The Emperor

Number: 4 | Element: FIRE | Planet: MARS | Zodiac: ARIES

Upright: Structure, Methodology, Leadership
Reversed: Lack of Discipline, Domination, Obstinacy, Low Concentration


The Emperor in the tarot represents the Father, as The Empress represents the Mother. 

Being the fourth numbered arcanum, this gives us some clues as to what symbolises the figure of the Emperor. Across all religions and mythologies, the number four is used to imply what is solid, complete, or finished. Related to the square, the number four is linked to materiality and human reality, and it characterises order, human power, stability, and material security.

So, this figure stands for the archetype of the Father. He governs with a fatherly hand, solid and stable, protecting and defending his own, although his perseverance and authority may be deemed too rigid or too persistent.

A comparison to Ares (the Greek God of War) is due, not only for his authoritarian pose in his heavy throne sided by rifles, but also for the objects he holds. In his left hand he controls the sphere of the Earth (as it is demanded and done by most of the rulers), and his right hand holds a phallic sceptre that also resembles the symbol of planet Mars. Virility, material power and rule, and assertive dominance: the Emperor owns the forces of masculine power.

His long white beard symbolises wisdom, life experience, maturity, and virility. His armour depicts his skill and experience as a victorious warrior and provides him with protection, be it a bold foe or emotional impulses. Plus, the armour, visible in his breastplate, arms, legs, and feet, embodies the Emperor’s inner powers, the virtues of duty and the control of the spirit. Therefore, the Emperor epitomises the dominance of logic over emotion and of the mind over the heart. He is a strategic thinker and a ruler who defines plans and creates rules and systems but does not fear a battle. An experienced and wise warrior, the Emperor is a token of knowledge and the power that enforces the laws of society.

The strong red tones of the ambience surrounding the character express his power, vitality, and passion, resembling a blazing Fire. He is naturally the masculine principle, the active energy related to the planet Mars and the zodiacal Aries – a visible reference in the ram heads adorning his throne and cloak.

A composed and firm leader, the Emperor demands loyalty and obedience. At his feet are two figures. Barely visible in the design and disguised by the red tones of his cloak, these are representative of the extent of his power that makes others invisible. They could be servants or maybe his children, struggling with father issues that could affect their self-esteem. Either way, the Emperor, as a figure of authority and an archetype of the Father, holds his power and virility firmly, directing his eyes towards his purpose, instead of looking at those that kneel to him.

Upright Meaning and Interpretation

Structure, Methodology, Leadership.

The Emperor represents a successful journey for those who follow their goals methodically. Unlike the Empress, the Emperor demands a rational process of work, leaving the emotional side behind.

Sometimes, when this card shows up, you may need to assume your role as a father figure (even if you are a woman), that is, as a protector, providing for your family, giving them stability and security.

This card signifies that you are a leader, and that status, power or recognition are important to you. You have a clear vision of what you want and have very solid goals in your life. Therefore, ambition, tenacity, and wisdom or good sense are traits that define you. For that reason, you developed a highly organized and systematic way to live.

The Emperor also suggests a world of knowledge to be shared and passed along. This means that it may be good and useful for you to share your experience with other people. Offering advice or providing guidance like a coach or a teacher gives you value and recognition.

Reversed Meaning and Interpretation

Lack of Discipline, Domination, Obstinacy, Low Concentration.

The Emperor reversed could represent the abuse of an authoritative power, or even tyranny.

It can also represent someone who wants to control your actions and have power over you, affecting your self-esteem and decision-making abilities.

Every so often, it can also mean that you are not methodical or thorough in following your goals or pursuits. Perhaps you have been disorganised lately and that affects your performance.

It is also common that this card shows up to warn you about your actions. It is possible that your desire to inspire others might easily turn into harshness, oppressive behaviour, or loss of control. Calm yourself down and build a different way to deal with the people around you.