The Emperor card is the Marseille tarot's 4th major arcana card. Number 4 resonates with balance and the 4 elements of earth, water, fire and air. Number 4 is where balance is achieved and everything is stable and there is an order to things.
Balance is achieved by work and wisdom. Balance and stability doesn't just happen - it is achieved. This achievement brings respect, authority and power. When things comes into balance, we can visibly see what is in front of us - in other words what we have, whether it's been given to us, inherited or won. We also see what is possible. We are able to set goals. An example of this is career planning, possible business prospects, partnerships that have been merged or united, meetings with bosses or other important people. It can also indicate someone who is able to unite maintain peace in a family.
The Emperor also can represent our abilities and what we are able to achieve. Symbols in the card that represent this:
Helmet: shaped like a crown represents the power of nobility and the leader. It also represents that leadership is fought for and the Emperor is a warrior, He will fight for what he believes in.
The shield with the eagle emblem: used in the emblems of Roman Empire. The eagle represents intelligence and the ability of planning and seeing what is possible. The shield is on the right of the Emperor and is the opposite position of the shield of the Empress. The Empress holds the shield to the left ready to defend where as the the Emperor's shield is on the right ready to conquer.
Orb and scepter: The orb represents the earthly and material achievements and the scepter with the cross represents his power, his moral authority to rule and he can rule with force.
His necklace, collar or shawl indicates that the Emperor has control over his emotions on the other hand this could indicate the need to control one's temper.
The Belt at the waste points to instinct and does the Emperor always have control over his instinct?
Position: The Emperor is not quite sitting and not standing (See Marseilles Tarot Emperor). The relaxed leaning position gives him the appearance of confidence, but he can quickly be in action to dominate. In other decks where the Emperor is sitting notice that he doesn't appear to be relaxed (as in the Rider Waite deck), he appears to be ready to defend.
The crossed legs: his legs are crossed to resemble the number 4. This reminds us of his rule over material matters such as home, kingdom, business and family
The throne: indicates he holds a position of power. Notice in the Marseille Tarot the roundness of the throne - this indicates the soft side of his nature (for instance when talking about family matters).
Mountains: represent achievements, challenges that he has faced in his pasts. His triumphs and his struggles.
Ram head on the throne (Rider Waite) represents the Aries zodiac sign. This is a Fire sign representing confidence. People who have Aries traits tend to be confident, leaders in communities and determined.
The Mythic Tarot has the Emperor represented by Zeus who represents the extreme father figure in Greek mythology. He has the rule of law in the heavens symbolized by the thunderbolts and the world of humankind symbolized by the globe he holds in his hand. His answer to anything can be ferocious and also kind. He is a king, a father, and someone whose answer is final. He represents survival and foresight as indicated by the eagle on his shoulder. He can be caring and compassionate and remind us that as head of the family he is the unifier, but on a darker note he can be vindictive if crossed,
The Emperor has a strong personality so we can think of key words: assertiveness, strength, self discipline and confidence. On the other hand we can be reminded of a tyrant or a dictator and someone who needs to be constantly in control. Sometimes the Emperor can warn us of paranoia of enemies.
The Emperor can represent one who helps us with decisions that need to be made such as an advisor and he remind us of our own power and authority. Where we have trouble making a decision the Emperor can point out that we are ignoring what we are worthy of and what are our talents. We don't have to be cornered or pigeon holed by others in less important roles because we have what is takes to be a leader.
When this card shows up in a reading, we are reminded that there is no end to learning and there are no limits to self awareness. Self improvement is always ongoing as well as goal setting. The Emperor can make us take a look at our own achievements and we need to ask ourselves if we are happy with our current roles at work, or are we afraid of asking for more. Sometimes we are afraid to set our goals higher because we are afraid of upsetting the status quo. This is the downside to stability. No change can lead to boredom.
Tradition also comes to mind when the Emperor appears in a reading, but it can also be an indication that some traditions need to be changed or are not working for us anymore. In the Marseille tarot the Emperor's gaze is to the left - this is a reflective gaze.
He looks to the past and is proud of what he has accomplished. He is now the elder (note the gray beard) and knows he has to pass down his authority, but can he? Is it difficult for him to let go?
The above are suggestions for reading the Emperor card and are not the only meanings that this Card can have. You must look at the surrounding cards chosen by the querent in the reading. Whatever meaning you get from the Tarot card will be dependent on the deck you use, other cards in the spread and the question (the reason why the querent is having a Tarot reading).
Just a note: When reading the Tarot cards for yourself or anyone else, you should take your time to look at each card. Note the direction of the human figure's gaze, the symbols, numbers and backgrounds. Tarot Masters always say that everything is a clue.
Sample Three Card Reading:
A reading for an individual who is finding it hard to be creative at work.
Are you expressing yourself creatively and with integrity?
The Emperor reversed, 8 of Cups reversed and King of Coins
All of the elements had been out of balance. Perhaps too much putting your nose to the grind stone and not using your creativity? It is hard to achieve work/life balance when you haven't the time to bless yourself. It's frustrating and you don't know how ask for what you need or want. Now you realize you have to begin again. Learn how to listen to your angel spirits. Learn to listen and speak with clarity. This will help you achieve that balance you need and there will be others who will be supportive. Trust the messages from your angel spirits and you will be comfortable and appreciate what you have gained.
Reading and Understanding the Marseilles Tarot by Anna Maria Morsucci and Antonella Aloi 2018 Lo Scarabeo