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The Emperor Meaning – Smith-Waite Centennial

The Emperor is our Card of the Day, meaning we have a lot to unpack! This fourth card of the Major Arcana represents some very potent forces, and you might not enjoy all of them.

It's also worth noting that in numerology, the year 2020 is associated with the Emperor tarot card. So today's free reading might seem especially pertinent, given some overarching themes you've been noticing so far in 2020.

We have two readings for you today, depending on how you react instinctively to this card.

The Emperor tarot card. Detailed image description in bio. Card pictured on an open hexagonal box containing dried juniper. Blue-black background.

The Emperor in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

The Emperor card is among the most colourful in our Smith-Waite Centennial deck. In this deck, the cards tend to be quite muted—with the exceptions of reds and oranges. And with his stately crimson robe and preternaturally orange sky in the background, the Emperor is vivid indeed!

We see him seated on an imposing throne. The armrests are carved with rams, symbolizing the Emperor's iron will and forceful tendencies. And the back of the chair repeats this motif. The Emperor himself is wearing a crown that's awfully reminiscent of Charlemagne's, and beneath his grandiose robes is a suit of shining armour. 

King of kings, he holds in one hand a golden sceptre in the form of an ankh—the Ancient Egyptian symbol of life. And in his opposite palms sits a heavy golden orb. These two symbols of office—the sceptre and orb—complement the crown and throne to mark the figure with the traditional trappings of Western imperialism.

Behind the Emperor, beneath that eery sky, is a wall of massive mountain. The horizon in this card is much higher than in most cards of the Rider-Waite-Smith traditional tarot decks, underscoring the Emperor's brute force and dominant will. 

Patriarchal authority

If you don't feel that you can relate today with the Emperor on his mighty throne, this card warns you that traditional authority figures will be getting in your way. Whether this energy manifests in ableism, racism, sexism, the gender binary, or compulsory heterosexuality, it's unfortunately a force that you've reckoned with before. And today, it's likely to rear its head in a major way.

It isn't always safe to fight back in the face of oppression. And this is especially true when you're confronted by someone who holds all the power at once—throne, crown, orb, and sceptre. Remember that the strength of resistance lies in community. The Emperor's power stems from absolute authority, which is a lonely privilege that lacks the deeper magic of love and solidarity. Sometimes taking care of each other is the best way to fight back. Consider this.

Willpower gone astray 

If you relate to the Emperor today, feeling the heavy weight of his many responsibilities and the isolation that comes from having to be in charge, it's time to delegate. Your powerful will and tremendous independence have won many battles and kept you safe. They've even let you build a safer, more reasonable world, and you should be proud of your accomplishments.

But that same willpower that has taken you so far stopped serving you some time ago. You need to soften up. You need to let people in if you want to continue serving yourself and your community. Now, you don't have to have all the answers. And it isn't always on you to keep your friends and family safe. Today, make at least one small effort to share the burden. What's one thing you've been holding onto because you don't trust someone else to handle it? Ask for help with this. You're expecting disaster, but you'll only find relief.

S.M. signature — Savanna Margaret's initials

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