This blog entry reviews the first unmistakably masculine archetype in The Major Arcana, The Emperor IV.
Welcome to my tarot blog.
Through it we explore some well-loved traditional interpretations and tarot meanings as well as some of my own ideas, observations and intuitive responses to tarot. While the meaning of the upright card image is considered here briefly, our focus will be more thoroughly on what the card offers when in seen in reverse or is presented upside-down. This blog delves into the meanings of tarot through its numbers, colours and by association The Chakras.
The cards I use for this blog are from The Rider Deck by Visual Oracle Ultimate Edition Lite (Lifetime License 16.3.28) and from the B.P. Grimaud’s 1969 The Tarot of Marseilles (France).
“The Rider Deck, is the most prolifically used tarot deck in the world; and with very good reason. Beautifully crafted by Pamela Coleman-Smith each card can, all by itself, ‘speak volumes to the reader and the client’ alike, making them an excellent mystical reference and esoteric resource, and fabulous teaching-tool.”
“B.P. Grimaud’s 1969 Tarot of Marseilles was the very first tarot deck I purchased in the mid-1970’s. As I have done since the 1970’s, I continue to study and teach the traditional meanings through the breadth and depth of tarot symbolism; to read and write for both myself and for others; and to use them cognitively and intuitively to appreciate archetypes and archetypal relationships.”
Martha Adams © 2017
This blog entry reviews the first unmistakably masculine archetype, The Emperor IV.
Upright images show a mature, well-dressed man sitting attentively on his large, stone throne. His appearance is impressive; dressed in luxurious burgundy and red robes, is wearing a jewelled and gold crown and holding a Staff and Orb. When I look at the The Emperor IV I see power with restraint, wisdom with strength and worldly influence with humanity. Traditionally, The Emperor IV symbolises those in a position of authority; a father/husband/brother, employer or supervisor, an expert or specialist in his/her field. Appearing upright in a reading he represents reliable, tangible business success and/or valuable assistance in this area from such a person by way of logical and common-sense advice, strong and practical support, and the provision of structure and security. The Emperor IV is a builder; he uses his intellect and experience to make things happen. Numerologically, the number 4 signifies systems and structure; building and organising; reason and logic; and considerable acumen in the world of business and the affairs-of-state.
Reversed The Emperor IV: The Rider Deck.
When The Emperor IV: Rider is viewed in reverse he looks grim and solemn. This persona is quite possibly not the sort of person you might want to invite to a team-bonding session, a casual staff-event or a footy-finals b-b-q.
Colours are symbols that ‘speak directly to our intuition’; when viewed in reversed colours are often considered to be ill-defined that is, having meanings that are contrary to those when upright. The Emperor IV: Rider’s large, grey, solid stone throne and foundation or base, now appears at the very top of the picture; and positioned above everything else in the image is like the lid of a crypt or the door of a vault. When ill-defined, the colour grey suggests an avoidance of reality and a turning away from the truth. The ill-defined orange and yellow-gold mountains in the background now combine to form a barrier to the world beyond and serves to heighten our sense of entrapment. Orange and gold-yellow reversed suggest superficiality, insincerity, self-indulgence, pride and hostility. These colours also have reference to the more undesirable characteristics of the Second and Third Chakras such as insensitivity, narcissism, self-importance, meanness and narrow-mindedness.
The Emperor IV: Rider’s silver and steel-clad feet and shins are upside-down and positioned the top of the card; he is symbolically ungrounded. Ill-defined, silver and steel infer coldness, insincerity and deceptiveness; a lack of heart-felt feeling. His lower legs are dramatically brought to our attention being framed by the black recesses under his seat, the blood-red of his robe and grey of his throne and give us the impression that The Emperor IV: Rider’s instinct would be to ‘get-the-boots-in’. His feet are separated and pointing in different directions indicating a quarrelsome and irresolute disposition. The Emperor IV: Rider seems prepared to ‘kick-out-at-you’ if you draw near or ‘kick you when you are down’; perhaps just for the hell of it or because he can. The imagery acts as a warning that he is a bully or a tyrant.
Red symbolises the First or Root Chakra. When balanced (upright), this energy centre signifies a healthy sense of security, fortitude, an enjoyment of physical and creative expression, and purposeful thought and action. However, The Emperor IV: Rider’s magnificent red robe, which almost floods the upper part of the picture in this situation, is a warning of danger, lust, rage, inertia and bias. Burgundy is a ‘sophisticated version’ of the colour red signifying social refinement and well-developed social skills. His burgundy cloak is reversed and seems swamped beneath the red robe suggesting bad manners, a lack of social grace and style, arrogance and even madness.
The Emperor IV: Rider’s head hangs upside-down at the bottom of the card. He is in danger of losing is gold and jewelled crown which traditionally indicates legitimacy, honour and virtue; the upside-down crown suggests he lacks the ability to use his considerable power and influence to make judicious and benevolent decisions. Gold is ill-defined, suggesting a miserly and uncaring nature. In fact, we see in the picture, that all the ‘heads’ in this image are upturned. The Ram’s head is the symbol for Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac and traditionally denotes honesty, prudence, bravery and leadership. The four reversed ram’s heads serve to further accentuate the negative traits of the war-like Aries-Mars personality such as conceit, rashness and intimidation. The Emperor IV: Rider’s inverted, striking white-grey beard implies a lack of wisdom and spirit; triggering a need for caution.
Even as The Emperor IV: Rider retains his grip on the Staff and Ankh, reversed these suggests an inability to integrate active and passive energies; an inner imbalance leading a confused personality and a joyless life. As a reversed symbol, the Ankh can also indicate an abuse of power. The golden Orb in his left hand is a sign of power over his domain, but it might just as easily be drop from his grasp or fall away.
The negative characteristics carried by the number Four (IV) can include a lack of stability, insecurity, disorganisation and disintegration.
Reversed The Emperor IV: Marseilles
When viewed upside-down, the top of this picture shows an impenetrable layer of solid, golden-yellow rock; and we get a sense that the ‘weight-of-the-world’ now pushes down upon The Emperor IV: Marseilles. This image creates a rather profound sense of limitation and oppression. Without the symbolic clear white sky, the possibility for growth and expansion are no longer ‘endless’ but become highly unlikely. Ill-defined, gold-yellow suggests avarice, a lack of goodwill and intolerance of others; indicating perhaps, the nature of his limitations. Gold-yellow signifies also an imbalanced Third Chakra with the more negative personal qualities of muddled thinking, a lack of self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
The Emperor IV: Marseilles’ splendid, golden shield is upside-down and seems to be jammed between the impenetrable golden rocks; the golden Eagle is upside-down and unable ascend. The Emperor IV: Marseilles appears to be attempting to hold the shield in place with his foot. The Eagle symbolises The Emperor IV: Marseilles. The Eagle flies and builds his nest at altitudes higher than any other bird on the planet and is considered to be ‘closer to the gods’ than any other creature on Earth. The Eagle is the ‘king of the skies’. Both The Emperor IV: Marseilles and his golden Eagle are upside-down and, trapped by the rocks, are unable to ‘fly’; neither are free. Appearing fearful and stressed with its wings outstretched the Eagle risks falling to the bottom of the picture.
Upright, The Emperor IV: Marseilles’ legs create the hieroglyph for Jupiter the planet that symbolises expansion, hope, abundance and possibility. Inverted it suggests adversity and a reversal of fortunes bring to the fore characteristics such as over-indulgence and irresponsibility.
Royal blue is a major colour in The Emperor IV: Marseilles card and he is almost completely covered by his blue tunic and tights. When ill-dignified, royal blue can signify depression and a lack of truthfulness. It can also suggest an imbalance in the Fifth Chakra, the energy centre of manifesting your dreams and desires; inverted it implies an inability to stand for and stand up for one’s self and for what one believes. As The Emperor IV: Marseilles is upside-down, his red of his jacket (what covers him) and the helmet-shaped crown (his thoughts about himself and others) become ill-defined. The reversed properties of the colour red are rage, a lack of drive, misdirected passion, fatigue and fear. Red symbolises the First Chakra, the energetic location for the life force, creativity, motivation and healthy ambition. Out of balance, the Root Chakra suggests unresolved conflicts with authority figure(s), rebelliousness, and an inability to set clear boundaries with a desire to cause hindrance and harm.
In reverse, The Emperor IV: Marseilles’ head is at the very the bottom of the image and as his feet and legs which are no longer grounded, appear to dangle awkwardly in the space above him. His white shoes, when well-aspected are a sign of clear thought and effective decision-making, but now suggests inner-confusion and a loss of personal identity and direction. Upside-down The Emperor IV: Marseilles will very likely lose his ornate battle-helmet and, with it, his courage and wisdom. The gold neck-chain, helmet-crown and Orb and Sceptre can slip away from his clasp and with them, so may his sense of self-mastery, self-discipline and willpower. An inverted Cross-on-Orb signifies a feelings of unworthiness. The Emperor IV: Marseilles appears to be toppling from his throne to be separated from this seat of power. The helmet-crown becoming disconnected to his throne threatens the solid and continuous barrier of protection to his head, neck and back.
If we look at progression of Major Arcana in the Tarot of Marseilles, we see that The Hierophant V: Marseilles sits ‘behind’ (is next in line to) The Emperor IV: Marseilles. And, as we know from historical accounts, the Church often acted as both a political and religious ally to the Secular powers. However, in this reversed position The Emperor IV: Marseilles faces, at the same level, the acolytes sitting at the feet of The Hierophant V: Marseilles. The Hierophant V: Marseilles no longer ‘has his back’ and The Emperor IV: Marseilles is fully exposed to his ‘enemies’ and without powerful ‘backup’ or support.
Facing in the direction of The Hierophant V: Marseilles, The Emperor IV: Marseilles has his back turned from The Empress III: Marseilles. Reversed The Emperor IV: Marseilles has lost his power, his position, his political-spiritual ally and as lost sight of his inspiration and motivation for living. The Emperor IV: Marseilles looks weary and old. His wonderful, grey-white beard is ill-dignified suggesting sadness, depression, loneliness and isolation.
All my best to you making tarot part of your understanding of life!
Martha Adams. © 2017. All rights reserved. © 2017.
Reading tarot for others (and occasionally myself) is exciting, inspiring and very gratifying.