The Emperor

The Architecture of Power

"He is the constituting power, alike of the great world and of the little, of the universe of man.  Psychologically, therefore, he represents the self-conscious mental plane, when the activities of t hat plane are engaged in the work of inductive reasoning whereby error arising from superficial interpretations of experience is overthrown.  He is the definer, the law-maker, the regulator.  Never forget that this phase of consciousness is the ruling principle in human personality.  It frames the constitution of your personal world."
-Paul Foster Case, Learning Tarot Essentials, 1932

Godfrey Dowson, The Hermetic Tarot, United States, 1980
A reconstuction of The Hermetic Tarot based on the esotaric system developed bny the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 1800s.

The Emperor is the forth key to the Major Arcana in Tarot.  The Element of the Emperor is Fire and the zodiac affiliation is with Aries.  

Qualities of the Emperor are Masculinity, Strength, and Control.  Alternate names for the Emperor are Osiris and The King.  Symbols are The Throne, Scepter, Mountains, and Shield

In German the Hierophant is called Der Herrscher, Der Kaiser, and Der Konig.  In French, L'Empereur.  And in Italian, L'Imperatore.


The Emperor is depicted as stoic ruler, his stone throne ornamented with four rams, symbolizing his astrological association with Aries and the planet Mars.  He wields both a scepter of power (sometimes shown as an Egyptian ankh, the symbol of life), and an orb, a representation of the domains over which he has total reign.  Usually shown bearded, reflective of his wisdom, maturity, and virility, the Emperor sits below jagged mountains, which signify both the strength of his foundation and the heights he will climb through sheer determination.  A small river sometimes appears to flow in the back-ground indicating he is not without emotion.  Yet the Emperor rules primarily with strong will and intellect.  His gold crown and regal red robe signify complete authority.  Many older decks also include a shield resting alongside his throne, emblazoned with the Eagle, symbol of the Roman Empire.  Others depict the Emperor in full armor, as if ready for battle or just returning from it, victorious.  


The Emperor represents total power, the divine masculine, the cosmic father.  He is authority and order, regulation and rationale.  He reigns over systems of knowledge, discipline, strategy, and law.  His rule is resolute, yet paternal.  The Emperor relies upon structure and control to create security and stability.  He protects and commands.  He has clarity of vision and equilibrium of mind.  He demands loyalty and order, and leads with calm and principled strength.  He is systematic and organized in his approach, seeing all tasks through to completion.  His wisdom calls for correct use of power and so he governs always, with paternal compassion.

Francoise Corboz, Le Tarot de Belmont, Switzerland, 1995
While this deck only contains the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, each archetype is executed in the artist's vivid and graphic style of intricate patterning.