Card no. IIII: The Emperor

Written by Mary

This card bears the number IV. The Emperor holds power. It cannot really be determined from the image on the card if the Emperor is standing or seated. This gives the feeling of a being in motion, not resting in one place.

After the Fool has discovered the elements from the Magician, learnt knowledge from the Papess, and created new ideas with the Empress, he encounters the Emperor. On the Fool's journey, the Emperor represents the stage of seeing plans through into the physical world.

The Emperor holds his sceptre determinedly; you can tell that he is about to act. Unlike his wife the Empress, he is not a force of creation, he is one of action. The number IV is a sign of stability.

In the Emperor can be seen courage, strength, and willpower, yet this card can sometimes be a sign of tyranny and excess. It symbolises the law, and the other cards drawn will accentuate the positive or negative effects of this Arcanum.

Drawn face up

The Emperor card drawn face up is a sign of power, making lasting connections, or ascending a hierarchy. This Arcanum symbolises all that is stable and durable; nothing fragile. It can be a sign of protection granted by a powerful person. As a general rule, this card is a sign of justice and material success.

Its meanings: firmness, energy, action, power, will, stability, balance, protection, success, rigour.

Drawn upside-down

When the Emperor card is drawn upside-down, all its base qualities become accentuated to the point that they actually become flaws. Power thus becomes tyranny. This card reveals that actions are destined to fail through lack of motivation. The Emperor becomes despotic, and doesn't always make the right decisions. He becomes egocentric, concerned more with himself than with others. Conversations quickly turn into unproductive monologues.

Its meanings: obstacles, violence, tyranny, determination, tenacity, failure, weakness


This card is a symbol of authority and power. It is the power to act, and change things permanently. The number four is a source of balance and stability.

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