The 78 Cards: The Emperor

The Emperor, Rider Waite Tarot

We already discussed The Empress, our signifier of endlessly flowing feminine energy, so behold her counterpart: the proud representative of masculinity, power, and authority.

Upright: authority, ambition, leadership, structure
Reversed: overly controlling, lack of control, misuse of authority, stubbornness, aggression

When I think of the Emperor, I certainly think of the zodiac Aries. Aries so badly desires to be a strong leader, which I think is a big part of the Aries journey and lesson — is to grow and develop into the role of a leader, of the, at times, over-exerted masculine energy. And being the first of the zodiac, Aries truly has the energy, drive, and enthusiasm of a child, and can find themselves bouncing off the walls, so indeed a large part of the lesson is control, what to even do with the control once you possess it, and controlling… the desire to control.

The Emperor is this struggle at its best; it’s the culmination of that hard work and self-monitoring and growth. I think The Emperor gets a bad rep for being a bit too scary or angry-looking or overly controlling even when it’s upright, which is understandable — that sure is an intimidating man to look at. But I can’t help but see the inner Aries, or the inner child, that grew into this role and had that real desire to be a leader, a role model, someone worth following and looking up to, and thus see something so pure and sympathetic about him. (Or maybe it’s just because I’m actually an Aries. I see you, my dude).

When you see The Emperor in the reading, it’s often a signal that it’s your time to take the reins and lead the way to victory. This means being bold, being assertive, being a risk-taker, and putting your all into what’s at hand. The challenge is knowing when to back off, when to make a plan, and certainly listening to your troops, even when you’re in the heat of adrenaline and peak energy and impulse and all of that jazz. Like, how do you manage being a risk-taker and bringing yourself to maximum energy levels here and then turn around and come up with a level-headed plan, right? Welcome to the world of being an Aries.

No, but seriously, he’s only here to push you in that direction and guide you when necessary when he pops up in a reading. I certainly perceive him as challenging me when he shows up, like, “Time to go! Hurry up! People need you!” He’s our reminder that speaking with grace and acting with poise is cool and everything, but there is a time and place, and bold, decisive actions are what are needed right now, and that it’s okay to step up and lead.