The Emperor is the card of leadership, authority, power, and stability. He is Mars personified, in control of everything and everyone around him. He sits upon his throne, holding the ankh in one hand, symbolizing life, and an orb in the other, symbolizing the world. He is energetic, driven, objective, and fearless.
The Emperor is full of masculine yang energy. As the father of all creation, he believes in protecting everyone around him. He shows love by providing for his loved ones. Underneath his tough exterior, he is still an emotional being, but only shows that side to the ones he trusts the most.
If the Emperor appears in a Tarot spread as a person, that means that this person is structured and firm. Their main trait is orderliness. It is astrologically associated with Aries and Mars. Because both are very masculine energies, this card carries an active, assertive, fiery energy. We all have a little bit of both energies expressed in a balanced way, regardless of which gender we identify as. Because this is a Major Arcana card, some of these defining traits make up a major part of their identity. So, for example, being a leader will play a major role in who they are, or how they view themselves. Note that they may not reveal this side to you at the beginning stages of your relationship, to others, or ever.
For physical characteristics, the Emperor as a person represents someone who has a very commanding presence. They don’t have to be tall, large, or physically buff. They can be petite and dainty, but something about their aura can be very dominant. Although they’re not as talkative as the Magician, for example, they can be charismatic in their own way.
In terms of physical manifestations of their personality, they may opt for a more masculine expression. This may be something like literally wearing power suits, strong masculine lines. Or, this may translate into dressing like they own an establishment, and most of the time they do — think of the CEO who shows up at work in the same t-shirt every day because they have nothing to prove.
For emotional characteristics, the Emperor as a person represents someone who is confident, commanding, although not always the most charismatic. He is the quiet leader type. Although it is often viewed in very “male” terms, such as the quintessential “alpha male” archetype, the Emperor can also be interpreted as a genderless “Type A” personality. They also enjoy leadership, which usually comes natural to these people. In the upright position that leadership is exercised quietly, don’t expect the Emperor to yell at his subjects. This person is in control, and most of all, he is in control of his own emotions.
For careers, the Emperor can represent someone who works as somebody who upholds a structure or strengthens a foundation, no matter where they are positioned on the corporate ladder. This is somebody who enforces the law, and being logical is a prerequisite in their chosen field. Traditionally, the Emperor is the military person, law enforcement, legal practitioners, they may work in the government or a STEM field. This might even be the de facto boss, someone who’s the real boss in a situation but without the lofty job title: think of the Executive Assistant that the scatter-brained CEO can’t live without. Who’s really in charge? Whatever they do, they are driven, are in charge, and are successful, or they will be.
The Emperor as a person represents someone who makes you feel like everything is under control. You just don’t worry when you’re around this person. They know what they’re doing. This could be a fatherly figure in your life, ready to give you logical advice. Like the Empress, this person will not hesitate to give you tough love, if they think that’s what is best for you. This person will never hesitate to share their knowledge and experience to help you grow.
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If the Emperor reversed appears in a Tarot spread as a person, that means that this person has control issues. They may be a control freak (not fun to date) or a micromanager (not fun to work with). Unlike the rational Emperor in the upright position, in the reverse they can be irrational and unreasonable. It may even feel as though they throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Because this is a Major Arcana card, some of these traits will be inherent aspects of their identity. Good or bad, nobody is perfect and people can change, if they choose to.
For physical characteristics, the Emperor reversed as a person represents someone who embodies the shadow side of Aries and Mars energy. This person may be aggressive, and in some cases they may have anger issues that may be addressed. Unlike the upright Emperor who knows who to channel their energy into something productive or pioneering, in the reverse, that energy is missed potential. An upright Emperor would direct his energy into something like sports or an entrepreneurial endeavor, even in a hobby, but this reversed emperor will take his anger out on those around him including those he is supposed to love. When an energy is drawn in the upright, it usually manifests in the extreme polar negatives. So either this person is very lazy, or overly active and aggressive. Either they are never seen at the gym, or they’re always at the gym.
For emotional characteristics, the Emperor reversed as a person represents someone who is authoritarian. They may actually enjoy berating and belittling others. This is because deep down they’re weak people. Strong people don’t need to bring other people down in order to feel better about themselves. This person lacks leadership instincts as well. So you may find that they are more often thinking about what is best for themselves rather than what is best for the collective.
For careers, the Emperor reversed can represent someone who aspires to be a leader or a logical person, but they don’t quite have what it takes. In the upright position, they may be competent in fields where experts highly rely on logic. In the reverse, however, you have a very illogical person. This may even be somebody who is hungry for power, and irrationally so.
They are also thirsty for authority. They lack the self-awareness to understand that they do not have the qualifications to be in their aspired position. If, however, they do find themselves in a leadership position or a position of power, they will be prone to abusing that power and becoming corrupt, or at the very least become unreasonably authoritarian. This is that boss who has weird rules for no reason.
The Emperor reversed as a person represents someone who makes you feel threatened. Unlike the upright Emperor who makes you feel like everything is in control and you’re safe with them, the reversed Emperor makes you feel unsafe. You may feel unsafe because you get a sense that they don’t have everything under control, despite them being in charge. Or, alternatively, you may feel unsafe around this person because they have unpredictable anger issues, and you never know when they’re going to lose their temper on you. And in some of the worst cases, an emperor in reverse may even have a propensity for violence. If you are romantically involved with an emperor in reverse, learn what a healthy versus abusive relationship looks like. Know when to walk away and find happiness elsewhere.
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For love readings, The Emperor takes a very masculine approach. Though it is different from the feminine approach of the Empress, it does not make the Emperor’s love any less valid. This card reminds us to take a close look at intentions and relationship dynamics when evaluating a relationship. If a person’s love and intentions come from a good place, give them the freedom to express it how they choose.
If you find yourself needing further clarity in your relationship matters that go beyond reading for yourself, Sibyl offers unlimited tarot readings on love & relationships, as a neutral and objective third party.