The Major Arcana Tarot cards (also
known as the trump cards) form the foundation of the Tarot deck and consists of
twenty-one numbered cards and one unnumbered card (the Fool).
They represent a path to spiritual self-awareness and depict the various stages we encounter as we search for greater meaning and understanding. In this way, they hold deeply meaningful lessons.
The Major Arcana Tarot card meanings illustrate the structure of human consciousness and, as such, hold the keys to life lessons passed down through the ages. The imagery of the Major Arcana Tarot cards is filled with wisdom from multiple cultures and esoteric traditions, including the Egyptian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, Hebrew and Christian religions.
The Major Arcana cards can also represent Carl Jung’s archetypes – consistent, directing patterns of influence that are an inherent part of human nature. They are themes which mark, portray and symbolise stages in our psyche whereby we aim to become a balanced and integrated person. Along this journey, we encounter challenges, face adversity, perform labours, make hard decisions and fight opposing forces. Each step of the way brings us closer to enlightenment. This is often referred to as the journey of the Fool.
Major Arcana Cards in a Tarot Reading
When a Tarot reading is predominantly made up of Major Arcana Tarot cards, the client is experiencing life-changing events which will have long-term influences. There are important lessons which the client must pay attention to in order to progress further in their spiritual and personal quest.
If many of the Major Arcana Tarot cards are reversed, however, it is indicative that the client is not paying attention to these important life lessons and must return to the lesson of the previous card before moving forward.
Major Arcana Tarot Spreads
It is possible to conduct a Tarot reading only using the twenty-two Major Arcana cards. This method is typically used for Tarot readings relating to spiritual self-awareness or where you require deep insight from the collective unconscious.
Emperor Tarot Card Meanings
Upright: Authority, father-figure, structure, solid foundation
Reversed: Domination, excessive control, rigidity, inflexibility
Emperor Tarot Card Meanings and Description
Emperor Tarot Card Meanings tarot card meaning
The Emperor is the complement to the Empress. He is the Masculine Principle, the Animus and the Patriarch. He represents power and authority, and his stern attitude is quite a departure from the sensual beauty of the Empress. The Emperor has a long, white beard, a symbol of his experience. As an archetype, it is common to see masculine figures of authority or father figures with long white beards. It suggests that this man has acquired years of wisdom and experience and he is worthy of listening to because he has seen first-hand the consequences of his actions.
Behind his throne are barren mountains and the throne itself is decorated with four rams’ heads, representing intellectual heights, determination, action, initiative and leadership. The ram is also a symbol of Aries, the astral ruler of the Emperor. In his right hand, the Emperor holds an Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of Life, and in his left is an orb representing the world over which he rules. The orange background and the Emperor’s red clothing symbolise his passion and energy for life and the challenges it offers.
Upright Emperor Tarot Card Meanings
The Emperor is the father figure of the Tarot deck. He is the ‘provider’ and protects and defends his loved ones. He has established a solid family line and is often seen as the patriarch of a wide network of family members. He offers guidance, advice and wisdom to others and in doing so, demonstrates authority and grounding. His wisdom is obtained through worldly, life experience. He has ‘been there, done that’, and has the battle armour to prove it. He takes what he has learned, and passes it on to the next generation, so someday they can be as wise and powerful as he is. He brings security and comfort to those around him.
The Emperor is also representative of structure and stability. He is able to create order out of chaos by carefully categorising his thoughts and mapping out what needs to be done to solve the problem. He is a systematic and strategic thinker and is highly organised and coordinated in his approach. He sticks to a plan and ensures he sees it out until the end. Thus, this card indicates that you have a strong desire to see your ideas manifested on the physical plane in the form of material gain or accomplishment. An opportunity will arrive that could be the foundation of a very successful future.
The Emperor reflects rules and regulations. He establishes law and order by applying principles or guidelines to a specific situation. He likes to operate within a defined structure with set boundaries. He respects routine and follows a specific regimen or discipline.
Domination of the mind over the heart is sometimes unwanted or best avoided but with the Emperor, it is necessary and even welcomed. If you are facing difficult choices, you must maintain your concentration and focus. Enjoy the assertiveness and confidence that this self-control and focus brings. Push ahead and do what you know is best. Know that if you can master yourself then you should have little problem mastering the world and everything in it.
The Emperor is a powerful leader who demands authority and dominance. He is most comfortable in a leadership role where he can command and direct others. He likes to be in a position of strength, where he can exert control and bring a sense of organisation to his activities. He often represents a solid establishment that is built on strong foundations. As a leader, he rules with a firm but fair hand. He will listen to the advice of others but he will always have the final say. He is not afraid of war and/or conflict and he will not hesitate to use his force and power to protect those he cares about. The privileged few whom he favours always repay him with the loyalty and respect he deserves.
The Emperor heralds status, success and recognition. You will have an earnest desire to be recognised as a strong figure of unquestioned achievement and authority. You will want to be known as the dominant force, the leader and the ‘expert’. Focus your attention completely on your goal and be very careful not to reveal any weaknesses or personal doubt.
If you come across the Emperor in your own life, then you will need to be ready to impress! The Emperor administers and governs the area you wish to enter. You cannot achieve your dreams and goals without this person’s blessing. With the Emperor’s support, you will have a much better chance of actualising your dream and you can begin to benefit from the established structure he has formed.
Sometimes, the Emperor can represent the power of the government or a decision-making body. Within yourself, there is also a force that governs your actions. These forces are will power and self-control. You may have discussions concerning contractual agreements, profit sharing, subsidies or management.
Reversed Emperor Tarot Card Meanings
Emperor Tarot Card Meanings tarot card meaning
Reversed, the Emperor can suggest that there is an over-use and abuse of authoritative power surrounding you at this time. He can be incredibly domineering and rigid in his thinking. It could be originating from you or from another person, often a boss, partner or a father-figure. There may be an insecure man throwing his weight around who has a need for control.
You may feel powerless when the Emperor reversed appears in a reading. Dealing with authority is fraught with difficulties at this time and whether this manifests as a dominant partner, problems with your father or battles with officials, you do not seem to be making any headway. Paradoxically, freedom lies within such structures now. This is not the time to rebel, instead try to get in touch with your own need to control events and deal with any problems logically.
Sometimes, the reversed Emperor asks you to stand up to authority and to know that you do not always have to go about matters in the most traditional way. You may be fed up with an over-bearing boss or a hierarchical organisation and you will be compelled to enter a more flexible and adaptive environment. You may also be inspired to work independently, perhaps even starting up your own business in order to be free of corporate life and oppressive bosses!
If the reversed Emperor comes up in a career reading, you may be at a point now where you want to avoid having to deal with this type of person and you are now ready to embrace something new. You may also be seeking a career where you can have greater flexibility and creativity in how you complete your work. You are sick of having to always work within the confines of a particular structure or way of doing things and you want to break free of this.
As a career aspiration, the Emperor reversed indicates that you are trying to avoid the energies of the Emperor in your future career direction. You may find that having to take an authoritarian role every day just does not sit well with you anymore. You want to free yourself from the routine and the structures that have permeated your life and held you back. You want to provide yourself with greater freedom to explore your creativity, rather than getting bogged down in the detail and the routine.
On a personal level, the reversed Emperor can indicate that you lack self-control, ambition and the ability to deal with any kind of authority. In fact, you probably show contempt for any kind of order. However, you may need to bring more structure into your life at this time. Things may have gotten quite chaotic recently and now it is time to bring about order once again.
In a relationship reading, the reversed Emperor suggests that you may be in an unequal relationship and this is making you unhappy in the long-term. Your partner has become over-bearing, possessive, dominating and authoritative. While you may have been looking for a partner to take care of you and provide a stable foundation for the future, it has gone too far now and you feel as though much of your independence and freedom have been taken away. Your partner has become stubborn, rules-based, argumentative and highly structured. This is putting strain on the relationship and preventing a creative flow of energies to flow between you. He/she feels benevolently toward you but has inflexible expectations of you.
Often, the reversal of this Major Arcana card indicates a need to bring your attention and energy within, so that you can effectively master the spiritual lesson contained in this card. One very deep and profound way to do this is to meditate with the Tarot cards. My latest program, Soul Meditations: A Journey Through the Major Arcana, helps you to do exactly that. This soulful program includes 22 guided meditations with each of the Major Arcana cards which will lead to deep and profound insights as to how you can maximise the potential of this Tarot card.