4 The Emperor

The Emperor Tarot Divinatory Meanings

The Emperor represents authority figures such as the Father, your boss, head of an organisation, or the alpha male. This is a person who gives orders and expects them to be obeyed. Don’t expect fun and frolicking when the Emperor appears. Everything is too serious. When he is not living up to his ideals, then ASBOs are the order of the day. He becomes immature, childish and petulant, refusing to follow orders. There is a lack of respect for authority and standards. When the Arian qualities are strong, he is good at starting things, but do not expect him to complete the actions.

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Image of The Emperor tarot card in the Rider-Waite deck
The Emperor – Rider-Waite

He has a form of the Crux ansata for his sceptre and a globe in his left hand. He is a crowned monarch – commanding, stately, seated on a throne, the arms of which axe fronted by rams’ heads. He is executive and realization, the power of this world, here clothed with the highest of its natural attributes. He is occasionally represented as seated on a cubic stone, which, however, confuses some of the issues. He is the virile power, to which the Empress responds, and in this sense is he who seeks to remove the Veil of Isis; yet she remains virgo intacta.

It should be understood that this 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 also – and the male figure especially – the higher kingship, occupying the intellectual throne. Hereof is the lordship of thought rather than of the animal world. Both personalities, after their own manner, are “full of strange experience,” but theirs is not consciously the wisdom which draws from a higher world. The Emperor has been described as (a) will in its embodied form, but this is only one of its applications, and (b) as an expression of virtualities contained in the Absolute Being – but this is fantasy.


Stability, power, protection, realization; a great person; aid, reason, conviction; also authority and will.

Reversed meanings

Benevolence, compassion, credit; also confusion to enemies, obstruction, immaturity.

4-The-Emperor-Book of ThothBook of Thoth: Emperor

Use all thine energy to rule thy thought:
burn up thy thought as the Phoenix.

War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition, originality, overweening confidence and megalomania, quarrelsomeness, energy, vigour, stubbornness, impracticability, rashness, ill-temper.

More information

Golden Dawn – Son of the Morning, Chief among the Mighty

War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition.


Realization, Effect, Development.

Mathers: reversed meanings

Stoppage, Check, Immature, Unripe.

Etteilla: Support

Aid, Prop, Flying Buttress, Column, Base, Footing, Foundation. Principle, Reason, Cause, Subject, Stability. Assurance, Persuasion, Conviction, Surety, Security, Confidence, Certainty. Help, Assuagement, Assistance, Protection. Relief, Consolation.

Support reversed meanings

Protection, Influence, Benevolence, Kindness, Charity, Humaneness, Goodness, Commiseration, Pity, Compassion, Credit. Authorization.

Thierens: IV. The  Cancer.

There is much more mystery buried in every symbol than words spoken can tell. Superficial consideration might make astrologers wonder at this image, which assimilates worldly power with the sign Cancer instead of with Leo, to which they are accustomed. Still there remains this to be taken into account, that originally ’emperors’ got their power from the people, — China, Rome — long before they began to claim God as their private protector against eventual aggression from outside. The people are ruled by the sign of Cancer, says the astrologer. And thus originally the chosen emperor accepted vox populi as vox Dei. This chosen dignitary was nothing of a tyrant, originally, nor did he have anything to do with rulership or warfare: he was simply the highest and most pure expression of the soul of the people or nation. In China sometimes a poor but extremely virtuous old man without any other antecedents was elected to be emperor. All later usurpations of power and succession were deviations from the old and pure institution. The present position of the president in a republic comes very near to that of the original emperor.

4. L’Empereur – Paul Foster-Case

This card, corresponding to the letter Heh, first of the 12 simple letters, is related to the Martian sign, Aries. As Mars represents the basic force in Aries, we can see why the card corresponding to this sign bears a title which implies that its central figure is the consort of L’Imperatrice. For in mythology and in astrology, Venus and Mars are closely related, even as imagination (Venus) and action (Mars), act and react upon each other. Furthermore, in the astrological signs, Aries, the home of Mars, directly follows Pisces, the sign in which Venus is exalted.

L’Empereur – well-dignified

Mental energy; foresight, supervision, oversight, control; reason, persistence, determination; ambition, leadership, enthusiasm.

L’Empereur – ill-dignified

Strife, anger, tendency to go to extremes; over-active; lack of discretion.

Ouspensky: IV

Tetragrammaton. The law of four. Latent energy of Nature. Logos in the full aspect with all possibilities of the new Logos. Hermetic philosophy.

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The Emperor tarot meanings - Father, Authority figure
The Emperor represents authority figures such as the Father, your boss, head of an organisation, or the alpha male. This is a person who gives orders.

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