Card: El Emperador / The Emperor
Numerical Value: 4
Astronomical Symbol: Mars
Depiction: In the Tarot de la Santa Muerte, the card "El Emperador" shows a powerful emperor, with long white hair and a white beard, sitting atop an elevated, ornate and gilded throne decorated with two gryphons - mythical creatures identified by their eagle like upper bodies and lion like lower bodies. Smoke from two pots of incense at the base of the throne are visible. El Emperador is seen in royal purple robes as he points out over his kingdom, as if in the middle of making a command. His other hand grasps a tall, spear tipped staff, but he's not the only one holding on. Towering above El Emperador in the image is a red cloaked Santa Muerte surrounded by fire, with her right hand clutching the top of the staff. The sky in the background burns red.
Symbolism: El Emperador is the counter balance to La Emperatriz - he represents masculine energy and commanding authority. He is a wise and worldly man; this is represented by his long white hair and full white beard. El Emperador wears a crown and sits atop a throne. The crown and throne are both symbols of his authority, but the throne appears to be the more dominant symbol in the image. The symbolism of the gryphons on the throne can be concluded based on their place in mythology. Considered in myth to be the kings of all beasts, and believed to be protectors of treasures valuable and priceless, the gryphon is generally seen as a symbol of divine power and considered a guardian of the divine. The fact that gryphons adorn El Emperador's throne symbolizes that his station is protected by divine right. This is further enforced by the fact that the Santa Muerte in the image can be seen towering above El Emperador, holding the higher position on El Emperador's staff.
The incense pots burning at the base of the throne are additional symbols of royal authority, but also representations of fire and air. Fire represents creation, destruction, or transformation, while air represents knowledge, wisdom, and intellectual thought. Our powerful emperor has the power of fire to create, destroy, or transform at will, and also the mastery of air to make smart, clever, and tactically sound decisions.
In Santa Muerte magick, purple is the color of spiritual knowledge and intuition. The purple robes worn by El Emperador symbolize his mastery of spiritual knowledge - he is a confident man who trusts his intuition. Red, in Santa Muerte Magick, is the color of love and passion. A double edged sword, love can make us anything from kind and caring to vengeful and dangerous. The red cloaked Santa Muerte is on fire with passion, and that passion is being fed directly into the hand of El Emperador by way of the spear tipped staff. How he decides to channel that passion is ultimately up to him.
In a reading upright, El Emperador represents authority, passionate leadership, sound decision making, and commanding control. When this card appears upright, it can signal that a decision has to be made, and that you should trust your intuition to make the decision. It can also represent "running full speed ahead" toward a new project or endeavor. If your decision has already been made, then you should run toward your goals and do everything in your power to achieve them - this card is a signal that Santa Muerte will bless your efforts if you carry her fire and passion into the world. Do not be surprised if you encounter El Emperador in the form of an older or authoritative male figure or in the form of a powerful organization. Make an effort to impress and you will find the figure more than willing to help you succeed.
In reverse, El Emperador represents a loss of authority, ineptitude, and an inability to make a decision. Where El Emperador was once powerful and knowledgeable, he falls off his thrown and his incense pots go empty when this card is reversed. Expect a negative encounter with a leader, older male figure, or group / organization - possibly involving a misuse or abuse of authority. If facing a decision, this card in reverse warns to spend more time gathering facts and considering consequences. Emotionally, this card can represent feelings of losing control, as if the power you once exercised over your kingdom is now slipping away.
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