Part 2 in my Inside Tarot series covers The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot.
The Emperor, obviously the counterpart to The Empress (which we covered in part 1 of this series), is authority. He’s the boss man. The manager. He rules over people, places, and/or things.
Pictured above are The Emperor cards from: Centenary Special Rider-Waite deck, Joie de Vivre deck, The Wild Wood deck, and the Fairy Tarot deck, respectively.
The Emperor is traditionally shown in a position of power: on a throne. He holds a sceptre as he wields the authority to issue judgment and the laws of the land. The two rams heads on the arms of his throne symbolize action and leadership. He demands respect and commands obedience. He can be either a benevolent or malevolent figure depending on the energy or context of the reading.
In the Joie de Vivre deck, the rams heads are replaced by dragons, but the symbolism is the same. The Green Man from the Wild Wood deck is a little different. He also occupies a leadership role, but the symbolism is different. He is a guardian or steward rather than a monarch. He holds both a spear of power and a horn of plenty, so he commands the environment around him and provides for his people as well.
The Fairy Tarot depicts the Emperor as a fairy king. The earth tops his sceptre while he offers his heart with his left hand. He is demanding, but he is also compassionate.
The energy of the Hierophant is similar to that of The Emperor, but for the fact that The Hierophant is a spiritual/religious leader. The Hierophant is sometimes referred to as The Pope in some decks. He is also considered by most to be the counterpart to The High Priestess, though the High Priestess is sometimes considered the counterpart to The Magician depending on how active or passive the energy feels to the reader, either is possible. In the Rider-Wait deck (first above), The Hierophant is seating in a position of power while two disciples have come to seek his guidance. The two pillars behind him are similar to the ones we see on the High Priestess card, though these pillars represent law and liberty. The keys lying at his feet are the keys to Heaven.
The second card above is from the Celestial Tarot and features a female figure rather than a male. In this deck, The Hierophant is likened to the astrological symbol of Taurus, the bull. The taurus has been a symbol for renewal, fulfillment, replenishment, abundance, and transformation among others.
The third card above comes from the Shadowscapes deck. This card, as most of the cards in the Shadowscapes tarot, contains so much detailed symbolism that I could dedicate an entire blog just to it. This Hierophant is a wise old tree. His roots are wrapped around both the sun and the moon. He holds a staff with a ram on top. Most of his leaves are yellow but for one green leaf symbolizing renewal/replenishment. His third eye is clearly situated in the middle of his forehead, so we know he sees all. He has a few lizard friends with him, and lizards are considered messengers of the spiritual realm.
The last card is from the Black Cat tarot. This Hierophant sits casually on a tree stump and offers cheese to his disciples (mice.) Trees are symbols of knowledge and the symbolism of mice varies, but it could be said they are innocents here coming to seek esoteric knowledge from their High Priest.
The Lovers! This is a card that always excites people when they see it. It’s almost like they’re expecting something scandalous. The cards above come from the following decks: Rider-Waite, Crystal Visions, Manga Tarot, and the Witches Tarot. The Lovers typically depicts two, but sometimes three, romantically linked figures. In the Rider-Waite tarot, The Lovers actually depicts Adam and Eve being presided over by an angel. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are both present. The Lovers card is about relationships, but not always the romantic kind. Most often it signifies the need to make a choice about something, typically in relation to a relationship, romantic or otherwise. Some cards even include the figure of Lilith which signifies Adam’s need to make a choice between the two women in his life.
The Crystal Visions deck has a decidedly more romantic tone to The Lovers card. The embracing couple is surrounded by red roses and white doves.
The Manga Tarot is runs along the same vein, and this couple is even kissing.
The Lovers in the Witches Tarot is preparing to embrace in a lip lock as they hold hands. They too have an angel presiding over their union.
The last card is part 2 of the Inside Tarot series is The Chariot. This is a positive action card which signifies travel. This can be taken literally or it can be a metaphor for an aggressive change in circumstances (though not to be confused with The Tower, which we’ll get to later). The cards above come from the following decks: Rider-Waite, Druid Craft, Steampunk, and Tarot for Cats.
The Chariot depicts a lone figure driving a chariot led by two sphinxes, one black and one white. The sphinx has been a ‘guardian of the thresholds,’ meaning he guards the doorways between worlds. The sphinx is a man/lion combination encapsulating the qualities of intelligence and strength.
The cards from the Druid Craft tarot and the Steampunk tarot aren’t very different in composition, but the horses, either real or mechanical, replace the sphinxes.
In the Tarot for Cats, The Chariot is a classic car, but the symbolism of that is pretty obvious.