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Or in this case THE BUILDER (despite the misprint on the card itself). This is the four card in the Major Arcana and represents stability, think of the four corners of a building.

What I See:

This is an earthy card rather than the fiery one I’d expect from a card associated the fire element. That pillar he’s working on gives me a sense of strength and structure, not to mention beauty and creativity. The stacked firewood tells me he’s responsible and prepared for winter. I see a man taking care of his family, providing them with shelter and warmth. Looking at this image I’m struck by the old adage, “a man’s house is his castle.”

Light (upright) Reading:

Embrace authority and lead by example.

  • Keywords: Order, Control, Power, and Status.

Shadow (upside down or reverse) Reading:

Beware of micromanagement and being too harsh or emotional.

  • Keywords: Tyranny, Coarseness, Abuse of Power, and Impatience.


The Emperor is often compared to Zeus so perhaps your story is a retelling of a myth or fairytale. How about a coup over a dictator? Maybe focus on the number four; the four seasons, the four points on a compass, the four dimensions, the four phases of the moon, or the four elements.

  • Themes: Leadership, Stability, Defining Limits, Masculinity, Protector/Provider, Fatherhood, Logic, or Discipline.


The Builder creates the systems that enable people to live and work together.

  • Archetype: Father, Creator, Patriarch, Animus (the male element in the female unconscious) — Vogler refers to this as the Shapeshifter, or Husband.

The Shapeshifter archetype is also a catalyst for change, a symbol of the psychological urge to transform. ~The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler

  • Mythical Figures: Mars, Zeus, Ares, Jupiter, and Jehovah.

The personality enneagram, a nine-pointed array of personality types, might also be a useful reference for character building.

The Emperor is E4: Tragic Romantic, Individualist, and/or Connoisseur

  • Self Image — I am different
  • Passion — Envy
  • Virtue — Equanimity
  • Narcissistic Trap — Authenticity
  • Avoids — Ordinariness
  • Speaking Style — Lyrical or Lamenting

E4 people are relationship oriented. They are concerned with what others think of them, image and prestige. They see themselves as being for others and often believe they know what’s best. They dislike being alone and may feel sad or inadequate.

Additionally, look up one of the Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) for personality traits.

When the Emperor card shows up in the course of a writing project, it’s a sign that you can be daring in your approach. Pick your battles and your conquests. ~Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner

Image: Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert from Llewellyn Worldwide