These two arcana form a couple. They represent two aspects of a same concept. One is feminine, and the other is masculine. Their names suggest some temporal and wordly power. The characters of the major arcana number 3 and 4 deliberately stare at the golden scepter they hold. It seems this augurs something positive but is this really the case?
The Emperor and the Empress: two characters of power with their own flaws
The Empressis sitting full face on her throne, with her scepter in her left hand, which she seems to be flippantly holding while the Emperor is pictured from the side and seems to be leaning against his throne as he stands with his scepter, which he tightly holds, in his right hand.
Although the Emperor and the Empress represent the way we conceive men and women, they can’t be considered as absolutes but rather as real parents made of flesh and blood, who have their own flaws and an influence on our lives.
How is the Empress represented in the Tarot of Marseille?
The Empress represents women and all their emotions. Fulfilled or authoritative, she is the embodiment of all the women that are alive in the collective subconscious. Her attitude suggests that she is anchored in reality. She holds the scepter in her left hand and stares to the left, which confirms she is a woman of power. She is the mother that gives birth. The Empress is self-confident and embodies feminine power.
The picture of the Emperor in the Tarot of Marseille
By contrast, the card of theEmperor highlights action and masks intuitiveness. The character pictured in the tarot card has two white shoes, oddly enough. He scrutinizes his scepter as he hesitatingly stares at it. Motherhood is anchored in the blood that links the child to the mother but fatherhood has yet to be defined. Fatherhood is taking possession, through our senses and our understanding of the world.
The Emperor and Empress compared to the Pope and Papess
In the Tarot of Marseille, the “couple” formed by the Papess and thePope represents the emotional and spiritual side of men and women. As for the Empress and the Emperor, they embody the material and energy aspects.
These four arcana are often linked because they correspond to the conceptions we have of men and women but, unlike the Papess and the Pope who represent spiritual power, the Empress and the Emperor possess wordly power.
Do the Emperor and the Empress have a hidden side?
How could anyone who cherishes their parents, respects their authority and assimilates the power they have on them to such an extent that they reproduce the same authority with their own children, even suspect that these two arcana have a negative aspect?
Well, it turns out the Empress is linked to the fear of her own femininity, or of women while the Emperor is linked to the understanding of men, or their own virility.
The negative aspect of these two cards may suggest difficulties to submit to some parental authority or to some authority in general.
Contesting parental authority leads to some questioning about our own identity. In this case, the idealized image of parental authority is not assimilated and it becomes difficult to reproduce it. We end up losing control and any kind of authority may become hardly bearable.
To know more about the cards of the Tarot of Marseille and their hidden meaning, I have written two articles: