4. The Emperor

Foundations are strong

Many people seem to have a difficult relationship with the Emperor card. Many others strongly dislike it. My own informal research shows that the Emperor is one of the most disliked tarot cards.

Freudian and Jungian theories are used to explain why the Emperor is often viewed as the archetypal father (with the Empress being the mother). The Emperor could be your father, and/or the relationship you have with him, or it could refer to your relationship with masculine parental figures and paternal authority. If you are interested, you can look into the Father Complex.

The Emperor is more than a ‘Father’. He also represents social structures and norms.

Authority. Government. The establishment. The patriarchy. The patriarchy can make society a restrictive box in which everyone is forced to conform, expelled or made very uncomfortable. The Emperor may represent rule of law and decision-making by outof-touch leaders. The Emperor is known for his admiration of order, consistency, commercial success, and strong hierarchical leadership. It can also be about how law and order are enforced. This could include the prison system or the police state, white supremacy and religion, capitalism as social control and so forth.

The Emperor is not always associated with oppressive or destructive structures. The qualities of leadership can bring about positive change. This card in the Slow Holler Tarot is now referred to as “Navigator” and it represents someone who “…has the skills, confidence, and experience to steer, direct, and create structures for group effort.” They can speak the talk and understand relevant codes and norms, and are able to lead with confidence. These skills are invaluable and can be used to inspire others. These skills are valuable in many spheres.

All expectations are clearly defined, all boundaries are marked and established, and all protocols and standards are followed. They are known for their orderly structure but can also display a bold and innovative vision. This is due to their solid knowledge, mixed with a bit of daring.

The Slow Holler Tarot

The Emperor is someone who grabs power over others or someone who can lead with compassion. It is a symbol of the hard decisions that must be made and the structures that support them.

Advice from the Emperor

You will be asked by the Emperor to confront power dynamics in your life. This could include your relationship with authority, your feelings of powerlessness, complicity within oppressive structures, and your use or abuse of different types of power. It could be any person, group, institution or organization that has power. Or it could be you.

This card also focuses on doing groundwork and building solid foundations. This could be as simple as setting the ground rules for a community workshop to establish a strong foundation. The role of making sure the rules are adhered to is a shared responsibility of several people. They won’t be able to do their job if they don’t. If the safety of the space is compromised, the outcome of the workshop/meeting will be ineffective.

It could look like the person is setting boundaries for themselves. These boundaries are essential for self-care. They keep the person’s emotions safe from spiritual vampires and keep them safe from toxic people or communities. It could also indicate that boundaries are too rigid or being held onto out of fear.

The Emperor could be a solid business policy that protects and honors your work. You can also create a routine that will help you get through a’stuck period’ or defeat procrastination. The Emperor isn’t someone who procrastinates. This card tells you to get the job done if there is a task that must be done.

The Emperor can also represent society, and the vision of a better world. Solid constitution. Genuine consultation. A leader who listens to everyone and takes care of them.

Key words and concepts

Rules and laws




Doing what is necessary

Making (perhaps difficult or unpopular) decisions

Doing groundwork, creating solid foundations

Use your power for good or evil purposes

Oppression, dictatorship, or an institution that traps and controls

Your paternal figure is an important part of your life

Here are some common symbols

Protection (Armour)

A senior person with wisdom gained from experience

Red robes signify strength and leadership

Symmetry and straightlines (structure, order)

A ram’s head (the Zodiac sign of Aries, which is the initiator).