The Emperor Card in Tarot is commonly aligned with the astrological sign Aries.
In Tropical astrology (the astrological method most popular here in the West), Aries season starts on Spring Equinox. Therefore, the Emperor card can give great insight into the nature of the energy at the start of Spring. Even if you don’t subscribe to this (and lots of astrologers don’t) Aries is still thought of as the “first” sign, and so, it rules the first house of the chart. For many religious and cultural groups, Spring is the “start” of the year, energetically and calendar-wise as well.
Looking through myth, we see many Goddesses and Gods who are returning to the physical world after an Underworld Journey. They are being resurrected from the dead, simultaneously returning life to flora and fauna of the world (or at least the hemisphere in which the deity is found.) It is an excellent archetypal representation of people and events typical of Spring energy, as well as many of the mytho-magical entities we see highlighted at this time of year.
This correlation, The Emperor equals Aries, came from the Golden Dawn. However, this magical order was not the first to join astrology and Tarot. Another card connected to Aries is The Hierophant, but we will discuss that relationship at another time.
This card represents an archetypal Leader figure, but more specifically, a Pioneer.
Not content to head off on established pathways, The Emperor wants to blaze new trails to unexplored mountain peaks. Vanguard, pathfinder, explorer are all great words for the Emperor. Many Emperor cards depict a figure sitting at the top of a mountain, with mountain tops in the distance. This is a character that is concerned with the furthest points they can see on the distant horizon. This character keeps their eye on the prize, and that prize is uncharted territories. The Emperor loves to be first.
Architect is another word I associate with this card. A person who has a vision, and the capacity to see something where there is currently nothing. A structure that people have never experienced before. An innovator, the Emperor wants to be very first and set the trend.
Sometimes this card can indicate a “bossy” nature… But when this character is in their “right mind,” they are in league with the forces of the Universe.
Qabalists equate the word Author to this card, and this also gives great insight into the nature of The Emperor. An author creates entire lives for their characters, and whole worlds for them to wander in. Many religions say “in the beginning was the Word,” and the archetypes of creation and creator are key meanings here. A creator is the beginning of anything being created, and they are inherently a part of their creations.
The Emperor describes a state where we find ourselves driven to achieve or explore where no one has ever gone before.
But while our eyes are fixed on the distant horizon, picking out our targets and trumpeting out our next lofty goal, we can forget to consider the many valleys that might be in our path. One hard element of this card is it’s unbridled enthusiasm. We are so excited to reach our goal that we completely ignore the many steps required to achieve success. And then we find ourselves ramming our head into a wall because we are driven to just go go go. We won’t take a moment to look up at what might be in our way. The Emperor hates to plan, or to consider consequence, and just wants to get on with the exploring.
A problematic element this card can bring up is follow through.
The Emperor is so concerned with exploring, setting trends, and cutting new ground, our experiences with this card can indicate ignorance of others’ past attempts to reach similar goals. This can create a harder struggle than need be. It can alienate us from potential allies, mentors, and fans. It also points to getting lost in the boring, repetitive, monotonous elements that true success is built out of.
It’s one thing to envision a massive cathedral or pyramid. It’s quite another thing to count the number of loaves of bread it will take to feed the workers. Wanting to reach the peak of a mountain is a noble goal (sometimes.) But it will require training, study, practice runs, proper equipment, and possibly a few failed attempts. The Emperor has no patience for this stuff, so this card can indicate pie-in-the-sky goals that never come to fruition.
The Emperor is not diplomatic.
Sometimes this card indicates a “bossy” nature, or someone demanding and unconcerned with getting everyone on the same page. They may be inflated with self-importance, enveloped in the glory of their vision. Part of the problem is this card wants a situation that calls for working alone versus in a team. And sometimes that approach is exactly what a situation needs. However, The Emperor is not diplomatic. If this card is acting badly, it will happily butt in line, interrupt, step on toes, crack skulls, or drive people off a cliff to achieve their holy vision.
But when this character is in their “right mind,” they are in league with the forces of the Universe. They are acting as it’s hands and mouthpiece, bringing forth wonders never seen, and barely imagined. Cutting a trail, bravely, into the unknown that will lead to the new paradigm.
Connecting With The Emperor
Creating an altar to work with individual Tarot cards can be very useful. You can also add any of these elements to an existing Springtime altar. Images of mountain peaks. Blank paper or canvases. Anything sharp like a knife or spear. Anything bright hot red. Things that help you see far, like a pair of binoculars or a telescope. Climbing gear.
Ultimately, this character represents the need in all of us to explore, invent, create, and be first – come hell or high water. Making art – any kind of art – is an extremely effective and not-too-disruptive way to get in touch with the spirit of The Emperor. As you create, allow yourself to really push into the process. Follow your personal vision and lose yourself a bit in the process. Take it seriously, at least for some of the time. Most importantly, do whatever you want.
Mineral World Helpers
Carnelian, garnet, quartz, diamonds, Herkimer diamonds, hematoid quartz, citrine, red jasper, any hot red stones, iron-stained sandstone, and anything made of iron.
Plant World Helpers
You can work with these plants however you want to; as food (those that are edible), incense, body oils, or just placed on your altar.
Any plant with thorns, any spicy food, any and all peppers, dragons blood, frankincense, cedar, tobacco, horseradish, geranium, red poppy, fennel, ginger, red sandalwood, olive tree, tiger lily
Animal World Helpers
Ram, antelope, mountain goat, sheep, hawk, eagle, and any bird, animal or insect that makes its home at the top of the world or has incredible eyesight.
A Spread For Getting In Touch With Your Inner Emperor
Use this approach as spellwork for focusing on a goal, or opening up new opportunities.
Place The Emperor card in the middle of your work area.
Take a few deep breaths and envision a personal goal that seems like it’s going to be hard to accomplish. Be open to hearing unexpected, new, unexplored information.
Envision a mountain peak.
Lay out your cards.