The Fool’s Journey is an allegorical story, told by the 78 cards of the Tarot deck. The story represents the trials, tribulations and lessons that we must all face as we travel along life’s highway. There are four suits to the deck and each of the cards therein represents a particular part of the Fool’s Journey. The Emperor is one of the most austere and grave-looking cards in the pack, but does it hint at bad fortunes on the horizon or good things to come?
Who is the Emperor?
The Emperor card shows a man with a long white beard, sitting alone on a throne. He wears rich robes and a royal crown on his upper body, yet his legs are armoured. In his right hand the Emperor holds a golden rod or staff while in his left he holds a globe, also made from gold. Despite the brilliant orange of the sky behind him, the throne on which the man sits does not sparkle or glitter. Instead, it remains dull and lifeless and this feeling is enhanced by the ram’s skulls that decorate the throne’s armrests.
The throne appears to be made of cold, grey stone, in direct contrast with the apparent warmth behind it. Unlike most of the cards in the Tarot, the Emperor appears to be making direct eye-contact with the person who is looking at the card.
The Emperor’s robes, the staff, the globe and his crown instantly assert his status - he is the master of all he surveys. The armour suggests that he is ready and prepared to take arms at a moment’s notice, but also tells us that he has achieved his position through having done battle. As a result, he is able to sit on the throne without any feelings of insecurity or unworthiness.
The length of his beard also tells us that he has accrued wisdom through his experiences and his rise to a position of authority is as much to do with his capacity to fight against injustices. The colour of the sky is unique to this card. The Tarot tends to favour blue as a representation of positivity or calm and grey as the colour of stagnation or unrest. The brilliant orange of the backdrop to this card is reminiscent of a sunrise or sunset, symbolic of the fact that the Emperor can bring the curtain down with just one word - what he says goes and there’s no point in arguing about it. The fact that the Emperor is staring directly at the querent gives us a clue as to who or what is the focus of this card; it is the querent himself.
The theme of control
In many ways, the Emperor card demands to be treated as a mirror, reflecting back our inner strengths and potential. Drawing this card causes the querent to question their position in life: are you fully in control? Has the way in which you conduct yourself resulted in an orderly existence or is there room for improvement? Perhaps there is too much order in your life and the way in which you orchestrate events borders on obsession? Alternatively, it may be that the querent has found an authority figure or mentor to show him the way to a particular goal; the Emperor is focussed on bringing order to all that he surveys and mastering all that is within his potential.
The influence of the Emperor is felt by other cards and its meaning can alter, according to whether it is part of a reading that deals with the querent’s past, present or future.
If the reading is focussing on the past, then the Emperor is likely to represent an authority or father figure who has laid out the ground rules for what you perceive to be as an acceptable way to conduct yourself. If you have arrived at the present as a stable and grounded individual, then you have taken heed of those foundations and built upon them, adding your own stamp but staying within the confines of what you believe to be right. It may be that you have rebelled against those ground rules in the past, but wisdom has finally taught you their worth and you are now your own master.
However, if the figure from your past abused their position or set you on a rocky road, then you may have found yourself in a lonely position alienated from those around you. In this instance the Emperor is there to let you know that it is perfectly acceptable to recognise where the blame lies and to apportion it. However, once you have recognised where the source of your problems has come from, it is time to build your own rules and be your own master.
If the reading is concerned with the present, then drawing the Emperor suggests that you have reached a point in your life where you are perfectly capable of making a big decision. However, it can also hint at the influence of another; perhaps there is someone at work whose opinion you are a bit too eager to embrace or there is a confidante whose point of view is starting to smother your own. If this is the case, the Emperor card suggests that it is time to put more faith in your own beliefs and stick to what you believe to be right.
The Emperor yet to come
Drawing the Emperor in a reading that focuses on the future suggests that the present will have a profound effect on the future, even though the decisions you are faced with might seem small and trivial. You may find that there is a sudden an unexpected change in your life, but the roots of that change can be traced to the present. It may also be that you are required to change the way you conduct yourself in order to facilitate or prevent that change from taking place.
In all things, the Emperor demands that, at the end of the day, you remain true to yourself and that change need not be a bad thing - it is but another learning curve through which we can accumulate greater wisdom.