History and Iconography
In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is called Imperator (Emperor). The Visconti-Sforza Tarot depicts him as an elderly man with a long, white beard. He holds the imperial orb in his left hand, raising it slightly, and a thin sceptre in his right hand. His large hat is decorated with the imperial eagle, the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire.
On the Cary Sheet, the Emperor holds a shield with the imperial eagle and a long sceptre topped with the imperial globe. Unlike the Empress, he is shown in profile. On the Rosenwald Sheet, he is shown holding a sceptre in the left hand and the imperial globe in the right.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the card is titled L’Empereur (The Emperor). The representation is again very similar to the Cary Sheet in that he is shown in profile and holds a sceptre topped with the imperial globe. He seems to be somewhere outdoors and is leaning against a throne with one leg crossing the other, which is said to have been a privilege of those in power. A shield with the imperial eagle is lying close-by, but is significantly different from that of the Empress: the eagle seems more aggressive and the wings are now turned down.
The Emperor in the Waite-Colman Smith has stayed largely the same as earlier representations. He is depicted as a stern leader, crowned, harnessed underneath his robes, and holding a sceptre in the shape of an Ankh in the one hand and the imperial globe in the other. His stone throne is massive and decorated with the heads of rams, associating him with Aries. The background shows desolate mountains and a small stream of water.
Suggested Divinatory Meanings
The Emperor signifies power and authority, strategies and long-term thinking. He emphasizes structure and stability, and may urge you to take control of a situation and to act responsibly. He stands for the concrete and the tangible, and is often associated with the element of Earth.
These are not accepted outside of those who follow such attributions
Golden Dawn oriented (and derivatives)
Numeral : IIII; IV; 4
In other languages
- Dutch: Keizer
- French: L'Empereur
- German: Der Herrscher
- Hungarian: Császár
- Italian: L'Imperatore
- Portuguese: O Imperador
- Spanish: El Emperador