Stability. Control. Foundation. Order. Protection.
The Emperor is numbered four, the number of stability. He governs and protects his empire, and this card often relates to protection and governing ourselves (and sometimes our families or businesses). The Emperor tarot can be beneficent and a great protector allowing life to flourish. The Emperor might mean the need for establishing a foundation in some area of your life.
He is about control, conviction, reason, and authority. In a reading the Emperor tarot could indicate strength or power is needed to establish, or reestablish, order in your life or your environment.
Reversed, the Emperor tarot can indicate that the stability, order, and control is internal; it can also be that it is blocked in some way, and needs to be released.
More traditional reversed meanings can be immaturity, a lack of strength or control, too much control, or ineffectiveness.
It’s important to use your intuition to decide on the best meaning for your situation.
The Emperor tarot can also be about rules, regulations, and laws.
Traditionally, the Emperor has also held the meaning of war, conquest, victory, strife, worldly power, and ambition.
He is a reliable figure, creating systems to benefit ourselves and others, and he may indicate that strength and self-confidence are needed.
The Emperor tarot can speak of the need to create a structure in our lives to deal with particular issues. Perhaps you need to make a conscious plan or strategy for how to find a new partner (for example by using online dating in a systematic way, or finding a local group where people looking for a partner get together) or how to find a new job. While the Emperor might refer to an authority figure in your life, he might also represent the need to rely on yourself to set your own goals, and take the action you need to get where you want to go. The Emperor is strong and will act when he needs to, which is what you may be being advised to do, too.
He could also signify the establishment of good habits in our lives.
But too much structure can lead to restriction and stagnation. Again, it’s for you to decide which of the meanings are most relevant in your reading, depending on your intuition, and on the combination of other cards drawn, as well as the question being asked.
For example, if there are other four’s in the reading, then it could be a more negative meaning: too rigid a structure.
The Emperor sits on his throne with an ankh in his right hand, representing life, of which he is a protector; in his left hand is a globe representing the world he rules.
Ram’s heads decorating the throne are symbols of Aries.
The reds and oranges suggest his passion to govern, but also are the colours of Mars.
He is an archetypal father figure, and his long white beard represents his wisdom.
In the Marseille deck, the Emperor tarot has a shield emblazoned with an eagle—a symbol of imperial power.