the power to control

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Intro Image: the Emperor - the power to control

Tarot Alley uses the Rider Waite type of deck for our meanings, symbols, interpretations, etc.

The Emperor represents people and society along with their structures, norms, power, and codes.

The Emperor is often viewed as a negative or controlling card representing authority, government, the patriarchy, a father figure, etc., And it can be just that. The Emperor expects you to conform and life can be unpleasant for those who do not (or can not).

But that’s not the whole story. The Emperor also leads and can represent leadership, changes, and new beginnings. Which can be positive or not. 

The Emperor is often read as a card that represents a father or father-figure in your life. Personally, I do not subscribe to this view. While I believe the Emperor can represent such a person, I don’t think it usually or universally does. 

It’s my opinion that the Emperor can represent any person (including yourself), group, or institution that has and uses some form of power. This is the belief that influences my interpretations of the card below.

Take a look at the Rider-Waite Emperor displayed to the left (or above).

What is your first impression?

Who is this person? What are they doing? Where are they? What does the imagery say to you (such as the carvings on the chair/throne, what’s in the background, what is he wearing, etc)?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, just your interpretation.

Astrology: Aries
Element: Fire
Numerology: 4 (equality, stability, persistence)

Common Symbols

  • Armour: to represent protection
  • Ankh Scepter: to represent dominion over life and death
  • Full Beard: to represent maturity

Keywords & Concepts

  • Rules
  • Laws
  • Structure
  • Discipline
  • Leadership
  • Power
  • Authority
  • Control
  • Norms
  • Conformity

the Emperor for Personal Growth

A mature person recognizes that structure and authority are a requirement of civilization. Some resist purely out of habit or stubbornness; when you buck the system, be sure you have good reason to do so.

Ask Yourself:

  • In what ways do your attitudes toward authority seem to be shaped by your relationship with your father?
  • How does the issue of control or regulation impact your situation?
  • What would a compassionate but strict father do?
  • What needs more control? Less?
  • Are your efforts fruitful or are you just banging your head against a wall?
  • How might strict emotional control help you now?
  • What would be more appropriate today: rigid control or gentle guidance?
  • Who’s in charge of your situation? By what authority?
  • In your situation, what do you really control?

Interpreting the Emperor

When the Emperor appears it represents the importance of using logic in your life right now, not emotion. If you want to achieve your dreams, you’ll need to focus and concentrate.

You might need this logic for making decisions or dealing with a powerful (Emperor-like) person, group, or institution.

The Reversed Emperor

How you read reversals is a personal choice. You can ignore reversals and read them as if the card is upright (this is what I often choose to do) or you can interpret reversals as variations of what they would mean upright. There are 3 common ways to read reversals: as a negative interpretation, as an opposite interpretation, or as a block on the upright interpretation. Check out How to Read Reversals for more information.

Negative: A negative reversed Emperor suggests an over reliance on logic. You’re ignoring emotions and feelings completely. 

Opposite: An opposite reversed Emperor means you should be using emotion to make your decisions right now. Perhaps your logic is being clouded or manipulated by those in your life.

Blocked: A blocked reversed Emperor indicates something is preventing you from utilizing logic in your choices. Figure out what it is and fix it.

Examples of the Emperor

Specific Interpretations

Specific situations are the general interpretation (from above) used for a specific situation (love, career, etc). There is no need to memorize these (or even look them up) if you understand the general interpretation. However, here are some basic interpretations for some specific situations:

Love & Relationships

When it comes to love and relationships, the Emperor suggests a lack of romance (not love, but the romantic gestures).

If you’re in a relationship, the Emperor represents a stable, long-lasting relationship. It might not be exciting or full of romantic gestures (right now), but it’s strong and true.

If you’re single, the Emperor suggests romance should not be a focus in your life right now. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date or won’t meet someone new. However, you should be careful not to get swept away by romantic notions. This is a time for practicality and logic.


Negative: A negative reversed Emperor suggests that this will make you feel unloved. Ask for (or give yourself) the romance you crave.

Opposite: An opposite reversed Emperor means an overabundance of romance, probably without any logic or practicality.

Blocked: A blocked reversed Emperor indicates you’re not seeing the love that exists in your life.

Professional Life

In your professional life, the Emperor indicates that logic, focus, and persistence will enable you to achieve your goals.

The Emperor suggests leadership and change. This could result in a new mentor or mentee for you.


Negative: A negative reversed Emperor suggests that you’re over focused on one particular goal and it’s having a negative impact on other areas.

Opposite: An opposite reversed Emperor means that persistence and focus aren’t enough to get what you want. Try networking and connecting with people, too.

Blocked: A blocked reversed Emperor indicates that there’s something (probably emotion) standing in the way of achieving your goals.

Health & Wellness

While the Emperor respects routine, structure, and hard work, it’s easy to take things too far. The Emperor card indicates that you’re being too hard on yourself, physically. Don’t overdo it.


Negative: A negative reversed Emperor suggests that you’ve done some serious damage. Stop. Seek treatment before it really is too late.

Opposite: An opposite reversed Emperor means you’re not getting enough exercise of not getting the right kind of exercise.

Blocked: A blocked reversed Emperor indicates something is preventing you from seeing that you’re overextending yourself, physically.

The Emperor Tarot Card Meaning

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The Emperor is all about the power to control. Embrace your inner Emperor by finding and taking on a new leadership role in your life (at school, work, hobby, anywhere).

Once you feel comfortable with the Emperor tarot card meaning, check out the next card in the tarot deck: V – the Hierophant Tarot Card Meaning.


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