intense level of activity and grueling schedule of his glory days. He needs to take it easy.

The Reversed Emperor in your reading could be suggesting you call on you your father more often or of the need to check up on him if he is beginning to age. Being the typical Emperor and man, he will likely insist he is fine and perfectly able to look after himself, but you may have noticed things that suggest otherwise. However, he is bound to push his abilities to the extreme, taking on tasks and chores that he shouldn’t. You might call to visit one day, only to find him up a ladder leaning over to clear gutters or cut down wayward branches from a tree. He might insist on chopping the logs, even when his failing eyesight and back problems say he shouldn’t. He may need encouragement to slow down, but sometimes he must learn this the hard way. The Reversed Emperor can be a very stubborn man to deal with.

A Personal Story – The Ageing Emperor

An example of this relates to a lovely elderly man I met and befriended while an in-patient in hospital recently. I was on a small ward which happened to be mixed. This gentleman occupied the bed opposite me. He was very chatty and we soon became new friends, spending much time with each other in conversation. He shared one fascinating story after another with me and was very witty. I quickly picked up on his fondness for women, sweetly referring to them as the fairer sex.  There were a couple of young women on the ward and he kept telling them how beautiful they were. We all took it in great humor. However, a woman, or should I say, trying to impress a woman, was the reason he had landed in hospital. He explained that he was very fit and sporty in his day. He had played Rugby League, soccer, and was big into weight training. He still went to his local gym to lift some weights and use the exercise machines. He was in his late seventies.

It was on his last visit to the gym he had injured himself. He told me that he was doing his normal weights when a beautiful young girl had arrived and started to work out. He was told she was a new fitness trainer at the gym. He went to great lengths describing her beauty and what she was wearing. Eventually, she neared the area he was weight-lifting in, and he couldn’t help himself. Being the proud man he was, he decided to show off and display his expertise and ability with weight-lifting. After all he had done a lot in his youth. Instead of sticking with his regular weights, he put them aside and reached for ones much too heavy for him. He strained for some time hoping she would turn around and admire his strength, but he only got her attention when he screamed out in pain and fell to the floor. The strain of lifting the heavy weights had burst a blood vessel in his leg causing a hemorrhage. He was taking blood thinning medication for a previous stroke so the bleeding was quite extensive. The lovely young fitness trainer tended to him. An ambulance was called and he was promptly carted off to hospital where he now lay black and blue from pooling blood. His male pride didn’t stay dented for too long as I watched him flirt with the nurses, physios and occupational therapists who attended him. He was able to see the amusement in it and laugh at himself. He did confess to me that ageing was a dreadful thing and how in his mind he still felt thirty but it was his body that let him down. He said he had learned his lesson and would take it easier the next time in the gym. He admitted he was enjoying his time in hospital as it was not every day a man of his age got to share his bedroom with lovey young women! The old rogue!

Taking Advantage of Staff & Subjects

This interpretation follows hot on the heels of Hard Task Master and Slave Driver as it is just another form of power abuse for the Emperor Reversed. It may not be done with the same venom as the former, but is nonetheless manipulative and extortionate. In this instance, we have a person in a position of power, authority, rank or status who is acutely aware of the influence he has, or can, exert over others. He also is aware of how his level of power can extract anything he/she so wants from others whether they are compliant or not because they are afraid to refuse. In this manner, he may decide to leave out any middle man/person normally used for engaging with his staff or subjects. Instead he uses his own imposing presence to do the work for him. It never fails.

When the Reversed Emperor stands in front of you and asks you to do a certain task, adopt a new attitude, react in a particular manner, or behave in specific way, it is not that easy to object or refuse. He holds the power over you and you are his puppet. He pulls your strings any way he so pleases, making out it is what you want and are agreeable to.  He puts things to you in a way that leaves no room for argument or objection. He exudes an air of needing to be pleased and constantly placated or there will be almighty trouble and awful consequences for you. He doesn’t ask things of you, even if he words it similar to a question and comes across all smiles and friendly, calling you by your first name and enquiring after your partner and children. It may sound like he is asking, but in truth he is telling you, and it is best to understand that if you want to keep on his good side or in his favor.

If he uses a middle man, it gives you the option to argue things out with him when you are not happy, but you might be incarcerated in the Tower if you try this directly with The Reversed Emperor who will look dimly on your treachery. I have seen this in action in the past, particularly in a work scenario. For example, certain members of staff are just about to sign out for the evening.  Their day’s work done, they are ready to go home when the Reversed Emperor appears to inform them of an order that needs to go out, or a large booking that requires extra hands on deck. He is looking for volunteers to stay on and all are afraid to catch his eye. One girl is heading off for a birthday dinner with her partner, another has to pick up kids from creche, while another had just planned on a quiet night in and early bed (he kicks himself for not having a decent excuse. Not that it will matter much in the long run). The Reversed Emperor may appear to be giving his staff the option of refusing, but each of them know a refusal will do them no favors should they be keen to hold onto their jobs or advance. The Emperor’s needs are always going to be greater and more important than yours and you best get that into your head. Regardless of where else the staff are meant to be that evening and night, they feel pressured into complying with The Reversed Emperor’s request, which is in fact, a direct order. Disgruntled phone calls are made to cancel arrangements and coats are taken off. The Reversed Emperor thanks them all profusely, and leaves with a self-satisfied grin on his face. Should he have sent a messenger or manager to do this job, they would have returned with a list of excuses as to why the staff could not stay on. The Reversed Emperor got his way, his staff bending to his wishes. He want them to understand they serve at his pleasure, and not their own.

The above interpretation can be applied to any area of life once the description fits.

Instability & Insecurity

Whereas The Upright Emperor suggests stability, order and security, it falls into a shambles when he Reverses. The Reversed Emperor can suggest you have reached a stage or time of your life when you would expect to be in a strong position, when you know what today will bring, and can rely on tomorrow to deliver more of the same too. You had intended on feeling secure and well-established by now, enjoying a certain standard of living, safe in your position, proud of your status, and not having to worry about anything. However, something has come to pass that has turned all these expectations or assumptions on their head. Your throne has been kicked out from under you, knocked over, or perhaps stolen. You can no longer rely on anything or anybody, and life as you know it may have changed dramatically.

When we reflect on this interpretation it can be applied to any area of life. You may have enjoyed a top ranking or senior position in work but have suddenly been fired or made redundant. You might be at a stage of life where it is not that easy to start over, or that doing so, requires you to go to the bottom rung on the ladder once more, especially if you have been demoted. Your business may have crashed leaving you with significant losses. You might have to sell off many of your personal assets, home or car to pay debts. Instead of running your own business and being your own boss, you must now seek employment from another. It is a big fall for you and will take much adjustment. You may have fallen into arrears on your mortgage with banks threatening to repossess your house or evict you. Your hold on your domain grows weaker and weaker. Perhaps it relates to a long-standing relationship or decades-old marriage. You may find yourself thrown back into a life and status you have long since forgotten and feel like a drowning man. If you have been forced to leave your home due to a failed relationship, you could find yourself adrift outside the castle walls you spent years building and fortifying. Regardless of what area affects you, it is clear you can no longer rely on things staying or being the same. Things you were so sure of, belief systems you religiously held firm with, traditions you honored and respected, now seem lost to you as the world you know falls away or changes. You may feel like a stranger in your own life, a broken person after losing everything that once defined you.

Instability and insecurity could also be applied to how careers and employment are handled in a world struggling to emerge from global recession. Gone are the days of the Emperor, where one started young with a certain company or establishment, and stayed until retirement. People were traditionally taken on on a trial basis and once they proved themselves, could look forward to a permanent contract and job for life once the business stayed buoyant. Staff loyalty was important with business owners rewarding them with promotion and pay-rises after a period of time. Once your position was fixed and secure, many doors opened for you. Banks welcomed you with open arms, offering loans and mortgages because you were a sure thing.  In time, you most likely got your son or daughter a position too, and it was like one big happy family. You got bonuses at the end of the year and were treated to staff parties and celebrations. Ah, the good old days when everyone could aspire to becoming The Emperor. All that is gone, and if not, has been radically changed by global recession and mass unemployment. The Emperor is now Reversed. It is an employers market and they are taking serious advantage of it. Permanent roles or contracts are few and far between.  Believing you will have a job for life is especially naive. Being offered agreeable working terms and conditions is a thing of the past and expecting guaranteed weekly hours is laughable. Regardless of how loyal you are, you might still lose your job to another who is deemed more qualified and keener than you are. Perhaps someone who is prepared to work extremely long hours for low pay and little time off. With so many applying for jobs today, employers can raise the bar and set unrealistic job specs for even the most ordinary of roles. Most entry level jobs today require at least a college degree or masters, whether it is necessary or not. Certain industries and employers will only consider self-employed staff who come with no risk and their own insurance. They may want their labor, but do not want to be responsible for them Employers got dreadfully stung for redundancy pay during the recession. This results in reluctant and unsuitable persons forced into becoming their own boss, Reversed Emperors, who would never have dreamed of taking this step in the past.

Should your salary be decent and sufficient, it may not however cut with banks when applying for a loan or mortgage if you are not in possession of the golden ticket that is a permanent contract. Zero contract hours are becoming the norm with employees not knowing from one week to the other whether they will earn enough to cover their basic overheads or put food on the table. You can be sure of nothing where work and career is concerned, rely on nothing and presume nothing, for what applied in the past is as dead as the dinosaurs. You may look to your parents, your father, The Emperor, your mother, The Empress and accept you might never have what they have. You grew up on their stories of how hard work eventually leads to success, of how they diligently saved to get a deposit for their home, and the years of paying back the mortgage. You see them enjoy the fruit of their labors in retirement with perhaps a healthy pension that was religiously paid into for decades, or set up by the employers they gave their working years to. No, for all they say of how hard it was, and how basic their standard living was, they still managed it. Houses were purchased, often on just one salary. Women stayed home and raised sometimes a large enough family. Your Emperor and Empress, paid for your college, threw birthday bashes for you, helped you out with your first car, and might even have paid for your wedding. They did all this because they had stability and security. Earnings may not have been great, but they were consistent and reliable once you had secured a job and were a diligent worker.

Today, hard work does not necessarily lead to success or golden opportunities being offered to you. The streets are awash with highly educated people and college graduates,  who work very long hours just to eek out a basic existence. Only the very privileged few can afford to rent alone, most having to share with others just to keep a roof over their heads. Couples, both with jobs and income, struggle to meet crippling rents, let alone aspire to funding a deposit for a home which is extortionate compared to the Emperor and Empress’s day. Even if they do earn enough to qualify for a mortgage they might be refused if they do not have permanent work contracts. Banks only want to deal with sure things, people who resemble the Upright Emperor, those who can prove they will have the same job and income, today, tomorrow, next week and years into the future. They are often asking for the impossible. The Days of the Emperor have all but gone and both young, and not so young, must find a way to establish a new order where they can live and exist as Reversed Emperors and Empresses, take instability and insecurity in their stride and get on with it.




The Emperor when Reversed lacks self-discipline and can be weak and indecisive. You may lack courage and finds it hard to stand up for your principles, backing off when things get tough or difficult decisions have to be made. You may lack the discipline to attain your goals.  You or another may appear to be confident and assertive but behind it are dithering and will back down from an argument very quickly as courage and bravado fail you. Lacking self-discipline you may feel bitter about your lack of success and believe that the world owes you living.


Ineffective leader. Not being able to control your staff.

Hard Task Master / Slave Driver

The Reversed Emperor can be an impossible man to please. He sits on his throne issuing order after order with scant regard for those who have to carry them out. He is unreasonably demanding of those under or around him. He wields his power in a menacing manner asking the impossible and setting unrealistic deadlines for delivery. In the work environment, he is a slave driver who looks witheringly on those who dare to take their legitimate coffee or lunch breaks. He is opposed to staff joining unions as he prefers to work them to the bone, pay little or nothing in over-time, and is known to cancel scheduled staff leave at the drop of a hat. Unless you are giving 200%, jumping to attention every time he calls, he labels you a slacker, not just to you but to others as well. He does not foster a feeling of job security among his staff, preferring to perpetuate a guessing game and instill fear and worry about the tenuous hold you have on your position. Deep down you know he offers no loyalty to his staff. He can replace you with the snap of his fingers or on a whim. This is a taut and tension-filled environment to work in. The Reversed Emperor plays on the effect he has on staff and subordinates, barking orders, insults and criticisms at will, safe in the knowledge no one will dare stand up to him. He takes out his bad moods on all and is unforgiving should you make a mistake. He does not believe in giving anyone a second chance, degrading and humiliating them in front of others.

The Reversed Emperor does not mingle with his staff or roll up his sleeves in an attempt to show he is just one of them. He creates a vast chasm between him and his subordinates, perched on his throne, assuming a god-like state and expecting people to worship at his feet. His office may be on the top floor or located far from the grind of daily work. His name is uttered in hushed tones and a general ripple of fear and angst runs through the building when word of his arrival or presence is announced. One gets the impression he is keen to catch people out, to uncover their mistakes, or draw attention to their weaknesses. He looks for what his staff have got wrong, not what they got right, and then plays it up, making everyone feel useless and unworthy. He likes to fire people on the spur of the moment, without rhyme or reason, and in a dramatic fashion. No one knows when and where the axe will next fall.

This obnoxious trait can carry over into his relationship and family life where he puts undue pressure on his partner to maintain certain standards. This is the partner who expects his dinner to be on the table at a certain time every evening without fail, his shirts ironed in a particular manner and his newspapers placed at just the right angle beside him. He makes everyone quake in their boots, behave nervously and become riddled with anxiety for fear of forgetting the order of something or saying the wrong thing. He takes his position in the house and family to a serious level. It is true however, that he has been allowed away with this severe stance and attitude by those who accepted his declaration or assumption of absolute power in the first place. Unless his partner was strong enough to put the foot down with the Reversed Emperor from the off, he has had a clear run and secured his crown and throne without any challenge or opposition. No one stopped him or called him out when he behaved in a mean manner. He is a self-anointed King in his domain and it may be too late to do anything about it. A leopard cannot change his spots and it can be difficult to change the habit of a lifetime. It is highly likely his father was the same, inherited traits.

As a partner, spouse or father, he will be critical and demeaning, insisting everyone stand on ceremony when he is around. He is formal, stiff and emotionally cold. Of his children he will demand total obedience and will put them on the rack for the slightest offense. He can set impossibly high expectations for his children where education and exams are concerned. His sons and daughters will quake in their boots if they dare to deliver less than outstanding results. He rarely passes a compliment or acknowledges the work and effort done by them.  Doing their best is not good enough as it will rarely meet his approval. His partner or spouse will become more subdued and submissive over the years as any independence or autonomy erodes. His children may have relationship issues as they mature, or need counselling. They may become over-achievers who are hyper self-critical and cannot enjoy success in anything.

The Reversed Emperor likes to exert full control over his children’s choice of partners as they grow. It is not good enough to date someone just because you like them. Your partner must live up to the expectations of your father and this can make you extremely nervous if the one you love and have your heart set on does not tick all his boxes, or fit the rigid criteria he has set out. The Reversed Emperor may also have issues or strong objections about your partner if they are not of the same race, culture or religion as you. He may go so far as to forbid you from seeing someone, or take steps to break the liaison. He does not consider your happiness. He does not consider his own happiness either, instead adopting a forceful application of tradition, duty and objection based solely on his belief system and ideology. He can do this because he believes he is the King, The Emperor, and nothing can happen unless he approves.

On another level, The Reversed Emperor can act as the inner-critic who seeks to makes you feel less than good about yourself. Your father may no longer be around, you might be a grown adult out in the world and out of his psychical contro but he is still there, looming as large as ever over you, governing your feelings and actions. He still manages to wield power over you. No matter where you go or how old you are, you cannot outrun or outgrow his influence. You can hear his critical voice and mocking tone in everything you do, say or think. You are at a loss to know how to escape his clutches. His tentacles of power are far-reaching. He can cause a cloud to appear over the sun when you are in the middle of enjoying yourself, instill worry and doubt when you are poised to make a big decision or roar mockingly at you when you have made a mistake. He is in your head and weighs heavily on your heart. It is impossible to shake free of him. The Reversed Emperor can screw up his children’s lives and inner happiness. Counselling and therapy may help in severing the negative hold he has on your life.

Traditionally, one needed to secure the approval of the King before getting married. The King had the final say over his subjects from high up to low down. You couldn’t just decide to take up with another or get married unless first passing it by the King. If he did not approve, he had the power to order the end of a relationship and deny the union. This came into special significance if the King took any disliking to you or your family. Old slights or a less than desirable attitude towards him, could result in him forbidding an alliance in an act of spite or revenge. Then again, he did not need any particular reason to reject your application. He was King after all and could do as he pleased. It might come down to his mood on the day, so one had to pick their moment.

The King also had the power to present you with who he considered the ideal partner or spouse for you. You were not encouraged to object or decline the match. He was King and questioning or refusing his request suggested you disagreed with him, which led into very dangerous territory indeed, as the King was beyond question or reproach. Bringing this into today’s standard, we might see a partner or spouse chosen that is more to your father’s liking than your own, if you have been conditioned to adhere to his rules and regulations, or to at all costs, keep father happy. This behaviour can also surface when deciding on career, college or profession. You may study and work hard for yourself, but most importantly for your father. It is your father who needs to be impressed, it is your father you fear the most should you fail. It is the Emperor Reversed who has decided what is best for you and what will most fit with his expectations. You must fall into line with his wishes. As Emperor Reversed, he does not credit his subjects, spouse or children with having the intelligence to decide what is best for them, or what will make them most happy. He associates career and life success with prestige and position. It has noting to do with inner happiness or personal fulfillment. It is all about doing your duty to him and honoring his rank and position in your life. You are but a mere subject who must be told what to do, where to go, when to sit, when to stand, when to talk and what to say. You cannot be left to your own devices. He will not understand should his son or daughter want to break free of his expectations. It can cause a lot of misery and unbelievable rows when he is thwarted. He can come down like a ton of bricks on his errant offspring, disinherit, punish or ostracise them for having the gall to dishonor his wishes.  It will take much courage and self-belief to stand up to him.

The Reversed Emperor’s judgments are swift and painful. He is hyper-critical and self-righteous. The Emperor Reversed can be the tyrannical dictator. He may abuse his position of power by using it to dominate and rigidly control others.  He can feel superior to others and stop at nothing to get his way, often using force to subdue his opponents.

The Reversed Emperor can represent an absent father. He may have died or did not take an active part in your upbringing. You may never have met him yet he holds great importance in your life. If you have nothing to go by but photographs and other people’s memory of him, you may create an image of him as a powerful and strong personality. However, if surrounding cards indicate a less than benevolent personality, the Reversed Emperor could suggest you are affected by this. You might have no lovely stories to cherish if no one has anything nice to say about him.

The Reversed Emperor can also highlight a father who lets you down, is never there for you and fails to protect you. He may not offer you the security and stability you crave. He might rule the roost in the house, is all for strictness and severity, but cannot show affection or give attention. If you are going through a separation, divorce or expecting support from the father of your child, The Reversed Emperor shows a severe reluctance to doing his duty. His attitude may be very cold towards you and his children, should you decide to leave his rule and kingdom. He could be quite black and white where this is concerned, cutting you loose and refusing to continue support for his children if they do not reside in his castle. He will make it as difficult as possible for you. This is often his way of punishing you. The Reversed Emperor either cannot or will not man up to his responsibilities where children are concerned.

Depending on where this card falls and the nature of the query, The Reversed Emperor’s presence in a relationship or family reading could imply his desire to be a part of your life, but is not permitted to do so. He may have to adhere to court orders or a difficult partner who refuses to allow him see his children. He is ready and willing but not allowed come close. Sometimes, the Reversed Emperor can imply you have been poisoned towards your father by a mother who uses you as a weapon. You might be fed a line of lies and one-sided stories that seek to discredit your father in your eyes. Check surrounding cards to determine if The Reversed Emperor is as bad as he is made out to be.

A Push Over

The Emperor Reversed as a representation of a father or father figure could place him on the extreme side of harshness and severity in that he could be the biggest push over and easily swayed person you know.  He cannot deny any request that is made of him and his children, partner or spouse can wrap him around their little fingers with great ease. He is the first person his children run to when they are in trouble or in need. He does not judge them when they do wrong, but wants to know what he can do to make it right. He has a forgiving nature. His children can do no wrong in his eyes. He is generous and benevolent, the type of father who preempts what you might need and gives it before you have to ask. He presses envelopes of cash to his offspring when they encounter car problems, when their dog needs surgery, or when it’s a five-week pay month. He can tell when they are short of a bob or two and it makes him happy to be of help or use.

The happiness of his children is paramount to the Reversed Emperor in this aspect. He may hold out certain expectations for them but generally keeps them to himself. Of course he is delighted when any of his offspring fall into line with these expectations, but is ready to support them in anything they want to do, not matter how bizarre or untested it might be. He believes in allowing them to control their own lives even though he is ready to run to their rescue should they need him. Sometimes he desperately wants to intervene in a situation where his experience and observations tell him something is wrong or out of place, but he hates to interfere or stick his nose in. In this manner, he will treat a less than desirable match for one of his offspring with respect and friendliness. He or she may not be his cup of tea, but if they are what his son or daughter want, he will do his best to be happy for them. At times, The Reversed Emperor should become more forceful. In doing so, he could assist in preventing big mistakes occurring. He might leave it until his son or daughter has paid a terrible price before declaring he never liked their partner or spouse in the first place. You see, he tries to keep everyone happy.

Surrounding cards will give you insight into the true nature of The Reversed Emperor you are dealing with in a reading.

If your father was severe and regimental  in your upbringing, you may find he is mellowing with age when the Emperor Reversed appears. Check for the Hermit nearby, or even the Six of Cups. His steel fist may have lost its cold edge as he no longer needs to protect you at such an intense level. For those of us who have experienced a predominately strict Emperor as a father, even as we mature and become middle-aged adults ourselves, it can be hard to shake off the nervousness or anxiety that comes over us when spending time in his presence. We tend to regress back to our childlike state and still view him as the strict authoritarian figure of the past. It can taint our current experience of a father who has softened with time and now wants to sit relaxed and comfortable in the bosom of his family. Old habits die hard and we may find it stressful to get used to this new personality and develop a relationship with it. We still wait for his bark and bite, but he has become gentle, tolerant and all-forgiving. As The Emperor, he never questioned the actions, decisions or attitude that we found at the time impossible to accept. He was only doing what was best. He may think he has done no wrong.

It is often when our Emperor Reversed (father) is no longer with us, that we regret not making a better effort to get to know the real man behind the rules, regulations and discipline. He had his reasons which were more than likely based on his own upbringing and life experiences. We often overlook or fail to acknowledge this and forget that he too was a child once with his own Emperor and Empress.  If this is relevant to you, the Emperor Reversed appearing in your reading could be encouraging you to look past the stern exterior, past the suit of armor, and past the seat of power he has always ruled from. Find the true soul underneath, the personality of the man – not the father. Who was he, what did he think, what drove him, what did he really like/dislike. Ask what his ambitions were and if he managed to realise them? What did he consider his best achievements? Does he harbor any regrets? What were his greatest losses in life? If he had his time again, would he make any changes? When we solely focus on the Emperor Reversed as the wall of steel and hand of power and control, we fail to see the rest. The Emperor will likely be quite open with you should you ask. Stop being the child. Meet and converse with him as the adult, and his equal. The Emperor Reversed may actually be the Upright Emperor but we have difficulty viewing him in that light. When it comes to relationships, The Emperor Reversed lacks discipline and commitment to his partner. He can have a tendency to have several partners. He needs a strong woman to look after him and in a relationship it will certainly be his partner who wears the pants. On the outside it may look like he is in charge but this will most certainly not be the case. The reversed Emperor can represent the mother-son relationship in a marriage. The reversed Emperor in a relationship usually has issues from childhood and repressed emotions.  By returning to The Empress he can learn to access and feed his senses and express his emotion. He needs nurturing from a strong but gentle woman.

On the other hand, The Reversed Emperor can exert negative control in his relationships.  He may treat his partner like a child and take full control over what his partner should wear and who she is allowed meet or socialise with.

In trouble with your boss. Used your position for ill gain.

When reversed The Emperor can suggest the breaking with tradition when it comes to  masculine characteristics and their may be a tendency to unconventional sexual orientations. However he may just suggest that you are altering the perceived traditional male role due to choice or circumstances.  Instead of being the material provider you may choose to step into the mothering role and stay at home to rear the kids.

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

6 replies »

  1. The Kim dynasty; the Turkish President; Donald Trump; and so on. They all bear the image of the Reversed Emperor.


  2. Very informative, however as a black woman I was turned off by the use of the word “mammy.” Huge sigh of disgust and eye roll here.


    • Hi Darriah, thank you for your comment. I reply not to apologise for using the word Mammy, but to explain. I am an Irish woman, born, bred and educated in Ireland. In Ireland we very typically refer to our mothers as Mammy, Mam or Ma. Mammy, especially in childhood years when we look to our our Mammies to do everything for us. As we get older we then refer to Mammy as Mam or Ma. My reference to The Reversed Emperor still living at home with his Mammy is to reflect the stereotypical ‘Mammy’s Boy’. One that has never grown up to become independent of their mother. Countless books, movies, plays, comedies and jokes have been based around the Irish Mammy who encourages the Mammy’s Boy scenario by cossetting and fussing over a grown man she continues to treat as a helpless and sometimes hapless child. The Irish Mammy’s Boy typically still has his Mammy washing and ironing his clothes and often buying them for him too well into mid-life. Sometimes this can involve a son who is in a relationship or even marriage continuing to return home to his Mammy to be fed and have his laundry done. I called my mother Mammy when a young child but never went on to call her Ma, which is very strongly Irish. I called her Mam instead which is also a very common name to call one’s mother in Ireland. In England and parts of the UK (United Kingdom) they would use Mother, Mommy, Mummy or Mum. Mammy, Mam and Ma are quintessentially Irish.

      I do hope the above clears up any misunderstanding you may have arrived at.




  3. Vivien would you please put all the KEY WORDS together at the top of the page for the Reversed Emperor like you have for the Upright Emperor ? It’s helps when I study the cards. Thank you


    • Hi Philip,

      Yes, I know. I never quite finished the Reversed Emperor and then forgot to go back to it. I usually do the Keywords at the end but because I never finished, I never did them. I have been working on other projects for the last while. I have the rest of Major to rework still. I will attend to it as soon as possible. Promise!



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