(The above image is a copy of The Emperor card in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The 8 symbols pointed out above are explained below.)
The Emperor card illustrates leadership and the will to act. He sits rigidly on his throne, ready to go into battle at a moment's notice. The Emperor is a card of hard work and industry. It is also the wise culmination of years of experience. Practice your skills in hope of becoming an Emperor one day.
For more information about The Emperor card, check out A. E. Waite’s description here.
Point 1 – ANKH
In The Emperor’s right hand, he holds an Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life. As mentioned above, The Emperor is both complimentary and juxtaposed against The Empress. While his rocky and desolate environment is very different from The Empress’ green paradise, his Ankh reminds us that he is still a representation of life. He is just the masculine equivalent to The Empress.
Point 2 – GOLDEN APPLE
In The Emperor’s left hand, he holds a golden apple or sphere. This is a symbol of power. It is an orb that represents the whole world. Like The Empress’ scepter, The Emperor’s orb signifies his authority on earth.
Point 3 – THRONE
Unlike The Empress’ curvy relaxed couch, The Emperor sits on a ridged rectangular throne. It is grey in color to symbolize The Emperor’s impartiality. It has four strong corners with the heads of rams on them. The four corners can illustrate the world compass, reiterating the Golden Apple symbolism. The heads of rams on the other hand, can symbolize the god Ares, the masculine equivalent to The Empress’ connection to Venus.
Point 4 – ROCKY MOUNTAINS
Behind The Emperor are rocky mountains. The bareness of the landscape is meant to juxtapose against The Empress’ lush garden. The rocky mountains can simultaneously allude to the mountain range in The Fool card, reminding us of the tough challenges ahead, as well as to The Emperor’s immovable resolve to act upon his authority.
Point 5 – RIVER
Behind The Emperor’s throne weaves a river. This, in contrast to the mountains, provides hope for growth in the barren landscape. It is a direct connection to The Empress and a reminder of The Emperor’s femininity. The Emperor might look as stern as the mountains, but underneath he is rooted to his sensuality.
Point 6 – RED ROBE
Like The Empress’ red couch, The Emperor’s red robe illustrates the passion and virtue in his authority. Red is in fact the dominate color on the card. This harsh color not only compliments the sharp edges of the mountain and throne, it provides and antithesis to the soft colors of yellow and green found in The Empress’ card. Some argue that the yellow of The Empress represent sunrise while the Red of The Emperor resents sun set, reiterating the mirror qualities of the cards.
Point 7 – ARMOR
The Emperor wears armor to signify his strength and power. He is always prepared to go into battle, enacting his will. The presence of the river, however, might suggest that behind this armor beats a soft heart.
Point 8 – CROWN
Like The Empress, The Emperor’s crown symbolizes his authority as ruler. Unlike most crowns, it is closed off in a dome shape. This symbolizes a lack of recognition to a higher power. In other words, The Emperor’s crown suggests self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The power to lead is within him.
An upright Emperor acknowledges your skills as a leader. If an opportunity presents itself, take charge and lead with fairness with the goal of equality in mind. An upright Emperor encourages you to enact your vision for a project. It reminds you to communicate that vision effectively to the people that you lead. Once a project is done, encourage others to lead effectively as you did. Be an example to the people around you.
A reverse Emperor can be a warning against tyrannical leadership. It suggests ridged thinking and over-demanding objectives. A reverse Emperor encourages you to take a step back and ask yourself if you are leading with fairness? Have you won the respect of the people you lead? Are you listening to them? A reverse Emperor is a reminder that true leadership is servitude to the group. Humble yourself and lead with others’ wellbeing in mind.
For more Tarot Card Meanings, check out our blog here.
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about Tarot here and his LinkedIn profile here.