The Emperor

stand in your power

from Murder of Crows Tarot (Lo Scarabeo)

As The Empress gives forth from the creative principle, The Emperor builds upon it in an active and structural sense, establishing order. Yang to The Empress’s yin, he has traditionally represented the masculine end of the spectrum and the archetypal father figure, and we may be invited to explore our relationship with our own father. As we reflect on the qualities of leadership in our life, is The Emperor us (stepping up, taking charge, creating order, leading a group) or someone else (the father, the employer, the govt)? As Paul Quinn writes in Tarot for Your Life, “a secure and balanced emperor creates no opportunity for being manipulated, bullied, or taken advantage of and rejects employing such tactics with others,” and we are reminded to stand securely in our power and authority, and to simply take the space we need.

(-) In resistance, we are submissive. With a lack of solid boundaries, we yield to others and, in doing so, we give away our power.

(+) In excess, our need to take an active part in controlling matters becomes rigid and domineering. Where the energy of The Emperor is constructive, his shadow is obstructive and critical. Where The Emperor is the essence of stability and security, his shadow’s smugness and self-importance is rooted in insecurity, so that when his authority is challenged, he responds with anger or excessive force. While many associate this card with the Patriarchy, this is instead its shadow. It’s here, in excess, that his demand for power is an unbalanced one requiring the oppression of others in order to ensure his continued dominance. In the extreme, he is a tyrant representing authoritarianism.

Questions we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include

  • What internal parts are acting from a complex or dysfunctional relationship with your father?
  • Is it challenging for you to assert yourself? Are you uncomfortable in situations where you need to stand up for yourself?
  • Are there identifiable patterns in your life of establishing dominance and/or submission?
  • Where have you experienced toxic masculinity? How did that make you feel?
  • What is your relationship to authority?

What else? The archetypes of the majors are complex and you may have other insights. How has this card come up for you? What are some examples of this card’s energies?

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