4. The Emperor: Leaders and Tyrants

I, like many people, find The Emperor a little difficult to relate to. With his stern face and cold stone throne, he’s a little intimidating. But if you have ever been in a leadership position, such as a manager, or if you have had to deal with someone in a position of authority, The Emperor has some useful advice for you.

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch



That cross he is holding in most of the depictions is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that represents the concept of life. It’s like our lives are at his mercy. He clearly has a lot of power. In some of these images, he even holds the whole world in his hand. And the ram imagery makes us think of the Aries zodiac sign. Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the Roman God of War. His Greek counterpart is Ares and there’s an interesting difference between the two: where Mars was loved and admired by the Romans, the Greeks kind of… hated Ares.

Let’s start with Mars. Mars tried to use his power to promote peace, associated with the period of Pax Romana. Let’s not sugarcoat his story though, he wasn’t exactly a good guy. The story of Romulus and Remus, and Rhea Silvia is brutal and violent. But when we compare him to Ares, his Greek equivalent, Mars was celebrated, and we did name a planet and a month after him.

In comparison, Ares is told once by his father Zeus that he is ‘the god most hateful to him’. He constantly causes destruction, and has children named ‘fear’, ‘terror’, and ‘discord’. Where Mars is more of a leader figure, Ares is a complete tyrant.


So, The Emperor is a leader, an authority. He prefers structure, rules, and order. if you are Autistic, you’ll know how important structure can be. But if you’ve ever had a boss on a power trip, you know how limiting rules can be. We have all seen these ideals used for good, and for bad. Right now is a perfect time to be thinking about this.

This year, 2020 is the year of The Emperor. You can figure the current year’s card out by adding up the numbers in the year: 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4. The Emperor is card number 4. Think about how we can use structure and rules to help us this year. Wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, these are ways The Emperor asks us to promote peace and wellbeing at this time.

How can the qualities of The Emperor be used negatively? Poor leadership from politicians, police brutality and oppression. Wielding power over others, rather than using your power for the good of all. Like the Emperor with his ankh, there are people in this world who hold others’ lives in their hands. Whether enacting oppressive welfare policies, or literally being able to control if someone lives or dies, the power of The Emperor is often abused.

The Emperor also asks us to have good boundaries. The number 4 represents stability and foundations. Don’t let other people walk all over you. Whether they’re an authority figure or not, we are Emperors of our own lives, and we have the right to make decisions under our own initiative. If you see a misuse of power and it’s safe for you to do so, speak up. If you pull The Emperor card, consider where you can make positive changes in your community, or in your life to celebrate good Emperors, and bring down tyrannical ones. Remember to defend your boundaries against toxic people.

If you’re a manager and you’d like to learn how to be a great leader like the ideal Emperor, I really recommend the blog Ask A Manager. You can also go there to get advice if you’re dealing with bad management, so I hope it helps someone out there.

Published by Iona Grant

I am a writer who focuses on secular tarot, mindfulness and mental health. I read the cards for introspection, not fortune-telling. Tarot cards embody clear emotions and themes, and allow you to view a situation from new perspectives. I love that tarot exercises your creativity and imagination, and helps to prevent overthinking. I also do social media marketing for charities, and I am developing my skills in copywriting and content creation.

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