Emperor Tarot Card Meaning, A Complete Guide!

The Emperor Tarot Card, A Complete Guide
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The Emperor card is the fourth card of the Major Arcana, following the Empress. In the Rider-Waite deck, the Emperor is represented by an enthroned man, enclosed in a red robe and wearing a crown. These indications of authority are supported with his definitive stance and long white beard, representative of his wisdom.

Yet underneath the red robe we see glimpses of knight’s armor, suggesting that not only does he have the authority to rule over the world, depicted by an orb in his left hand, but he also is ready to defend and protect the stability of his kingdom.

Throughout this article, we’ll be able to explore what the Emperor card, both upright and reversed, can mean in different circumstances.

What does the Emperor Tarot card mean?

The Emperor upright represents order and stability. It speaks of pursuing an organized plan to build success from a steady foundation. Responsibility is needed and any possible problems are accounted for and dealt with from a logical perspective. This is a position of power over your own mind, surroundings, or a team.

When we are in the midst of all our responsibilities, too much chaos can leave us swamped. It can result in not knowing where to start, or how to effectively deal with the problems that arise along the way. But too much structure or too rigid a plan will suffocate us in the long run and be equally ineffective at adapting changes that are always necessary for a plan to be carried out. The Emperor card finds a delicate balance between these two scenarios.

At face value, the Emperor encapsulates control and authority over a situation. According to your own situation, it may refer to the mental tenacity or the physical discipline needed to reach your goals.

It indicates a stable foundation, such as building up stamina by establishing exercise routines each day, or ensuring adequate practice at a base level of mathematics so that it can be applied to harder conceptual understanding.

These are only simple examples that illustrate the control necessary for an individual to exert over their goals and plans to reach success.

However, at a deeper level, the Emperor also is one who is enough of a capable leader to recognize that control must be balanced with understanding and flexibility. Representative of a protective father figure, the Emperor exhibits his caring side through his actions and advice.

Therefore, this figure demands a certain level of respect and authority, whether this is from those you lead or from your own self but gives back to those around them in the form of wisdom, experience, and security.

You may have a clear goal or aspiration, or you may be interacting with someone who does. The Emperor signifies that a systematic and fair approach, and much self-discipline, is needed. Stick to your plan and vision.

The Emperor Tarot Card Keywords Upright

  • Stability
  • Structure
  • Leadership
  • Power
  • Authority
  • Wisdom
  • Experience
  • Discipline
  • Responsibility
  • Foundations

What does the Emperor Tarot card mean reversed?

Reversed, the Emperor can indicate struggles with power, whether this is feeling inferior or powerless, or dealing with one who abuses their power. Your relationship with power or figures of authority may be off-balance. The situation has to be assessed to see if you need to step up to your responsibilities.

A reversed Major Arcana card often possesses a paradoxical element of two opposite extremes. This is where the querent’s own context and experience should be applied to the cards. Assessing your relationship with authority or responsibility can reveal either that you are afraid to step up to take control of a situation, or that you are being excessively domineering in a current position.

For example, in an everyday context, one may be shying away from control or responsibility. There may be a hesitation to regain control of your life for the fear that it will someday collapse again. Even a fear of failure, feeling too inexperienced, or simply too overwhelming of a task can prevent you from standing up to an inner mindset or negative habits and healing them.

Similarly, there may be an extreme fear of losing control over a current situation. This can result in hanging onto it so tightly that you are even affecting others with power plays, obsession, and a need for control.

But this ultimately harms yourself the most, as even a small change or mistake can seem like the end of the world. Remember that the phrase ‘going with the flow’ allows situations to be taken out of our lives when they are no longer useful or valuable to us in the bigger picture.

Combining these two extremes of not having control and holding onto control allows the reversed Emperor card to turn into an upright one. A Tarot spread is not fixed within stone; oftentimes we can work to change our situation into a better one.

As another possibility, the Emperor reversed can indicate feeling as if you are incapable of achieving something. It can also represent the fact that in order for a plan to go forward, a different path of creativity and flexibility can be explored instead of one with more structure.

As always, Tarot is flexible within itself. There are a variety of meanings that can be inferred with each different clarifying card. It asks for you to apply your own situation to the cards, and that makes it a truly personal reading.

The Emperor Reversed Keywords

  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Dominance
  • Unreliability
  • Irresponsibility
  • Disorder
  • Impulsiveness
  • Immaturity
  • Idleness
  • Inexperience

The Emperor Tarot Card as How Someone (He / She) Perceives You

Does this person look up to you? Do you offer this person some sort of advice or guidance? Whatever the case may be, they view you as a figure of stability, one who they can come to for direction or a solution.

Being perceived as an Emperor figure may mean that this person holds you with some respect. You may be their mentor, parent, or counselor. They see you as one who is in control of your situation, one who can act and think strategically and logically to solve problems or reach a goal, protective of those around you.

Taken literally, the Emperor is representative of a father figure. But this card could represent anyone ranging from an employer, teacher, mentor, or coach.

If these don’t apply, then they could simply see you as someone who is quite knowledgeable. You know how to make appropriate decisions and may display leadership qualities, whether perhaps in a field of practice or just in everyday interactions. To them, you seem to be dependable, reliable, and responsible.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as How Someone Perceives You

Reversed, the Emperor can suggest that this person perceives you as either overly controlling, perhaps over their own decisions and life, or as someone who shies away from responsibility.

It can take a lot of self-reflection to properly realize our flaws as a person. In the case of the Emperor reversed, our need to control another person can be disguised as an act of love or care. This is most commonly reflected in a parent’s love for their child, where the parent has no choice but to supervise the child in order to keep them safe and care for them.

However, be careful with allowing inner wounds and flaws to manifest as an outward need to constantly supervise and direct another person’s life. This can apply to a parent-child relationship, but even more importantly, in a relationship where both parties are adults, realize that projecting an inner fear of loss and need for control onto others will ultimately harm the other person.

As another interpretation, the Emperor reversed could also mean that the person perceives you as someone who lacks self-control and is unreliable. Or more positively, it could be that they view you as someone who is more of a creative and free soul, who is continuously stifled under societal restrictions and rigid structures.

The Emperor Tarot Card as A Place

Taken literally, the Emperor card may refer to castles or old buildings that have been preserved as museums or historical sites. These can often be visited by the general public as tourist locations and reflect the established and long-standing figure of the Emperor.

The Emperor as a place can refer to a building or place that is held in a certain amount of respect and appreciation because of what it may represent. It can also refer to its physical structure, being old or firm in its foundations. More personally, the place can be relating to a person who acts as a father figure.

Places such as historical monuments, museums, and conservation reserves are just examples of ones that hold cultural or historical meaning and are respected and protected for future generations.

Moreover, the Emperor is after all a figure of power, and so any place involving the law and authorities, such as law courts, governments, large companies, or structured organizations, can be considered as possibilities.

Tarot is a personal tool, so it may also refer to places that you consider to be quite imposing, exhibiting grandeur, or even relating to a person who has been your coach or mentor.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as A Place

Reversed, the place in question is not necessarily one of law and order. Think of the characteristics of an Emperor in reversed- unaffiliated with responsibilities, logic, and structure. It may be a place that allows you to be free from duties expected from you otherwise, or it can be a relatively private place.

The Emperor is associated with respect and command. He leads justly with a logical and strategic mind and provides for the people around him. He acts very much as a public figure. Translating the card in reverse into a place, it is possible that privacy comes to mind first.

Somewhere away from the public eye is suitable, where it isn’t necessary to dwell upon work and decisions and responsibilities, but instead on an inner freedom and calm.

But being away from the public eye can also suggest a place of unlawfulness and possible danger. Make sure to apply this appropriately to your own situation.

The Emperor Tarot card in Career

In terms of a career reading, the Emperor card is positive. It usually indicates a high-ranking role in a company, either signifying a promotion to a leadership position or simply a pay raise. Otherwise, the stability and security that the Emperor figure stands for could signify a reliable form of self-employment.

The Emperor card can commonly indicate that success may be reaped after the self-discipline and hard work that has been put into building the foundations of an initial project. Any worries about a recent or future launch of a business can be appeased- for this card assures you that the preparation carried out before this launch has been more than sufficient. It also is not a negative card in terms of financial return, and suggests that all will be secure, whether in terms of finances or business.

Furthermore, as a more general career option in a company, it is likely that the Emperor points towards positions of leadership or authority. Managerial positions, hiring staff, or positions that require decision making and strategic thinking would all be represented by the Emperor upright.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed in Career

Rather than a leadership role like the Emperor upright suggests, the Emperor reversed indicates a career that isn’t based on a typical office routine. The career path may require more flexibility and creativity, or it can involve risk-taking and uncertainty, where success is not necessarily guaranteed.

If you are inquiring about a current career path or job position, then be prepared for some changes to ensue. The Emperor reversed talks of instability and even a possible loss of a job or position.

But if you are inquiring about a future career path, not all is negative. This career may not rely so heavily on a routine as others do; in fact, it might have to test your ability to adapt and rely on your own skills instead of on reliable instruction or a plan.

In terms of finances, the Emperor reversed does not automatically lead to financial loss or financial hardship. Many jobs that involve risk-taking often also involve great return. But the lack of certainty that the Emperor signifies in reverse is what gives testament to their unpredictability, which may or may not be a negative factor.

As another career possibility, your position may subvert traditional power structures, or even patriarchal norms. Whatever it may be, this card in reverse calls for you to be prepared to be flexible and unafraid of whichever direction you are taken in.

The Emperor Tarot Card in a Love/Relationship reading

The Emperor upright suggests a committed, loving, and balanced relationship. This relationship may be more conventional. It is long-lasting and stable and will give both parties both financial and emotional security.

The Emperor may refer to an actual individual, a partner who is willingly able to provide security for you or your family. They are a dependable figure and there is great potential for a long-term relationship.

He may also represent the typical masculine person in a relationship, one who traditionally protects and cares for his feminine counterpart. But it is important to note that this relationship is on equal terms and most definitely is a harmonious one.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed in a Love/Relationship reading

Flip the upright card around, and the Emperor is dethroned. There is lack of direction, clarity, and sometimes even emotional manipulation.

There is a clear power imbalance in this relationship. In reverse, the Emperor card points to a person who has become possessive, controlling, and overbearing. The relationship does not have potential to be a long-lasting one, due to the risk of the other person’s independence being taken away.

Being in a possessive and dominating relationship has the effect of potentially impacting your mental and spiritual health. The impact of a person who aims to be overly authoritative in their thoughts, words, and actions is significant upon your self-esteem and confidence.

This results in the opposite of what an Emperor figure stands for- they are able to stand in their own power and judgement. Prioritize your own inner health over a controlling relationship.

The Emperor Tarot Card as Intentions / What Someone Wants

The Emperor card presents itself as a want to care, one that is extremely dedicated and protective. They feel the need to give the best for the other person, just as a father figure would want for his child, or a ruler would want for his kingdom. Upright, they will want to protect without stifling, and provide for you.

This card isn’t always about the need for absolute control. Rather, the Emperor figure is always a representation of the positive consequences arising from control coupled with care and understanding. It may seem as if most to all his decisions are made with logic, but empathy is always present with the Upright card.

The meaning is clear: there are no abusive power plays and there is no obsessive need for control. This person wants to keep you safe, wants the best for you, and wants to provide for you, and they can accomplish all of those things without needing everything to unfold at his whim.

Therefore, it is important to note that although this card represents the way a ruler would feel for their kingdom, there is no imbalance of power. Both parties depend on each other as steady and reliable figures.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as Intentions / What Someone Wants

In contrast, the Emperor card in reverse will often indicate that the person’s intentions could be clouded by their own misguided fears, or they could have developed into intentions that are no longer healthy for both parties.

In reverse, the Emperor card forfeits its balanced relationship with power. The person in question may feel as if they need to control or overpower the other person or situation. There may also be a chance that they instead just want to step away from a leadership role and from their responsibilities.

Their intentions can be manipulative, and they may no longer have your best interests at heart. Regardless of how their past intentions seemed, fears and negative intentions can attach themselves to pure wishes and grow, ultimately conquering their original intent and clouding their thinking.

Not only may they be manipulative towards you or another party, but they also may have lost touch with their authentic selves. They attempt to perform such manipulative or controlling actions under the pretense of ‘good intention’, when in reality these intentions are untruthful and do not accurately mirror their outward action.

They can be deliberately trying to control your decisions and thus alter your thinking, operating under power-hungry intentions. Or they themselves can be operating under the control of their own subconscious fear which they are not aware of or ready to face.

Alternatively, the person’s intentions may be to step away from the spotlight. They feel they need a break from taking on the responsibility and the role of a rational and efficient decision-maker, the person everyone depends upon.


Is the Emperor Tarot card a Yes or a No?

In an upright position, it’s a yes! With any luck, you will end up in the future where the Emperor is now- in a position of security and stability. As long as the work has been put in and you are self-confident and rational, then the answer will be positive.

The Emperor card most likely signifies a yes. It is a very positive card that suggests an equally positive outcome. It is associated with tenacity, willpower, and achievement. In reverse, the Emperor usually indicates a maybe or a no. The querent may not be fully ready for this situation, or even experience loss.

On the other hand, a reversed position can suggest inexperience or a lack of knowledge. You are not entirely ready to step up into this new role or situation. His title may seem impressive and sound notable, but in reality the benefits of any success can be much more properly and comfortably received if the situation is truly right for you.

The Emperor in reverse encourages you to continue with learning and growing and to gain that self-assurance that will be needed in the future.

The Emperor Tarot Card as a Situation

The situation seems to be under control. It is secure and safe- no need to worry. If this situation is a problem or a decision you are facing, then being rational and decisive is your way out.

In a situation, the Emperor card says that there is or will be order again. It calls for an aspect of realism and logic. There will be no confusion surrounding the situation, and everything will turn out to be just and well-organized. In short, the situation is under control.

Look to figures around you whom you can depend on or seek advice from. The message is short and simple: working through the situation in a rational and focused way will bring about success. Usually with the Emperor, concrete actions and a concrete plan turn into physical rewards.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as a Situation

However, in reverse, the Emperor card is slightly less ideal.

Reversed, the Emperor card signifies that the situation has begun to suffocate certain individuals, either forcing them into unfavorable outcomes or suppressing their individuality through strict structures. There may be a power imbalance or manipulation. You may need to take on either less or more responsibilities.

It may often refer to oppressive regimes or social structures that demand an almost irrational level of obedience and discipline. Those in power enforce conformity or compliance onto those who are virtually powerless.

The situation may not be as dire or as dramatic as outlined above, thankfully, but look out for everyday situations that may be stifling your joy or passions. Always balance your duties and responsibilities with rest and endeavors that you really enjoy.

Be on the alert for aspects of a situation that don’t seem exactly right. Trust your intuition to see through twisting of the truth.

The Emperor Tarot Card as an Obstacle or Challenge

When the Emperor card appears in the Obstacle position, the ultimate challenge may be that you just never seem to reach a place of security. There are changes left and right, and you are in a place of uncertainty.

The challenge that the Emperor represents may be creating structured plans and self-discipline, or even actualizing these plans into concrete action. Perhaps the obstacle is deciding whether to succumb to certain expectations and responsibilities, or even how to become more self-certain and assured.

Being decisive and afterwards trusting our own decisions can sometimes be extremely difficult. Especially if the decision involves your own or other people’s lives, the burden that is placed upon each different choice can definitely act as a challenge to gaining success.

The obstacle can even be the astute feeling of incompetence or inexperience that can overwhelm one in the face of another actual challenge, which in the end can turn out to be less significant after all.

The gaining of wisdom and self-confidence in your own judgement can present itself as a much larger challenge.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as an Obstacle or Challenge

The Emperor shows up reversed in the Obstacle position to indicate the presence of a figure of authority who may not be as righteous or fair in their proceedings. Standing up to power-hungry individuals or dealing with irresponsible or unlawful people can be a challenge.

This card could not only refer to actual individuals, but also broader situations, such as organizations or corporate businesses. Power imbalances often occur between individuals with large monetary influence and the backing of influential companies, and individuals who lack monetary support.

The obstacle could also be a matter of the inner self, where a person is too ungrounded or emotional to be able to think logically and stand in their own power.

The Emperor Tarot Card as Advice or Action

This card may represent the presence of an older or wiser figure who can offer you advice or even financial help.

The Emperor card urges you to seek the advice of an experienced mentor or teacher. An association with a figure of power or influence may help you in this situation or problem. Other advice is to keep a calm and rational mind. Think strategically and analytically and go forth one step at a time.

When the Emperor appears in the Advice position, the most important message to take away is to not allow emotions or stress to infiltrate your logical problem-solving process. Either rely on a dependable figure, or even yourself, to take charge of the situation.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as Advice or Action

In reverse, the Emperor card advises you to explore the non-conventional route. The situation will turn out better if it is left to unfold on its own without someone taking control. Or it may call for you to follow your heart when making a decision. It’s time to cast off that exterior shell of duty and rationality.

At first sight, the Emperor appearing in reverse can ring alarm bells. The situation seems to be out of control and can’t be handled like in the upright. However, in continuing to do your part, letting the situation unfold and trusting in your guides can result in a solution that was unknown before.

However, the Emperor itself is a card of action. It rarely calls for inaction. For that reason, it can also suggest that when dealing with a situation, it can be beneficial for you to reveal more emotion.

Often, maintaining an impassive or cold exterior is needed for the role of a just decision-maker. But showing a more vulnerable side can lead to a deeper understanding between two individuals and offer new insight to the situation that could have been misunderstood before.

The Emperor Tarot Card as an Outcome

The Emperor is a very positive card to receive in the Outcome position. It shows us a more stable future, one that possesses visible concrete rewards in the physical realm as well as an inner assurance.

An interaction with a person with significant influence may come as a result of the situation. It can even suggest that you yourself will have risen to a higher position, perhaps in a company, or just gained some more respect from those around you. The Emperor indicates stability and a prosperous outcome.

Because the Emperor is also indicative of someone who is well-versed in their area of study or extremely experienced, it may also point to a mastery of a skill or long-awaited recognition for what you have accomplished.

All in all, this card encourages you to be proud of what you have achieved in the end.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as an Outcome

The Emperor reversed can symbolize a material loss or even a loss of respect. But ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out a way to deal with a possible loss. Will you surrender with grace or further tarnish your reputation?

The Emperor in reverse can reflect an unfortunate outcome. But it could also reflect an individual’s perspective, where they allow themselves to let go. Perhaps they are no longer needed in a mentor role, or they understand that the situation has shifted or grown so that it can develop without their influence.

Losing a role or position that has given you purpose is never a happy thing, along with the possible shame or regret it may bring. But it can also be a positive event. The thought that perhaps you are now relieved of such responsibility and can let someone else take the reins, whilst you explore something new, is freeing in itself.

Any material loss or surrender is always temporary, just as the fall of one empire always hints at the beginning of a new one.

The Emperor Tarot Card as a Person

Taken literally, the Emperor very much acts as a father figure, or a male counterpart to the Empress card. They are willing to protect and defend their loved ones. They have natural leadership abilities.

The Emperor card stands for a person who is comfortable in their own judgement. They have gained experience and is knowledgeable and competent enough to lead or give advice to others. Their emotional side does not easily show in the midst of a rational and focused mind. They are reliable and dependable.  

Although their emotions do tend to be hidden underneath a perhaps expressionless exterior or rational thinking, they exhibit their care and duty to their loved ones through their actions.

In order to be a reliable and dependable figure, they often put their duty to others before themselves. But being the one in charge or having significant influence implies that they need to keep a strong exterior.

Just as in the Rider-Waite deck, the Emperor sits covered in a layer of armor, signifying their duty to serve others, and an additional layer of robes, signifying the respect they receive in return. There is no space for vulnerability on the outside.

In reality, being a leader means being a servant as well. Think of a person who is weighed down with responsibilities and expectations- yet they are also well-equipped with confidence and experience in order to embrace them.

They are strong-willed, well-respected, and persistent.

The Emperor Tarot Card Reversed as a Person

In reverse, the Emperor card represents someone who is overly domineering or rigid in their thinking. This can point towards a lack of open-mindedness and an unwillingness to change. Unlike the upright version, the reversed may describe a person who is immature or petty.

The Emperor in reverse is someone who is so focused upon their goals and carrying out their plans that they start to lose sight of their original intentions. They strive to achieve their aspirations, but what of the consequences along the way?

Being excessively controlling can not only negatively affect those around them, but also limits this person in terms of their opportunities and blessings. They try to force results and take matters into their own hands, which is necessary in some situations, but not all the time.

The direct opposite of this is a person who constantly shirks responsibility.

Alternatively, the Emperor reversed can represent a person who is not in the public eye. They prefer to do things the unconventional way and like to be less associated with power and responsibility.

This doesn’t mean that they do not support others; in fact, many types of leaders are needed for our society to operate well. Those working nameless and in lower ranking positions are just as vital as those of prominent influence.

What zodiac sign is the Emperor Tarot Card?

The Emperor Tarot card is associated with the zodiac sign Aries. Aries is ruled by the planet of Mars. Although an Aries energy may come off as impulsive or overly direct, they still reflect the Emperor card through its air of self-assurance.

Although the card could refer to an actual Aries person in your life, it may also represent someone who embodies this Aries energy.

The action-led and self-assured Aries energy is exactly what is reflected in the Emperor’s own decisive, and sometimes stubborn, personality.

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