Legend: The Arthurian Tarot - The Emperor


Please ... let me point out my king to you. His name is Arthur Pendragon. I say this with pride because even travellers from distant lands have heard his name and know him as a reputable man of power.

I not only like him as king, but as man. Look how relaxed he is, his cloak thrown back .... A true leader, in the literal sense - never asks of another man what he himself would not, or could not do. Such courage and vitality the man has.

He reminds me a little of tales of another king ... Solomon. Perhaps not as wealthy, but he is wise, protective of us as a people, and our land - takes his oath seriously.

Let us watch Arthur awhile together, for though that throne's rest is high and elaborate and offers his back some protection, there are those that are after his crown ... Here I've been telling my opinions, and have not asked you yours, so perhaps while we keep watch, you would care to tell me what you have heard, and what you think of him?


My Arthur

What a lyrical beginning to this most interesting of men :) Well, certainly in the top 10 of interesting-ness.

Rather than most Emperors, we see Arthur's profile, legs crossed and looking as relaxed as he's going to get. I dont think we have ever seen or read of Arthur being completely relaxed, he has to keep alert for rebels, for conspiracies and people wanting to overthrow him.
The book suggests that that is why the door is open, but I'd prefer to think of it as his door is always open to his people. The bonds and promises he has made to the land and to his people are most important to him, seeking what is right for them, rather than for his own power (though being a leader if he has those two he's bound to have secured his own power base). The red cloak to me shows that he is a man crowned with love and admiration of his people and maybe even the Gods.
The fire lights show his passion, his warlike nature and his prowess as a warrior, but also it highlights how he only seeks for the truth and to spread that enlightenment to all. For as well as being loved and being a man of passion, he is a man of intellect.
Although we see a profile, I think on the other side of his face we would see an Arthur with a smile breaking from the corner of his mouth to make his whole body shake. For all his responsibilities he is a man that lives, and loves to laugh and be merry more than anything. But at the same time he could be in serious talks with his advisors on what to do about Mordred, Lancelot or any of the problems of the court, but it will always been with truth and honour in his heart.


The image of Arthur is convincing in its regal beauty and power. His hair is like a lions mane, even his face in profile reminds me of a lion's. His cloak cascades across his body in red fire, the yellow scallop pattern burning like flame tips across it. Two torches burn above him, echoing the fire of his cloak, their energy barely contained, flaring in some unseen wind.

But what lies behind him, in his shadow, the darkly menacing creatures that he sits upon? Anna-Marie calls them dragons of "primitive power". Like many men in authority, he has made many difficult decisions, some perhaps quite questionable, and blood is upon his hands. Has he not also used Merlin's magic to advantage against his enemies, and in a way that most practioners would find unethical?

He may have the love of the people, but not of the Empress, Guenevere his wife. In perhaps his most important life role he is tragically unsuccessful. The transformational power of the soul-to-soul love which Guenevere and Lancelot share is apparently beyond his experience.

Just as I have mistrusted my own internal Emperor, I mistrust this Arthur. Masculine authority and power alone are not enough. To be truly successful the Emperor must be united with an Empress in the deepest extent possible.


I pulled out the cards for the newest studies and noticed that Pellinore, the most loyal and faithful of Arthur's allies, when side by side with the Emperor, looks like two friends talking, looking each other in the eye, exchanging ideas with mutual warmth, the flames behind Arthur's throne, burn towards Pelinore, showing the warmth and interaction of these two men, they sort of fire each other up to get things going in the right direction.

In fact the King of Spears is the only King that will face the Emperor. The King of Cups has his back to him, actually is almost a mirror reflection of the Emperor, crossing opposite legs,etc.,so this may reflect that his duty is to the Grail itself, rather than the Kingdom of Men? The King of Swords,Mordred, Arthur's illigitimate son, leans forward so as not to miss anything, ready to pounce, to take advantage of any weakness of Arthur's. While the King of Shields, Uthur, is more concerned with the welfare of his cattle, protecting & providing for the future Since Uther is the father of Arthur, is seems appropriate that he appears further back in the scene, smaller in size than the other kings. You can almost get a council of Royalty here, if Arthur and Mordered go outside or the others will come in.

So in a way The Emperor is connected to these kings of Earth and Air by blood, and to Water by his need to protect the Grail in order to preserve the lifeblood and health of the realm. While the loyalty of Pellinore, gives him strength and stamina to create Camelot and peace in the land.

Earth created him, Air challenges him, Fire drives him and Water...has an agenda of it's own and doesn't seem particulary interested unless they are sitting side by side as equals, with Arthur on the left and the Fisher King to his right. Each influencing and ruling the opposing emotional influences on thought, passion and sensation and physical well being. Combined they can reinforce and balance each other, opposed...there is no positive feedback or cooperation.

If you look at the Emperor, you can see Air stirring the Fires, the colors of his robes and shield reflect the Sun and more Fire, this is so much of will power molding and shaping the desire and ambition from his solid foundation and position. He is comfortable with this, but there is no hint of water here, no emotions present...not really.

Sometimes greatness comes at a great sacrifice, unfortunately for Arthur, who deserved it so much, his love was given from the land and it's people, from the Old Ones, that gave him blessings and weapons to shape the land, rather than finding it in the comfort of his wife and Empress. Somehow, this doesn't seem to fit...yet in a way, it was all for the greater good, rather than individual satisfaction and contentment.



This a truly wonderful analysis! I had all the Courts out last night puzzling over the suit and rank elemental assignments. Then I read your post, pulled out the Emperor and started sliding him around with the respective Kings.

As you suggest, only Arthur and Pellinore can face each other, and they have a strong facial similarity, as if they were not only friends but brothers. This Emperor has a special affinity with Spears. As you mentioned, Arthur's fires burn towards Pellinore, there is therefore an air flow towards him. If I am correct in my interpretation of Pellinore's card, the trees are also moving in a breeze that comes from same direction, from behind Arthur and on into Pellinore's domain. I can just imagine Anna-Marie working with these two paintings on her easels, developing the relationship between them. The next question is, which card does Arthur's breeze come from, if any?

You also discussed how Arthur's card lacked water - which is particularly notable in a deck so full of water images - and that he forms a polarity with the King of Cups. I also note that in the natural order of the Majors, Arthur looks back toward his Empress, but she looks straight ahead and does not return his gaze. I feel that this estrangement from his emotions and from his Empress was part of a fatal weakness which led to the downfall of the Land.

We know that within the majority of recorded history, only a small number of women have been placed in positions of authority. Nonetheless, some degree of balance of government has been achieved because of the simple fact that most men sleep with women, they share their anxieties and secrets with them and receive good advice in return. To take this a step further, those couples who have a healthy union are probably better able to share and balance their respective burdens and to offer even more to each other in terms of good counsel. I suggest that a leader who is in an intimate soul-to-soul relationship has a higher potential to act in a way which is humanly balanced, from both the masculine and feminine psychological perspectives.

The theory has been advanced that it was no coincidence that it was at about the same time that the theoretically celibate rulers of the Church no longer took mistresses that the institution became its most irrational and dogmatic, soon leading to great religious intolerance and the founding of the Inquisition with its particular focus on the persecution of independent women.

A Keeper of Words mentions that Guenivere provided the round table, so she certainly did share a part in Arthur's vision. It is also not unlikely to assume that Arthur would have one or more mistresses. I am not suggesting that Arthur was as cut off from feminine guidance as were the rulers of the medieval Church, but that the myth is illustrating a flaw in the governance of the Land. In this scenario both the Empress and Emperor are not relating to each other as well as they could: they represent unbalanced and unintegrated archetypes. I feel that the romance with Lancelot, the in-fighting of the knights and the eventual self-destruction of the kingdom were predictable outcomes.

Lyones and Sezo, I hope you will forgive me my previous negative post on Arthur: I realize it must have come across as a wet blanket. Its probably better to concentrate on the positives first before tackling the negatives. I do however see the value in reacting to these cards from both the emotions and intellect, and it certainly can result in an interesting discussion.

What is particularly fascinating to me in Legend is how much the story of these cards model my internal psychic dynamics, and considering that Tarot is all about archetypes I suppose that this is hardly surprising. As I meditated my way through the Fool's Journey using the Connolly Majors, it became clear that my internal Empress and Emperor were implacable enemies, each vying for control of the internal world. This is reflected in my astrology: Venus and Saturn-conjunct-Mars are in square aspect. Later in the series, at Justice, the Emperor was proven to have been culpable in the suppression of the internal dynamic feminine - the expression of the High Priestess archetype - as well in a plot to murder the Empress, and was condemned to execution.

In the meantime, the Fool had been enrolled as the knight or Champion of the Empress, much like Lancelot - and acted as her agent against the Emperor. But when the Champion realized that the manipulation of the Empress had resulted in the condemnation of the Emperor, he acted on the Emperor's behalf and the Emperor was redeemed. At this point the Empress estranged her Champion (hmm, not unlike the Hermit card). Ultimately, the psyche began to balance when the Emperor divorced the Empress, and the Empress arranged for the Emperor to unite with an internal feminine entity who provided him with affirmation and balance, becoming his counselor and in effect co-ruler.

When I look at the myth of Arthur, I think: if only he could have divorced Guenivere and let her run away with Lance to France or somewhere else nice, then taken a new wife who actually loved him (and/or taught him how to love) then perhaps the kingdom could have been saved.

I would suggest that the lack of integration between a man's internal Emperor and Empress is not unusual. This is a metaphor for the dualistic soul in which the masculine psyche dominates at the expense of the feminine. The feminine right brain may be used for special occasions such as the production of art, but the mind tends to flip-flop in this circumstance rather than acting together. However, the more the feminine is utilized the stronger she becomes, until she may at last break free into consciousness and dwell as an equal partner.

When I say that I do not trust the unintegrated Emperor, I must also say that I do not trust the unintegrated Empress, either one out of balance can bring destruction to the Land.



sophie-david said:
I would suggest that the lack of integration between a man's internal Emperor and Empress is not unusual. This is a metaphor for the dualistic soul in which the masculine psyche dominates at the expense of the feminine.

Excuse my laughter here, you speak as if women don't have similar dualities...I'm sure that wasn't your intent, but it just cracked me up anyway. I'm not sure how much weight I put on past lives, but I've always joked I must have been a real S.O.B. and that is why I am a woman in this one, with 5 kids, spent mostly on my own. Learning how to integrate and see both sides.



You are quite right of course. I was speaking from my own point of view and my perception of Arthur's, and in generalities also (and in mentioning the unintegrated Empress being dangerous I was thinking of women as well as the archetype :)). Nonetheless, women in our culture are more likely to have a higher degree of integration then men: growing up in a patrist culture girls soon realize that success is equated with masculine values, education tends to be quite analytical and linear, as are many of the better paying jobs. Of course there can also be a problem for women relating to their feminine selves, as I'm sure I don't have to mention.

But as a man, you can so cut off your feminine psyche that you are actually unaware that it exists, and still be quite successful - in the way that society has traditionally measured success. Women are much more likely to at least realize that integration is desireable, but for many men its not even thought about.

Women have been found to have greater operational function between the left and right brains than men, across the corpus collosum which connects them. In Leonard Shlain's book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, he mentions:

Researchers have discovered that women have between 10 percent and 33 percent more neuronal fibers in the forward part of their coprus callosum than to men. The higher the number of connecting neurons, the greater must be the integration between the two sides.
Leonard is a surgeon and associate professor of surgery. I have elsewhere read that women average 20 percent more connectivity than men. So while both sexes have problems with integration, it tends to be more difficult for men in our current society.

It has certainly not been a sure or easy process for me. I have also noticed that even though my web site is from a man's point of view, that the response from women has been far greater than that from men. If and when I can publish a book about it, I would suspect that the market would be similar.

However, I do believe that there is a special gift that the more extreme duality that a man typically experiences can bring. If he does in fact learn to relate directly to his other half, this very separation makes it likely that the feminine will be expressed as an internal entity rather than a continuum. Integration will be more likely experienced as an internal marriage rather than an evolutionary process. This brings a particular focus and power to the internal entity which, in my experience, can be a great asset in the continuing integration of the whole soul.

Western history has of course recorded many examples of mystics and artists of both genders relating to an Inner Beloved, perhaps experienced as a muse, Sophia, or Jesus. As we are exploring, the mythology of Arthur offers several examples of gender union which can be understood as either an external or internal process.



I just had a very trippy thought, in the area of duality and connecting with each side of our selves...being a woman I don't know what goes on in a man's brain. Current popular lit, says not much. That sounds mean and sexist, but it seems in some ways men are getting more in touch with their emotional sides...becoming more sensitive and some researcher or no one I can name off hand, besides my antomy and physiology intructor, say that on the whole we are becoming more and more androgenous, that the lines of distinction are closing.

Yet, the comaradarie and closeness of men, who could express thier love for each other seems to be more and more restricted since "gay" stopped being a time of joy and feeling really good and became a label. Emotion is equated with weakness, women are the weaker sex...and to do anything like a girl is emasculating and an insult. Sad but true. I'm not going for some femminist tirade here, just stating simple truths and generalizations.

For Arthur to express his feminine-emotional side would have cost him respect and loyalty. From everything I've ever read about him, he wasn't a cold man, he had to put aside emotion, like I said before. It was the price he had to pay for a kingdom. I think inside he was like any other man, hiding his fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities with bravado and head bashing.
Why do men drink beer so much? Why are men for the most part so homophobic? Because facing their emotional side is terrifying and unmanly and avoided at all costs, those who do, I'm sorry to say are usually suspect.

Wish I could remember the title of another book I read for psychology...dealing with the differences between men and women. Men usually do get more in touch with their feminine/emotional side after the age of 40, usually a bit later, but after they have established themselves and "come into themselves", perhaps because they are more confident and comfortable with themselves and accomplishments...and aren't trying to battle their way up the mountain and proclaim themselves King of the Hill any longer. Entering a time of reflection and self evaluation and are more open to seeing another side of themselves with wonder rather than fear.

Perhaps, had Arthur lived beyond his prime and been able to do this, the Grail would not have disappeared and unity, real unity would have been established. We will never know.


WalesWoman said:
Perhaps, had Arthur lived beyond his prime and been able to do this, the Grail would not have disappeared and unity, real unity would have been established. We will never know.
That is indeed a wonderful thought. Of course the power of these myths is that everything doesn't end happily ever after. There are shining triumphs and grim defeats, just like life.

I am in strong agreement with all your points. And North American society is one among the worst in the world for homophobia, which speaks to a great cultural insecurity in the male psyche.

Jung suggested that the second half of life was intended for inner growth, both for men and women. The so-called "mid-life crisis" is the greatest opportunity for a man to discover his internal feminine. Unfortunately the process is very often externalized as the seeking of the younger woman, the red sports car, etc. - the projections continue. The message just isn't out there that the woman you are seeking is inside you and has been all along. The irony of this is that in discovering her, and this is one of the first things which was very obvious, my masculinity was significantly enhanced - I'll leave it at that.

WalesWoman said:
...being a woman I don't know what goes on in a man's brain. Current popular lit, says not much.
Just to lighten up the thread a little, I recall Jerry Seinfeld's skit in his TV special "I'm Telling You This for the Last Time". This program was quite popular where I work at Coast Guard: the tape got passed around between us. Of course, the reason we liked it was that it - like all good humour - was mostly true. A little exaggerated, but true. One of the highlights went like this, more or less:

"Ever had your wife or girl friend ask you what you're thinking? Yeah, that's a tough one isn't it, they don't want to believe you. Now I'm got to let you in on a little secret out there, all you women in the audience. When your man gives you this answer, he's telling the truth - 'Nothing, nothing at all. I'm just... thinking nothing really. Just standing here. Oh look at those nice legs go by. Look at that great car. But mostly nothing, nothing at all.'"



LOL Reminds me of back when I thought there was something really wrong with me, since...oh never mind and read the book, "What you see is what you get, What women need to know about men", or something close to that...the content of which you pretty much just summed up. I laughed, I cried, I laughed and cried because it was so darned true and I so did not want to believe it.

So I wonder do those nueronal fibers start growing in men after they go through their mid-life crisis? Or is this really why most men fear women so much, because we NEVER stop thinking and therefore have more thought mobility, maybe even using more of our brain? Not smarter, but if women's minds don't stop and men's are on vacation most of the time, except for every 7 seconds to scratch or so, no wonder there was this need to subjegate women so men could feel superior? Oh this could go on and on and on, lol!

Ok, back to Arthur...wonder what is he thinking that so stirs up a breeze to fan those torches? What is on the other side of that door and where does it go? LOL