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Tarot Stories: The Emperor

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

As you venture through the tarot, getting to know and learn the cards, you will soon discover which cards are your favorites—the ones to which you’re most drawn—and which are the ones that give you the creeps. For me, the Emperor is the latter. Yuck. His derisive demeanor is off-putting and reminiscent of The Man, the epitome of unhealthy Patriarchal ideals.

The Emperor: A Deep Dive

Although my least favorite card in the tarot, the Emperor can be sturdy, grounding, and supportive... but only at the cost of behaving according to what he deems as acceptable and allowed. He’s abrasive, like an old, grumpy grandpa who’s stern and shows little love (if none at all) and values his status as the leader of his family. This man’s throne is too severe and unwelcoming for you to climb up onto his lap. You might get chafed. And make even the tiniest mistake, well, you’d better get in line for a good paddling.

On a positive note, this man is dependable. He’s disciplined. He says what he means and he means what he says, which informs his trustworthiness. The Emperor fixes things that are broken. He leads through action, order, and structure, unfazed by working just as hard as anyone else beneath him.

The Emperor is decisive and reliable, but he’s also resistant to change. A traditionalist, he subscribes to old school hierarchies that place The Man above all, followed by privileged adult men, privileged young men, children, privileged women, unprivileged men, and unprivileged women. The Emperor leads the Patriarchy, which has proven oppressive, discriminatory, and archaic.

The expectations set by the Emperor are binary. They are exacted and framed by traditional, conservative boundaries and rules. Unrealistic, and often toxic, the pressure of living within the confines of such parameters can cause problems with self-esteem and can aggravate imposter syndrome. Sometimes, the upright Emperor is full of horse shit.

Let's take a deeper dive into this card.

The Emperor Reversed: the Shadow

When reversed, the Emperor has fallen. He loses his grasp of his sword and he is pinned to the ground beneath the weight of his crippling throne. This new structure provides a platform on which those he has oppressed might stand and deliver their grievances, forcing him to watch and listen. Because it will take a village to move the throne and rescue him, he had better listen carefully and understand that once he is rescued things will NOT go back to the way they were. The situation is unsteady and insecure... just like those who have endured his punishments and cruelty. But not anymore. If he is to be freed, the Emperor is forced to step into the shoes of others. He must experience what it is like to be oppressed and stifled. He must know the fear of uncertainty and allow himself to be softened and humbled by his fall.

Notable Symbols for the Emperor


Major Arcana


Spirit / Fire


The number four represents a steady foundation, security, four walls, a four-legged stool.

Other Symbols

The sword represents air, thoughts, and conflict

Those petrified butterflies represent resistance to change.

The Emperor as a Concept

Stability, grounding, support, structure, strategy, order, leadership, discipline, oppression, boundaries, no-nonsense.

The Emperor's effect on You, the Writer

Recently, I engaged in an interesting conversation on Instagram around the effects of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, especially when the source of such anxieties is a loved one.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Today, let’s continue the conversation, but let’s concentrate on the aspect of projecting such mental and emotional oppression onto our children and/or other impressionable people who look up to us.

Parents and mentors, be especially careful of what you say to your children. Mothers, the way you treat your daughters can either build them up for success or break them down, the doubt hovering and staying with them for the rest of their lives. Fathers, setting unrealistic expectations of masculinity is toxic and can ruin a boy, preparing him for the inability to understand and embrace the very emotions with which he was born. Your children are perfectly made. They are enough. Please pay special attention to treat them as such.

Psychologists define imposter syndrome as the notion that success only happens because of luck and not because of our talent, hard work, and/or qualifications. Luck, then, becomes this uneasily attainable enigma, which is just not true. Luck and good fortune and blessings—whatever you want to call them—are available to everyone. The details don’t matter. You, original and perfectly made, are worthy.

Survivors, your weight only matters in terms of good health. Your gender only matters in terms of your freedom to choose what’s best for yourself and be respected as such. Whether you are a full-figured woman, a man who weeps easily, or a person who identifies as non-binary, you are perfectly made and worthy of unconditional love. The details matter but are not the judge of one’s character. You are enough. You are enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

If you’re like me and have struggled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, especially with regard to the balancing of life and work, you might also benefit from a coach and I’d love to recommend my own. Grisel at @careercoachgriz is one of the most compassionate and genuine individuals I’ve ever known. I love her and value her wisdom, and I’m convinced you will, too.

Who can this person be?

A king, a harsh leader, a stern father, a mean neighbor, a president, a masochist, a misogynist, a dictator, a police officer, a government official.

Famous character(s), people, books, or movies that embody this card’s energy:


Your stern grandpa, your no-nonsense history teacher, your high school principal, Samuel L. Jackson in, well, just about anything, but specifically as Coach Carter.


Charles Minor* from The Office.... yuck. Genghis Khan, Lenin, Stalin, Putin... other “in” men? Geesh. Nurse Ratched, the Grandmother from Flowers in the Attic... other Louise Fletcher characters? Whew.

*Idris Elba’s worst role to date, in my opinion



On Writer Wednesday, you will get to meet another indie author, Candice Pedraza Yamnitz! Also check out the other indie writer interviews previously published. There are more to come throughout the year!

In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.

Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.

When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.

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