The Tarot Emperor card meaning in a nutshell:
You're up against real power,
so yield or suffer the consequences.
The Tarot Emperor has real concrete power in abundance. He's no politician in need of allies and careful diplomacy. He's raw force. Anybody dealing with him should yield or else perish. On the Tarot Emperor card, he sits firmly on the throne, but in armor - he will stand up and strike at the moment he is challenged. He tolerates nothing but obedience.
We've had a number of emperors through history, several of them so majestic that 'majesty' is not enough to describe them. The first and probably still the most impressive one was Alexander in the 4th century BC, who conquered most of the known world at that time, when he was still a young man.
Below is a later painting of the legendary moment when Alexander cut the Gordian Knot, so complicated that the one to untie it was fit to rule the world. Alexander did so by swinging his sword - a warrior's solution.
Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot, by Jean-Simon Berthélemy, 18th century. Alexander, who lived in the 4th century BC, is still regarded as one of the foremost conquerors.
The Emperor on this Tarot card is indeed a warrior ruler. He sits on a stone throne with his armor on, eager to do battle. The image on the card suggests another warrior ruler, the legendary King Arthur, but it might as well be Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, or Genghis Khan. It's the ruler with the force and the firmness to strike down any opposition.
So, if the Tarot Emperor card refers to a person, it's someone you just have to obey whether you want to or not. He or she has the power to decide the outcome and it would cost you very dearly indeed to oppose.
If the Tarot Emperor card refers to an event, you have to accept that the outcome is out of your hands. It's decided elsewhere and you just have to comply or suffer the consequences.
If the Tarot Emperor card is about you, though, it says that you have the power to force the outcome of your chosing, but probably not without a fight. Don't worry, you'll win it.
A. E. Waite's Texts
4. The Emperor, by imputation the spouse of the former. He is occasionally represented as wearing, in addition to his personal insignia, the stars or ribbons of some order of chivalry. I mention this to shew that the cards are a medley of old and new emblems. Those who insist upon the evidence of the one may deal, if they can, with the other. No effectual argument for the antiquity of a particular design can be drawn from the fact that it incorporates old material; but there is also none which can be based on sporadic novelties, the intervention of which may signify only the unintelligent hand of an editor or of a late draughtsman.
About the Tarot Emperor Card
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Emperor Card
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.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Emperor Card
Stability, power, protection, realization; a great person; aid, reason, conviction; also authority and will. Reversed: Benevolence, compassion, credit; also confusion to enemies, obstruction, immaturity.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool
This book by Stefan Stenudd presents an imaginative reading of the divination cards, i.e. focusing on what impressions the images and their symbols give. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. Also, it gives many examples of symbolic and allegorical imagery within and beyond the Tarot. This book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.