The Emperor is the archetypal father, a proud and commanding leader whose word is always final. When this card appears in a reading, issues of paternity, fatherhood, leadership, patriarchal values, and cultural mores are signified.
The astrological association for the Emperor is the sign of Aries which rules the first house of "self" in the zodiac wheel. As the first sign of the zodiac, Aries encompasses the attributes of self- determination, manifestation, impulsivity, fearlessness, and an intrepid mindset.
The Emperor is numbered 4 in the major arcana which, according to numerology, symbolises foundations, firm ground, and stable structures. Therefore when this card appears in the reading it is certain that formality, tradition, and established values will be applicable in all their guises.
In the Rider Waite deck, an imposing male character is depicted seated upon his throne, a symbol of his power and prestigious status in life. The throne itself is ornamented with ram heads which are a nod to this card's association with the sign of Aries. Rams are pugnacious and feisty animals which will bulldoze their way through any obstacles and these are traits which the emperor is also alluded to possess.
The emperor is depicted as a man of advancing years as shown by his long white beard and with this maturity, he has accrued a great deal of wisdom and experience. In his hands we can see two symbols of power, a rod and an orb. The rod symbolises his ability to both wield power and dispense judgement and the orb is a visual cue to suggest that he holds the world in the palm of his hand.
The mountains in the background of the card are symbolic of the obstacles and hurdles he has had to overcome in order to reach the heights of success. He is clothed in red luxurious fabrics which are reflective of his wealth and status. The colour red is associated with passion, vigour and vitality, which reveals the emperor's drive and ambition. Underneath the fabrics however we can see a hint of armour as shown on his legs, which implies that although the emperor has reached a comfortable and illustrious position in life, he has not forgotten the trials he has endured on the way.
Ready for battle at a moment's notice, the emperor is a formidable adversary but a comforting ally.
In a love reading the Emperor card symbolises a male partner who has quite a traditional mindset with respect to relationships. This indicates an individual who abides by conventional gender roles and sees himself as very much the leader and patriarch of the family. If the querent does not like overbearing and didactic figures, they may not be suited to a character like the one the Emperor card represents.
In its best manifestation, the Emperor card reflects a partner who will do everything it takes to make a happy home life; he will provide both emotionally as well as financially. In its worst aspects the Emperor card symbolises a domineering bully who is narrow-minded and will not accommodate another's feelings or views. If currently romantically unattached, the Emperor card can predict that a strong, traditional man who has reached a significant degree of material success will appear and offer a solid relationship.
In terms of feelings the Emperor reveals that a partner wants to take care of the querent in every way. They wish to provide a stable home and a foundation from which a joint life can be built. This card can also predict that a current partner sees themselves settling down with the querent, has earmarked themselves as a future husband, or that parenthood is desired. If involved with a new partner, be wary as this card can symbolise that the person of interest has established ties to another that will be hard to break.
In a work and career reading the Emperor card predicts considerable success. Hard work will pay off and a position of power will be attained. It shows that a leadership role is on the horizon and the querent will not be subject to anyone else's rules. The Emperor can also herald the advent of a benefactor who will assist in either an advisory capacity, financially, or aid your ascent to power. This individual will take an interest in the querent as they see something of value in them and in this way may consider taking them on as a mentee.
Timing: Timing is dependent on card placement within a spread, but Aries season may be associated with this card.
Major Arcana: Card 4
Astrological Correspondence: Aries, Mars, 1st house of self in the astrological wheel
Positive Aspects: leadership, fatherhood, protective male figure, financial success, author of one's own destiny, traditional values, mentorship, protection, determination, tenacity, wisdom of experience
Negative Aspects: dictatorial nature, controlling, overbearing, bullying tactics, intractable mindset. inability to compromise