This week’s card is The Emperor! Where last week’s card, The Empress, is the embodiment of the feminine and of nurturing energy, The Emperor embodies the masculine, and the energy of structure and discipline. Where The Empress represents nature and instinct, The Emperor represents society and planning. Lunea Weatherstone describes The Emperor as representing “the embodiment of civilization and its dominion over nature” (15). Where The Empress represents the energy of The Mother and the comfort of shelter, The Emperor represents the energy of The Father, and of the realities of society.
The Emperor represents the personal skills that allow for the development of structures and planning. Sharman-Burke and Greene attribute The Emperor to Zeus, king of the gods, in The Mythic Tarot. They write: “Zeus…is an image of the experience of fathering. It is the father who embodies our spiritual ideals, our ethical codes, the self-sufficiency with which we survive in the world, the authority and ambition which drive us to achieve, and the discipline and foresight necessary to accomplish our goals” (Sharman-Burke and Greene 28). It is important to note that Sharman-Burke and Greene highlight that the qualities of The Emperor, which archetypally those of the father, are contributed by both parents in the actual upbringing of a child.
The Emperor’s astrological correspondence is the sign Aries, represented by the Ram. A symbol of power and strength, not to mention masculinity, the ram is equipped with everything he needs to control, and if necessary, intimidate and fight, to maintain order in his realm. Assertiveness earns him respect, and his unwavering responsibility helps his flock feel calm and secure. Just as the ram guards his flock, The Emperor is, ideally, the protector of the people, and a respected leader. But as with any position of power, it is important to maintain balance! The role of the father has evolved in parenting, from breadwinner and remote disciplinarian to one who shares and supports in family duties. The masculine element of parenting is enforcing fairness, which may mean punishment that the feminine aspect would dismiss as harsh! The Emperor demonstrates strength, and not only the physical type: in times of trial, spiritual strength can be even more powerful.
My personal image for The Emperor is of a father directing his children in building a sheep-pen, as he stands by with the family’s ram and sheep on leash. The pen represents both a physical lesson and a spiritual one, both about building strong foundations and structures. Creating this little piece of civilization together forms strong family bonds through the sharing of work and values. If taught properly, the pen and the paternal relationship will be strong; too much force through tyrannical ordering around could lead to the deterioration of what so much energy was put into, both in terms of the relationship with the father and the effort put into the project itself!
Sharman-Burke, Juliet and Liz Greene. The Mythic Tarot: A New Approach to the Tarot Cards. Cards illustrated by Tricia Newell. Toronto, ON: Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd, 1988.
Tarot Mucha. LWB: Lunea Weatherstone. Artwork: Giulia F. Massaglia. Torino, Italy: Lo Scarabeo, 2014. © Lo Scarabeo Italy.