The card on top is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork on the bottom belongs to Uphillart.
Traditional Meaning of The Emperor
The Emperor card above shows an older, yet still powerful man, sitting on his rather solid and intimidating throne. The man is clothed in a striking red cloak, with royal blue sleeves below, and peeking out from underneath the cloak are his legs which are covered in silver armor. The throne of the Emperor is made of granite or other solid stone and decorated with four rams’ heads. He wears a golden crown, and in each of his hands he holds a golden apple and ankh. Behind him is an intensely red-orange sky and fiery colored mountains, where a small stream flows at the base of the peaks.
The Emperor card represents fatherhood, strength, and leadership. He is pictured as an older male, not young and wild, but not yet taken with age; instead, he is wise and mature, still ready to take on the challenges that come with ruling the land. His armor shows us that he is ready for battle if it should be necessary, and that he is on guard against threats to his people. His position on the throne, and the way he looks directly forward shows he isn’t afraid of confrontation; he is secure and confident in his beliefs. The rams’ heads connect with Aries energy, showing him as an intrepid pioneer, unafraid of exploring new opportunities and places. He is a protector and not afraid to set boundaries, while the golden apple in his hand tells us that he also gives easily to help those in his care.
The Emperor tells us that we are protected and in good hands. He speaks to competence, fatherhood, and ambition. He represents a trustworthy, honest, loving partner (as he is to the Empress), and loyal family man. The Emperor often talks to us about being comfortable with who we are, being unafraid to explore new territory, but also to consider what traditional values may be important to our lives. He speaks to balance and security, especially on the home front, and of being in control of our own lives. The Emperor is a leader, in the best way possible – responsible, sensible, and fiercely protective of his values, his family, and his home.
Arthur Weasley as The Emperor
At first glance, Arthur Weasley may seem a strange choice to stand in for the Emperor card. On the surface (and especially in the earlier books), Arthur seems like the bumbling dad who is a little bit silly, a little bit ignored, and who is interested in irrelevant things. He is seen as unambitious and just kind of…harmless. But if we dig deeper, Arthur Weasley is actually more of an Emperor than we might have guessed. Much like Molly, Arthur is one of the father figures in Harry’s life, and he is certainly important as the father of all seven Weasley children. Sadly, Arthur is actually the only father figure of Harry’s to live through the entire series, making him even more important by the ending of the books.
In terms of the imagery on the Emperor card, Arthur matches quite a few elements, although they appear differently with Mr. Weasley. In the images above we see both Arthur and the Emperor with similar expressions. Arthur seems more warm and welcoming, but both are looking directly towards us, with confidence and a sense of assessment. Arthur is pictured against a reddish-orange background that closely matches the colors of the Emperor card. Behind him is a halo of color, resembling the gold crown on the Emperor’s head. Arthur’s clothing keeps this same color motif, and the suit reminds us of his position in the Ministry of Magic. Here Arthur still looks young and full of energy, but there are wrinkles and a bit of greying at his temples. In the books he is described as balding, so although not captured in this image, it is another way to show that Arthur is mature and middle-aged, and reinforces that fatherly image.
In terms of character traits, Arthur embodies the positive side of the Emperor. He is THE family man of the series. He is a loving, loyal, and devoted father and husband, and puts his family first in most of his decisions. He and his wife Molly (The Empress) are passionately in love after seven children and decades of marriage. He often defers to her, but there is a sense that he does so because he loves her intensely and chooses his battles. Arthur often encourages his children in their less traditional ideas, but overall his values are pretty traditional as a father and husband. In addition, he welcomes Harry as one of his own, and has a special relationship with him as we see in Prisoner of Azkaban when he warns Harry about Sirius and Order of the Phoenix when he escorts Harry to his trial.
Arthur is often accused of being unambitious, but in reality Arthur’s ambition leans in a less typical direction. He is absolutely passionate and ambitious about his interest in Muggles. Yes, he finds them fascinating, but Arthur is also a staunch believer in Muggle and Wizard equality, even going so far as to co-author the Muggle Protection Act, which was unpopular at the Ministry and caused him to be overlooked by his higher ups. This is where we see Arthur’s values in full force. He gets into several confrontations over his belief in equality and fairness – even physically fighting a few times. Arthur is eventually promoted at work, and when he gets involved with the Order of the Phoenix, he takes on more and more responsibility and puts himself in great danger to do what he feels is right and to protect his family.
One final tie-in to consider is Arthur’s name itself. There has been the observation that the Weasley’s are partially named after characters from Arthurian legends. If this is true, Arthur Weasley must be named after King Arthur himself- indicating a a correlation between this very emperor-like mythical character and Arthur Weasley. In fact, in the Lover’s Path Tarot the author chose to represent the Emperor card with the image of King Arthur and his queen Guinevere.
How Arthur as The Emperor Helps Us Read Tarot
Arthur as the Emperor helps us read tarot because as we consider how he lives out his role as a father, sticks to his principles and values in the face of scrutiny, and provides a stable loving environment for his family, we can think about these elements and people like him in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Arthur from the books. They are asked with Arthur’s character and the Emperor card’s themes in mind:
- On the surface Arthur seems ‘silly’ or ‘weak’ even; how does viewing him through the traits of the Emperor card change this view of him as a character?
- What kind of father is Arthur Weasley? How do his children, wife, and Harry react to him because of his fathering style?
- What are Arthur’s core principles and how does he live by them throughout the series?
- How does Arthur protect those he loves? What does he sacrifice to do this?
- What kind of husband is Arthur? How does this contribute to his happy marriage with Molly?
- How does Arthur embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor?
How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves
As we ponder the above questions about Arthur Weasley, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Emperor comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Emperor shows his form in a reading:
- Think about yourself through the Emperor card; what seemingly silly or insignificant traits of yours can you see more strength or meaning in with this lens?
- Think about father figures in your life – what did you learn from them (good or bad) and carry forward into your life? Are there any father qualities you have found important in your life?
- What are your core principles? Do you live by them or do you struggle to align your actions to your values?
- How do you protect those you love? What have you sacrificed in order to give them the life you want for them?
- What kind of partner are you (or do you want to be)? What could you learn from the Emperor or Arthur about being in a healthy relationship?
- In what ways do you embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor? How does this move you forward in life?
This post should get your started thinking about the Emperor, Arthur’s character, and the themes of leadership, fatherhood, and living by your principles in your own life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Emperor card in tarot!
Next week we will explore Cornelius Fudge as card number V, The Hierophant.
Listen to the podcast episode of Arthur as The Emperor :