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The Emperor is the card of the divine masculine, it is a symbol of power, strength and authority. Often when The Emperor rears his head in a reading, there is a need to step up and take back control or flex your own authority.

He is also seen as the father figure in the major arcana, the yang to The Empress’ yin, or in Pagan traditions, the sun to The Empress’ moon. He is strict, abides by the laws and rules and can enforce his authority with ease.


When The Emperor appears right side up, he can represent a number of different properties, such as:

  • Leadership

  • Authority

  • Discipline

  • Divine Masculine

  • Control

  • Power

In the upright position, The Emperor is often a sign that there is a need to step into your power, to not be afraid to take or chase what you really want. Depending on the position, The Emperor can also represent someone else taking your power away from you, or blocking you from being able to be more authoritative. This could be a boss or even a controlling parental figure.


In the reversed position, The Emperor can point towards our weaknesses in character or even our ego taking over. All the attributes of The Emperor upright are now flipped on their heads and turned inwards. Some reversed meanings for The Emperor are:

  • Stubbornness

  • Egotistical

  • Controlling

  • Authoritarian

  • Undisciplined

The Emperor is the master, the ruler of everything. I like to think of him as a figure such as Zeus, Henry VIII or Daenerys from Game of Thrones. In fact, she’s a great example of The Emperor moving from the upright to the reversed position over time.

Characters That Represent The Emperor

To help you get a better feel for The Emperor, here are a few characters from history and media that will help you understand the essence of The Emperor card.

  • Henry VIII – King of England

  • Daenerys Stormborn (Khaleesi, breaker of chains… you get the gist) – Game of Thrones

  • Zeus – Greek God

  • Alexander Hamilton – Hamilton

  • Walter White – Breaking Bad

  • Elizabeth I – Queen of England

  • Princess Leia/ General Organa – Star Wars


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Reading The Emperor in a spread

The Emperor is the opposite of The Empress, in that he is the authoritative leader who takes charge and is all about action rather than feeling. The Emperor has the same unmoving energy as a brick house or a large boulder. He does things on his own terms and so he can be quite a confronting energy to get in your tarot spreads. Let’s have a look at different ways we can approach this stoic energy of The Emperor when he makes an appearance in our readings.

As an invitation

When we read The Emperor as an invitation, it can seem like an invite that we are afraid to decline. He’s very forceful in his message and it can feel like more of a command than an invitation, but it’s offered in the vein of tough love, rather than manipulation or control.

For The Emperor, this invitation could be the following:

  • An invitation to explore your own personal strength and power

  • An invitation to see where you can exercise more control and authority

  • An invitation to explore your own capabilities and desires

  • An invitation to explore your divine masculine and see how you can use it more effectively

As sage advice

The Emperor is a big fan of dishing out advice. He can be a bit egotistical so the advice he offers comes from a very self-assured and confident place. When The Emperor offers you advice, it is always for your own good, even if it’s hard to hear. He can also highlight when you’ve taken his energy a bit too far in the other direction, causing you to be unyielding when you don’t have to be.

Some advice The Emperor may offer is:

  • To stop allowing people to manage your affairs, take control of your own stuff

  • Be mindful of when you are being stubborn, rather than simply standing your ground

  • Check in to see if you are making decisions based on your ego or using your intuition

  • Never give up your power to make others happy or soothe somebody else’s ego

As a lesson

The archetype of the father figure, which The Emperor is based off, is someone that relishes dolling out hard lessons. The Emperor wants you to learn the hard way and therefore he can often represent those difficult lessons we are faced with throughout our lives.

Some lessons that The Emperor may offer you are:

  • To not let anyone else take your power away from you

  • To be a leader but not a dictator, find a balance between authority and compassion

  • To identify the areas of your life where The Emperor energy is needed and where it can be put to one side in favour of more nurturing energy

  • Not everything will be done for you, at some point you’ll need to step up and take control of your own destiny

As a redirection

The Emperor as a redirection is a call to action. If you’ve been planning, strategising or just thinking about how to solve your problem or overcome your challenges, The Emperor appears to tell you it’s time to put in the work. He is an anti-procrastination card because he has no time for those that dilly-dally.

As a redirection, The Emperor could symbolise a need to:

  • Step up and take control of the situation

  • Check your ego and pride to see if they are standing in your way

  • Release your hold on situations you’ve been gripping tightly – this is especially important in the realm of relationships

  • Take on more responsibility for your own actions

In summary…

The Emperor may seem like a harsh card, but remember that his energy is always in service of you. The Emperor, like any of the tarot cards, wants you to succeed and thrive, he’s just a bit more direct in his approach. When you are faced with The Emperor card, it helps to also think about The Empress and consider how each card would view the problem or question you are asking about.