78 Tarot Cards: The Emperor

“Your opinion is optional. Your obedience is required.”

For those who benefit from the edicts and control of an empire, the figure of the emperor is regarded positively and with adoration. But for those who are unwillingly subjugated and are receiving harm as a result of those same edicts and controls, that same figure is reviled and regarded as the embodiment if not the incarnation of evil, cruelty, and deliberate maliciousness. However, no matter how the emperor is personally regarded, the figure is widely recognized as a symbol of power, authority, and control.

Of all the cards in the Major Arcana, the Emperor is one of the hardest cards to interact with objectively. It will take on the biases, fears, and prejudices of the tarotist and reflect it back to the querent draped in positive affirmations and unyielding justifications. Here, the tarotist and the querent will find reasons to say that the end justifies the means, and that one does what one must do to gain one’s goals, and that since the only way to make omelets is to break some eggs, there is no reason to consider the consequences of one’s actions prior to committing them. And for the most part, the person being read for will nod and agree because it confirms what they wanted to do in the first place unless the reader points out the bias in the mirror.

It is easy to categorize the Emperor tarot card as “Bad” because of the ease it reflects a person’s underlying motives. There are no bad cards in the tarot, only examples of the unpleasant situations that happen during the course of living one’s life. In the personal world, there are people who wish to make themselves the ruler and idol of their private empire, who aspire to be served by others with no care about the peoples subject to them. In the tarot world, the Emperor is a tool and servant of an empire who is subject to the very forces supposedly under them. It is to serve in such a function that the Emperor is as harsh and dictatorial as presented, so that the empire as a whole may be curated and maintained to the ideal embodied in the figurehead of the Emperor. In this manner, the Emperor is the face of the empire.

When called to advise, the Emperor tells the querent to take control, to be direct, and to proceed with whatever plan they had in mind when they first asked for a reading. In a single-card reading, the card answers “Yes” to any plan that involves movement or force, and “No” to any plan that involves collaboration or compromise. The Emperor’s timing is “Immediate”. In a multi-card reading, if the Emperor is the focus of the spread, the other cards will reflect the nature of the Emperor’s rule and how to support or undermine it accordingly. If the Emperor is a supporting card, it will speak to a cultural domination to be reckoned with, such as corporate hierarchy, overwhelming family dynamics, or societal expectations.

Ill-aspected or reversed, the distressed Emperor loses the ability to function as befitting a coherent adult. Instead of portraying a conscious and direct persona, the distressed Emperor portrays a petulant adolescent with just enough self-awareness to know they have some power, but not enough to know how to use it without harming themselves or others in the process. This is the person that collects power for the sake of having more power, or the person that has just enough authority to make someone else uncomfortable and they want to make sure that everyone knows it. This is the person who surrounds themselves with supplicants and sycophants to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions even as they act to provoke a response. And yet, when the consequences of their actions and provocation catch up with them, the distressed Emperor will cry the loudest about other people’s abuse of power being used unfairly against them.

The Emperor’s themes of control and force will be difficult to reckon with if the querent has negative views of those themes. Depending on the context of the reading, the card may be calling out the querent for being a bully or telling them that they need to seize control of their life lest they continue to be bullied by others. Regardless, when this card is placed on the table, it is a call for the querent to review how they interact with others and if that interaction has been for the betterment of their life or their ego.

Next Card: III – The Empress

Noxporium’s Tarot Card Masterpost: 78 Tarot Cards

Previous Card: V – The Hierophant – “Know what you were so you can change what you are.”

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