Tarot: The Emperor

Tarot: The Emperor

Tarot: The Emperor

The Emperor card, as a fatherly archetype of authority, structure, and leadership, carries a profound message about responsibility and protection. The fourth card of the Major Arcana connects you to your ability to instruct and guide others. The Emperor calls on you to evaluate your use of authority and remain mindful of consciously exercising your power in a way that empowers others, emphasizing your capacity to not only instruct and guide but also to shield and provide for those in your care.

Embracing the Emperor card encourages a reflective assessment of your role as a guardian, mentor, or protector in various aspects of your life. It underscores that authentic leadership authority It reminds you that true leadership is not just about wielding authority, but about ensuring the well-being and growth of those who depend who rely on your counsel. This calls for a balanced approach, one that harmonizes your position of authority with empathy, nurturing, and the genuine desire to uplift others, fostering an environment of trust and respect.

The Emperor Reversed

The Emperor reversed in tarot signifies a lack of authority, control, or structure. It suggests a period of chaos, where rigid rules or control mechanisms have broken down. This card can indicate a need to let go of excessive control or dominance and allow for flexibility and adaptability. It may also represent a struggle with authority figures or a personal struggle to establish boundaries and structure in one’s life. Reversed, The Emperor calls for introspection and reevaluation of power dynamics.


“I embody my authority and leadership. I use my personal power and influence with integrity in order to create a just and stable world for myself and others.”

Major Arcana Symbolism

Tarot Card NameThe Emperor
Traditional Card ImageryA man in regal attire
Traditional SymbolismReason, society, the father, virility, authority
NumberIV, 4
Classical ElementFire
Traditional Upright MeaningEstablishment, stability, focus, discipline, structure, a father figure, authority, practicality, protection, control
Traditional Reversed MeaningDomination, immaturity, tyrant, rigidity, recklessness, stubborn, lack of discipline, inflexibility, obstruction
Archetype In NatureThe natural world as property, realm, dominion
ChakraSolar Plexus
Astrological CorrespondenceAries, Mars
Yes or NoYes
Crystals and StonesYellow Tiger’s Eye, Olivine, Lemon Quartz, Heliodor, Yellow Jade, Peridot, Golden Pearl, Sphene, Jargoon, Sulfur, Melichrysos, Honey Calcite, Pyrite, Chrysolite
The Emperor Reversed

Tarot Through the Ages

Tarot was originally invented as a card game in the mid 15th century. French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as “Etteilla”, was the first to assign divinatory meanings to the cards in the late 1700s. Many others have followed in his footsteps, bringing their own unique interpretation of the cards. In our exploration of the Tarot, we weave together contemporary insights with the timeless wisdom of the past. This blending of past and present perspectives offers a more holistic view, allowing us to connect with the evolving narrative and lineage of wisdom that has shaped our understanding of each card over time. Let’s dive into some of these historical interpretations…

Allegory of The Emperor

After I learned the first three numbers, I was given to understand the Great Law of Four–the alpha and omega of all.

I saw the Emperor on a lofty stone throne, ornamented by four rams’ heads. On his forehead shone a golden helmet. His white beard fell over a purple mantle. In one hand he held a sphere, the symbol of his possession, and in the other, a sceptre in the form of an Egyptian cross–the sign of his power over birth.

“I am The Great Law,” the Emperor said. “I am the name of God. The four letters of his name are in me and I am in all.”

“I am in the four principles. I am in the four elements. I am in the four seasons. I am in the four cardinal points. I am in the four signs of the Tarot.”

“I am the beginning; I am action; I am completion; I am the result.”

“For him who knows how to see me there are no mysteries on earth.”

“I am the great Pentacle.”

“I am the Logos in the full aspect and the beginning of a new Logos.”

And while the Emperor spoke, his helmet shone brighter and brighter, and his golden armour gleamed beneath his mantle. I could not bear his glory and I lowered my eyes. When I tried to lift them again a vivid light of radiant fire was before me, and I prostrated myself and made obeisance to the Fiery Word.

-The Symbolism of the Tarot by P.D. Ouspensky (1913)

The Emperor - RWS - MD.jpg

The Emperor (IV)

It should be understood that The Emperor card ,and that of the Empress, do not precisely represent the condition of married life, though this state is implied. On the surface, as I have indicated, they stand for mundane royalty, uplifted on the seats of the mighty; but above this there is the suggestion of another presence.

They signify, the male figure especially, the higher kingship, occupying the intellectual throne. Here we see the lordship of thought rather than of the animal world. Both personalities, in their own way, are “full of strange experience,” but this is not the same wisdom which draws from a higher world. The Emperor has been described as the will in its embodied form.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The Emperor Card Imagery

The Emperor, by interpretation, is the spouse of The Empress. He is occasionally represented as wearing,
in addition to his personal insignia, the stars or ribbons of some order of chivalry.

-Modern Translation of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite (1910)

The Emperor Meaning

The Emperor Meaning

A man is seated in profile. This man holds in his right hand the scepter, the symbol of creation or of Venus. The scepter is held in the right hand to indicate his active influence. The man is bearded and wears a helmet with twelve points (six on each side). He is seated upon a cubic stone, which bears the figure of an eagle. The Emperor’s helmet indicates the rule of Divine Will in the Universe, and its universal action in the creation of Life.

-Modern Translation of The Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

Significations of The Emperor

  • Reflex of God the Father = The Will
  • Reflex of Adam = The Power
  • Reflex of Natura Naturans = The Universal Creative Fluid, The soul of the Universe

-Tarot of The Bohemians by Papus (1892)

The Emperor Card

The Emperor Card

The Meaning of The Emperor Card Throughout History

The Tarot deck is a beautiful synthesis of esoteric thought and archetypal imagery. The journey of the deck, shaped by the events and values of each era, has continued to evolve and take on new significance as it adapts to a larger cultural story. Often a tarot card will have a variety of names and meanings. Exploring the historical interpretations of each card will create a deeper understanding of this powerful method for divination and self-discovery.

Various Names For The Emperor Card

Tarot de Marseille (1650)The Emperor
Court de Gébelin (1781)The King
Etteilla (1783)Support / Protection
Paul Christian (1870)The Cubic Stone
Golden Dawn (1888)Son of the Morning,
Chief among the Mighty
Papus (1892)The Emperor
Rider-Waite (1910)The Emperor
Thoth (1943)The Emperor
Card IV: The Emperor

Card IV: The Emperor

He is crowned (and leaning against a throne, his legs form a cross, and beside him, beneath his left hand, is a shield blazoned with an eagle). In his right hand he bears a scepter similar to that of the Empress. His body and arms form a triangle, of which his head is the apex, so that the whole figure represents a triangle above a cross. He represents Realization.

Upright: Realisation, Effect, Development
Reversed: Immature, Unripe.

-The Tarot by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (1888)

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

Support Independent Bookstores With These Tarot Selections

Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Their mission aims to strengthen the fragile ecosystem and keep local bookstores an integral part of our culture and communities. We have put together a collection of some of our favorite Tarot items. The deep symbolism of the Tarot can be used to access a wellspring of inner wisdom and guidance. This method of divination is also an incredible tool for accessing your own powerful intuition.

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

The Emperor (IV) - The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain
The Emperor (IV) – The Illustrated Key to the Tarot published 1918, public domain

This guide by Arthur Edward Waite, the designer of the most widely known Tarot deck and distinguished scholar of the Kabbalah, is the essential Tarot reference. The pictorial key contains a detailed description of each card in the celebrated 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot deck, along with regular and reversed meanings. Contents describe symbols and secret tradition, ancient Celtic methods of divination, and wonderful illustrations of each Tarot card. This book is the perfect complement to old-style fortune telling and also serves to make the Tarot entirely accessible to modern-day readers. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is the classic guide to the Rider-Waite deck and to Tarot symbolism in general.

Crystal Tarot

The Emperor (IV) - Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Emperor (IV) – Crystal Tarot by Elisabetta Tervisan © 2001 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

As rich and complex as life itself, the Crystal Tarot blends the look of stained glass with art nouveau style to gracious effect. The use of patterns within patterns gives depth to the traditional pictures of the Tarot. Influenced by both the Rider-Waite and Thoth Tarot decks, this modern Tarot is an exquisite blend of the old and the new. The familiar images are all there, while the details–executed in brilliant and unusual colors–invite viewers to linger, to search, to make sure they miss nothing–an effective trait in a tool of self-examination.

Golden Art Nouveau Tarot

The Emperor (IV) - Golden Art Nouveau Tarot by Giulia F. Massaglia © 2019 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.
The Emperor (IV) – Golden Art Nouveau Tarot by Giulia F. Massaglia © 2019 Lo Scarabeo srl. All rights reserved, used by permission.

The gold-foil details of this outstanding deck perfectly complement the elegant designs and gracefully curved lines of the classic art nouveau style. Artist Giulia F. Massaglia captures the essence of the RWS symbolism and makes it truly sacred with her immaculate illustrations. Whether you’re reading for yourself, for friends, or for clients, the Golden Art Nouveau Tarot provides all the insights and wisdom of a traditional tarot with the addition of a stunning visual presentation. These cards add a glorious touch of sparkle and shine to your tarot practice.

How will you Harness The Transformative Power of The Tarot?

We invite you to walk into a cosmic narrative in which we are all a unique element in each other’s story. Humanity has long used sacred tools for awakening the soul and illuminating our path toward enlightenment. The Tarot is simply an instrument. These cards amplify your inner wisdom and empower your highest truth.

What aspects of The Tarot can serve you as you walk through your own Mystic Doorway?

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What you have read is only the beginning…

Mystic Doorway is always gaining new insight into the rich symbolism of Tarot. We are looking forward to sharing with you as we continue to expand our knowledge of this divinatory tool. Check back with us soon to see what we’ve added to our Library.