This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!
For more on the decks referenced here please another page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith: https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163
A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.
This week we explore the what we learn as we move from the natural world into society, how to learn and provide rules and structure how that might play out in the role of leadership – the Emperor.
The Emperor is the archetype of setting up rules and order in society and having the authority to enforce them. In the traditional descriptions of this card there is an idea that the natural world is chaotic, and if we marry the power of the natural world (The Empress) to some societal structure we can move out of survival mode and create the stability that could allow spiritual development – (a foreshadowing of next weeks card of The Hierophant).
There are a couple of elements that are key for the traditional versions of the Emperor card. I will list them here and then lets see what choices have been made in some less traditional decks.
- The structure of the throne the Emperor sits on is full of rigidity and iron. He sits centered on the throne on a very rigid posture. All of this emphasizes the idea of order and structure.
- He holds an Ankh – the Egyptian symbol of life to represent the power of life and death
- There are four rams on the throne representing the symbol of the first sign of the zodiac – Aries. This supports the idea of the new life of spring emerging from a just society.
In the Tarot of the Divine the Emperor is represented by King Arthur, maybe the most fatherly of all the examples here. King Arthur fought alongside his people and provided unity for the knights of the round table.
One idea of the Emperor is that he provides cold hard facts without compassion for his people, and that can be the negative side of the card – gaining too much power and becoming disconnected from people to become a dictator.
But this version in King Arthur is the idea of providing leadership and structure out of care for the land and its people. We can be a leader and still show vulnerability to our community/team. If this idea of compassionate ruler speaks to you today, examine where you can bring more compassion in your own leadership, show vulnerability, or influence that in other leaders.
The Voyager Tarot card for the Emperor for me shows a lot of the elements and aspects of leadership and development. On one hand we have the Emperor as a builder and not just a ruler with the pictures of the hands holding a young sapling, and the different examples of groundbreaking architecture in the card. There is also the dark side of the Emperor which only has a focus on material wealth at the bottom of the card.
But what does it take to build and lead? Just a strong will? Or balance in the other areas like the mental clarity of the eagle, the emotional strength of the whale, and the physical energy of the ram. This card brings along the idea of how much an effective leader or leadership structure has to have balance and not just rules.
If you are a leader where could you be more balanced? What could you add to your toolbox to gain this? What if you think about leading and guiding your own path, what tools could you use to create a more balanced structure?
This Emperor Card from the Light Seers Tarot still has a lot of the same traditional elements, but somehow I find this Emperor more accessible. I’m not sure if its the more laidback tone of the card that seems more familiar, or if we finally see a representation of an authority figure that is from a different race or ethnicity.
More than any other card in the tarot, it seems the hardest for the Emperor card to be represented by anything other than a white European male. I’ve read a few articles on the successes and failures of inclusion in tarot decks, and while I get that it originates from white European society, I live in the modern world and want to see the modern world reflected in my readings. For me that means seeing more than one culture represented in the deck so its more representative of the world, and in the case the leadership styles found in other cultures – many of them female.
So then what of the message of the card? I would say to make sure that your leadership and building of structures, and visions for the future include representation and diversity of thought, and if you don’t have that currently to study or discuss ways to get it.
A very literal idea here of growth through cerebral things versus emotional or spiritual leadership in the Way Home tarot as a tree grows out of a brain in this card.
Another idea of the emperor is that he/she is not just a builder or a leader but also a visionary that can create and share a vision with his team.
An additional idea that this card brings is the Emperor as protector of the forest. What internally or externally do you feel needs stronger protection, and what vision can you provide to do this? Even more so, what is your latest vision for the future?
Sometimes when we have a truly unique vision others may not understand its purpose or be able to see it with us right away. This Bull Elk from the Brady Tarot seems to be lonely at the top, but a true visionary will be comfortable being alone at least at first so that decisions that no one else are willing to make – really hard decisions – can be made.
The elk has the companion of an Eagle representing in this case spiritual guidance – its what the elk uses to keep himself grounded and also to ensure he is making decisions for the greater good and not just to grow his own empire.
Who or what is your eagle? Do you have a difficult call to make that may be unpopular with others but that you know is the right thing to do? If so call on the energy of the Emperor and make sure you know what you need to do for grounding.
The Tarot of Mystic Moments has a much more whimsical take on the Emperor. He still has the structure and vision of some of the prior cards with the castle coming from his head, and he is decorated with medals showing his authority has been earned. But to me the whimsical nature of the card gives me one more aspect of the Emperor which is not to take the structure or yourself too seriously. If we are too rigid, or we cannot show any sense of humor or vulnerability, those we are trying to lead may not be able to relate to us or trust us.
Is there a subject you are taking too seriously? Make sure what you lead brings you joy and that you can still laugh at yourself.
I hope this article has brought you joy today!