- Pictorial Key to the Tarot
- The Tarot
S. L. MacGregor Mathers
- General Book of the Tarot
A. E. Thierens
Stability, power, protection, realization; a great person; aid, reason, conviction; also authority and will.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Benevolence, compassion, credit; also confusion to enemies, obstruction, immaturity.
He has a form of the Crux ansata for his sceptre and a globe in his left hand. He is a crowned monarch--commanding, stately, seated on a throne, the arms of which axe fronted by rams' heads. He is executive and realization, the power of this world, here clothed with the highest of its natural attributes. He is occasionally represented as seated on a cubic stone, which, however, confuses some of the issues. He is the virile power, to which the Empress responds, and in this sense is he who seeks to remove the Veil of Isis; yet she remains virgo intacta.
It should be understood that this card and that of the Empress do not precisely represent the condition of married life, though this state is implied. On the surface, as I have indicated, they stand for mundane royalty, uplifted on the seats of the mighty; but above this there is the suggestion of another presence. They signify also--and the male figure especially--the higher kingship, occupying the intellectual throne. Hereof is the lordship of thought rather than of the animal world. Both personalities, after their own manner, are "full of strange experience," but theirs is not consciously the wisdom which draws from a higher world. The Emperor has been described as (a) will in its embodied form, but this is only one of its applications, and (b) as an expression of virtualities contained in the Absolute Being--but this is fantasy.
4. The Emperor, by imputation the spouse of the former. He is occasionally represented as wearing, in addition to his personal insignia, the stars or ribbons of some order of chivalry. I mention this to shew that the cards are a medley of old and new emblems. Those who insist upon the evidence of the one may deal, if they can, with the other. No effectual argument for the antiquity of a particular design can be drawn from the fact that it incorporates old material; but there is also none which can be based on sporadic novelties, the intervention of which may signify only the unintelligent hand of an editor or of a late draughtsman.
The Emperor - Realisation, Effect, Development.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Stoppage, Check, Immature, Unripe.
Symbolism of the Keys
The Emperor - He is crowned (and leaning against a throne, his legs form a cross, and beside him, beneath his left hand, is a shield blazoned with an eagle). In his right hand he bears a sceptre similar to that of the Empress. His body and arms form a triangle, of which his head is the apex, so that the whole figure represents a triangle above a cross. He represents Realisation.
Description and Meaning
There is much more mystery buried in every symbol than words spoken can tell. Superficial consideration might make astrologers wonder at this image, which assimilates worldly power with the sign Cancer instead of with Leo, to which they are accustomed. Still there remains this to be taken into account, that originally 'emperors' got their power from the people,--China, Rome--long before they began to claim God as their private protector against eventual aggression from outside. The people are ruled by the sign of Cancer, says the astrologer. And thus originally the chosen emperor accepted vox populi as vox Dei. This chosen dignitary was nothing of a tyrant, originally, nor did he have anything to do with rulership or warfare: he was simply the highest and most pure expression of the soul of the people or nation. In China sometimes a poor but extremely virtuous old man without any other antecedents was elected to be emperor. All later usurpations of power and succession were deviations from the old and pure institution. The present position of the president in a republic comes very near to that of the original emperor.
The sign of the soul indeed is . . . Cancer. At the same time this is the sign of the breast (Papus) and of the womb, as Waite translates this passage about the card, which Papus says is connected with the Hebrew letter Daleth. In the older pictures we see the effort to let the man make a figure 4 or something like the symbol for Jupiter with his crossed legs. There may be some meaning in it, but this seems futile with regard to the general significance of the Emperor as the representative of the past, of memory, tradition in the people and in family life, dharma and the real motives of the soul in the background of life, which actually rule life. It relates ..to every inner power of the soul from which outer activity (karma) will arise.
In different editions of the cards we find different sorts of sceptres in the hand of the Emperor. In some there appears also an eagle. We prefer the sceptre which Mr. Waite puts into his hands: the crux ansata, symbol of the might of inner life, which rules matter. The planet Jupiter has only to do with this card, in so far as it is exalted in the sign Cancer, which means, that virtually hopes and expectations as well as ideals for the future take their origin in the deep-rooted attachments of the soul, which themselves are the expression of dharma or cosmic memory.
Still in a personal way the Emperor indicates the father of the querent, because it is from his father that his soul derives its elements. Compare in the horoscope the IVth house. Therefore this seemingly very feminine sign was symbolised by a male figure, while the seemingly male messenger was represented by a woman. The Empress indicates the spiritual parentage, the Emperor the physical one. The latter finds its counterpart (physical mother) in the Xth house, as is well known.
Some authors say this card means 'realisation.' That is correct so far as this word means an inner realising of the significance of outer facts: the gathering of the harvest of experience, which will become the store of memory.