Journey Through the Major Arcana: The Emperor

By Joy Marshall  | Instagram

The Major Arcana deals with archetypes, that is, universal themes we all live through. Last time, we talked about the Empress and how she personifies feminine grace and maternal energy. Today, we move on to the next card in the Major Arcana, the Emperor. He personifies paternal, masculine energy. 

In the RWS deck, the Emperor sits on a stone throne adorned with the head of the astrological sign of Aries. He holds an Ankh in one hand, and a globe in the other. He wears a crown, a long gray beard and deep red robes. Additionally, he wears armor while sitting on the throne.  Behind him spans a formidable mountain range. 

The sign of Aries indicates this is a man who is a powerful and confident leader filled with determination. The Ankh is the Egyptian symbol of life. The globe in his other hand represents the global extent of his rule. The deep red of his clothing indicates his passion and energy for life. He wears armor, which indicates that nothing can hurt him. However, it also means he’s prepared to defend the throne on which he sits with his very life. The mountain range beyond ties him to the stability of the Earth, but also demonstrates how harsh and impenetrable he can be. 

Working with Masculine Energy

When I sat down to plan the imagery for this card, I found I wanted to represent masculine energy in a way that wasn’t overt. Since the RWS deck was first illustrated, our understanding of gender and gender roles has changed. How we connect with masculine and feminine energy has changed. I had to ask; how do I connect with the idea of masculine energy? What symbolizes authority, wisdom and leadership without the white beard, stone throne and broad-shouldered man?

In the end, I focused on Tatiana looking confident but androgenous. This version of the Emperor represents someone who is a quick thinker, fast on their feet. Someone who can lead with words as easily as they can with swords. He holds a staff, which ties him to the stable energy of the Earth. He can be as formidable as the mountains but has the capacity to be as deep as the forest behind him. Like the RWS Emperor, he is passionate about life, leadership, and the integrity of his throne. He holds a globe that represents the extent of his kingdom. 

In either representation, the Emperor means “Boss”. He’s not a king of a particular province, he’s an overlord. He’s who all the other kings answer to. He represents the leader of a particular organization. He could be the leader of your family, the leader of your workplace. He offers protection, guidance, and at times, is the authority who tells you what to do in a given situation. 

In a person, this card represents leadership qualities, and a firm resolution. A person who can make the hard decisions or say hard things. As an action, it could indicate good advice. 

The Emperor and Empress can at times indicate a married pair. However, it could also demonstrate two halves of self. The feminine and masculine energy each and every one of us possess. 

About the Contributors: Joy Marshall and Tatiana Pimentel are a photographer-model duo on a journey to create accessible and diverse fantasy art that tells a story and helps people connect to their own path. Find more information at The Witching Hour Photography.

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