IV - The Emperor



The Emperor is a symbol of power and authority. As the male counterpart to The Empress, he represents the organizing principles of the physical world. These include our laws, societal norms, belief systems, structures, as well as the principles of science such as gravity that dictate how our world operates.

The Emperor Ride Waite Tarot Card

This is not a card that deals with mysteries and subtlety like The Empress of High Priestess. The Emperor is all about rationality, rules, and definable concepts. This card suggests that rules require certainty and a lack of nuance in order to function. That is, we have to make straight lines out of the many curves if we want to bring order to the world.

In some ways this approach is beneficial, even necessary, and in others it is dangerous and detrimental. Like all cards, the meaning we take from The Emperor depends on context. He can either represent the benefits or rules and order or their downsides.

Because of his stern appearance, The Emperor is one of the more polarizing cards. He often brings up issues with the querent’s father or, more generally, with authority itself. Helpful questions to ask include: How do I react to authority? What do my relationships with people in power like? How do I feel in positions of power? What can I do to make the rules work for me?

At its most general level, this card asks us to explore how and where authority, control, and guidelines work for us. Do we need to adopt a more commanding position, essentially becoming our own Emperor? Or do we need to temper our certainty and adherence to rules with some innovation and bravery?

More specifically, The Emperor refers to places, situations, and personalities that revolve around structure and order. Far from airy fairy, they are grounded by rationality, certainty, and clear guidelines. This is a card that can refer to work situations, positions of power, and boundaries. 


Power, authority, control, leadership, responsibility, structure, conquest, rules, order, law, might, organizing principles, science, boundaries, rationality, academia, guidelines, recognition, expectations

Life Situations

Rising to a position of power, reaching a high point in one’s career, becoming your own boss, issues with father, encounters with a powerful person, authoritarian politics and political figures, learning the rules, fatherhood, defending something or someone, taking on responsibility, deciding what rules to live by, taking a stand

Positive Attributes

Self-motivated, visionary, effective, productive, forceful, strong ability to delegate, confident, ambitious, strong boundaries, ability to defend oneself, experienced, secure, rational, orderly

Negative Attributes

Distanced, inflexible, commandeering, stubborn, stuck in old ways, authoritarian, judgmental, aggressive, unimaginative, cautious, conventional, focus on the rules at the expense of individuals

Blog Posts & Tarot Readings featuring The Emperor