IV – Hei – Aries – Identity
Virility, Order, Authority, and Continuity
The Emperor corresponds to the Hebrew letter of Hei in most traditions; Aleister Crowley disagrees and attributes the letter Tzaddi to the Emperor and changes the position of the Arcana on the Tree of Life, but I do not personally subscribe to this interpretation. The letter Hei symbolizes revelation and the giving of one’s identity; to me, this letter represents then the revelation of identity. The original pictograph of this letter shows a person with their hands on the air, hinting at the idea of fullness of the human spirit, a large part of which is identity and how this identity is expressed. The letter also represents God’s creative expression and his actions in ordering the universe. The Emperor himself is a bringer of justice, using his power to order the universe so that all get what they deserve, in a way paralleling the creative acts of God. The Emperor is also strong and confident, with a clear sense of identity that he expresses through his power and actions; he is the center of the universe.
Astrologically, the Emperor is Aries; he is active, takes the initiative, but at times can be impulsive. He is dedicated to providing order for those below him, and is stern in his countenance. He is focused on himself and expressing his own identity and power, and serves as a father-figure in contrast to the Empress’ mother-figure. While she, his consort, is fertile, the Emperor is virile and very masculine; even his astrological figure (Aries) is the husband of hers (Venus). The Emperor is the imposer of order; he is strong, intimidating, and just; he is the judge who makes the decisions necessary to keep things running. The Rider-Waite art clearly shows the Emperor in this countenance, sitting sternly upon his throne, surrounded by impenetrable mountains representing his indomitable will; he is the combination of Fire and Earth; he is the volcano. In his hand he holds an Ankh, symbolizing his stability, permanence, and continuation through the symbol of eternal life. The Thoth art for the Emperor similarly shows a stern-looking man, seated in a pose mirroring that of the Hanged Man, suggesting an Ankh as well. The Thoth Emperor is also surrounded by image’s of goat or ram heads (the Rider-Waite Emperor has some on his throne), emphasizing virility and activity. This is further reinforced by the red hue over the card.
The Emperor represents order and structure, and justice that is achieved through the authority of the law. The figure of the Emperor himself is a ruler who has just consolidated his empire, concerned with establishing himself and his progeny through strong laws and order. He represents the strong order of one newly come into power, and the subsequent continuation of this power. He represents authority and security, as well as personal freedom and virility for himself; he is a benevolent dictator. He can often be ruthless and tyrannical, but he is also efficient and just.
On the Tree of Life, the Emperor is the path between the Sefirot of Chokmah and Tiphareth. This represents the fiery energy and activity of the masculine Chokmah coming down to provide order to the world, allowing for the balance and experience of Tiphareth to exist. This card is the active force attempting to bring the world into balance; the revelation of the divine will of God.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of authority and the law in your life. Has the law been just to you? It also requests that you examine your own sense of identity and your power relationships with others, as well as what your legacy will be once you are gone. Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps their is authority but no order, or the law is not serving its true purpose.