The Emperor

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Depictions of The Emperor from various Tarot decks

The Emperor is the fourth card in the Major Arcana in most traditional Tarot decks.


The essential design features for The Emperor have changed very little from the early versions in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, which showed a white-haired elderly man holding symbols of kingship upon a throne.

The Tarot of Marseilles added a shield with the crest of the Holy Roman Emperor beside the throne.

In the Rider-Waite Tarot, The Emperor sits on a ram-adorned throne, a symbol of Mars. Another ram head can be seen on his cloak. His long white beard bears the symbol of "wisdom". He holds an Ankh scepter in his right hand, and a globe, symbol of domination, in his left. The Emperor sits atop a stark, barren mountain, a sign of "sterility of regulation, and unyielding power." He symbolizes the top of the secular hierarchy, the ultimate male ego. The Emperor is the absolute ruler of the world.

The Vlad Dracula Tarot abandons the European imagery completely and depicts this card as Sultan Mehmed II, the Ottoman emperor who exerted tremendous influence over Vlad the Impaler and all of eastern Europe during his rule.

Divinatory meaning

In divination, this card usually indicates stability, power, and protection. A great person. The father of the Querent.

In reversed position, it means: Benevolence and compassion. Confusion to enemies, obstruction, and immaturity.

Tarot Topics
Major Arcana The FoolThe MagicianThe High PriestessThe EmpressThe EmperorThe HierophantThe LoversThe ChariotStrengthThe HermitWheel of FortuneJusticeThe Hanged ManDeathTemperanceThe DevilThe TowerThe StarThe MoonThe SunJudgementThe World
Minor Arcana Pentacles AceTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTenPageKnightQueenKing
Wands AceTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTenPageKnightQueenKing
Cups AceTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTenPageKnightQueenKing
Swords AceTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTenPageKnightQueenKing
Decks Visconti-Sforza TarotTarot of MarseillesRider-Waite TarotThoth TarotOccult TarotAngel TarotVlad Dracula TarotHieronymus Bosch Tarot