III. Imperator - Basileus - Emperor (3, 4)

Magister Sceptri - Master of the Sceptre

Potens Pater conservator orbis (Mighty Father, preserver of the world)
Zeus, Jupiter.
1+3 = Love+Male (Water); 2+2 = Couple+Male (Fire).
1+3+3 = Love+Ruler+Male.
Greek Letter = Delta:
Dike = justice, judgement, right; Dunastes = ruler, master.
III Name: Ch'ien = the Creative. Image: Heaven, Sky. The Father, associated with strength, creativity, firmness, endurance, purity and the word. South in the Earlier Heaven.


The Emperor is a mature man, robust in stature and grave in countenance. His coal-black, wavy hair frames a broad forehead over deep-set eyes; his thick beard is finely curled. Draped around his legs and over his left shoulder, leaving his chest bare and his right arm free, is a deep red himation (mantle), decorated with green foliage and seven golden flowers. He wears a wreath of twelve oak leaves on his head and sandals on his feet.

The Emperor's bronze throne, which is richly ornamented with gold, ivory and ebony, and decorated with golden rams' heads, is on a rugged mountaintop surrounded by clouds. His right hand aims a glowing golden keraunos toward the ground; this is a stylized thunderbolt with a central orb, two points in opposite directions, and four "tongues of flames" around each point. His left hand holds a tall (3 m.) sceptre surmounted by a golden orb and an eagle with spread wings. A red eagle stands to the left by his feet.


The Mighty Father makes the laws that bind The elements, the plants, and every kind Of beast - but people too. He strives to feed The folk, defending them by word and deed. Observe the judgements fathered by his mind!


The Emperor represents the characteristically masculine aspects of consciousness, solar illumination, which demands clarity, but may be harsh and withering. He is the archetypal pater familias, the head of the clan, with both authority over the group and responsibility for its welfare. It is his burden to set down laws and maintain order, both within and without. Further, he is the executive, for he must ensure that his plans, laws and judgements are translated into action.

The Emperor is the source of conscious spiritual and moral principles, in contrast to the High Priest, who is the source of spiritual and moral intuitions; they are the light and dark sides of the Eternal Masculine, the bright sun and the dark sun, the conscious and subconscious masculine minds. However, the Emperor and High Priest are further apart, and do not cooperate so well as their female counterparts, the Empress and High Priestess. Therefore the Emperor's himation covers his left side, to show his habitual repression of the subconscious, and that he may tend to dogmatism, rigidity and self-righteousness if his rule is not tempered by his co-regents, the Empress, Priest and Priestess.

The Emperor does not, like the Empress, flow with nature; his fiery spirit leads him to impose his will on nature and to force her to conform to his artificial standards of order. As a consequence he is fundamentally alienated from the dark, Titanic forces of nature, and therefore vulnerable to their attack. Inevitably the Emperor will grow old and sick and require rejuvenation at the hands of the Empress, Priest and Priestess (see VI.Love and VII.Temperance).


In Homer a common epithet of Zeus is "Father of Gods and Mortals." This does not mean, however, that Zeus is the genetic father of all gods and mortals (though he sired many enough of each); rather it means he is the pater familias (head of the family) of gods and mortals; that is, he has both the authority and the responsibility for them. (OCD s.v. Zeus) This is precisely the office of the Emperor. (For the root meaning of Imperator, see the commentary on II.Empress.)

As protector of order, he ordains all laws - physical, natural, and social. Thus he coupled with Themis (Law), who begat the Horae (Seasons) and Moirai (Fates), who administer physical law, and Eunomia (Good Legislation), Dike (Justice) and Eirene (Peace), who administer moral law (Larousse 98; cf. OCD s.v. Horae). Thus Jupiter was called Conservator Orbis (Preserver of the World) (Larousse 203).

Zeus maintains order by enforcing his laws, both physical and moral, with the keraunos (thunderbolt). Those who violate natural law, oaths, justice, hospitality, honor, and so forth, are all at risk of feeling the bolt, either as warning or punishment.

As ordainer of laws, the Emperor represents conscious, rational thought, and is closely connected to logos (Lat. ratio) as articulated thought. The Emperor is thus the Paternal Logos (as opposed to the Empress, the Maternal Eros), which comprises discrimination, judgement, and insight. The Paternal Logos is associated with the element Fire, which combines the Hot (discriminating) quality with the Dry (form imposing) quality, for the Emperor seeks to have his decisions become reality. In contrast, the Maternal Eros is associated with Water, which combines the Cool (joining) and Wet (yielding) qualities. The Paternal Logos is the "intellectually formulated intuitive equivalent of the archetypal image of the fiery Sun" (V.High Priest), as the Maternal Logos is of the watery Moon (IV.High Priestess). When Sol and Luna mate, their child balances the four qualities in the fiery water and the watery fire (see VII.Temperance). (Jung, Aion 12-3, MC 179-80; Nichols 113, 116-7).

Again, when Zeus (ego-consciousness) joined in love with Mnemosyne (memory), they slept together nine nights, and so were born the nine Muses, the patrons of poetry and literature, music and dance (Larousse 98; OCD s.v. Muses), for the arts and sciences all require discrimination and memory.

The potent word of the Emperor is symbolized by the burning air, the upper luminous sky (aithêr), the celestial illumination, from which come the names "Zeus" (Dyaus) and "Jupiter" (Diou Pater) (Larousse 98, 203; OCD s.vv. Jupiter, Zeus). Luna gives birth to Sol, the daylight of the psyche, the conscious rational mind, who goes his way alone, unlike Luna who has the other planets and fixed stars for her companions. The conscious Sun cannot see himself by his own light, but he can be seen clearly from the perspective of the Moon and her companions: Mercury, Saturn, Venus, and the rest of the planets and zodiac. They know what must be done, for the very law ordained by Zeus, and ministered by his daughters the Horae (Hours, Seasons), is that the Paternal Logos, the ego-consciousness, should yield regularly to the Maternal Eros, that dark should alternate with light to achieve a proper balance. The Sun sinks into her waters, the mighty river Ocean at the rim of the world, and is reborn out of it. (Jung, A 13, MC 179, 357; Nichols 116-7)

By allowing himself to be overcome by Luna, Sol ensures his own rejuvenation, for the ego-consciousness becomes stale, dried out and parched from being too long in the light; sunlight is harsh, and the King becomes sick and the ego-conscious sterile. Therefor Luna knows she must unite with Sol in the Liebestod (Love-Death); she knows she must bathe Sol in her waters, quench his thirst, heal his wounds, and ultimately dissolve his unbending limbs, stiff with the rigor mortis. She is both the vessel and the solvent in which he disappears, for ego-consciousness must return to the womb from which he was born, the subconscious, and from it win his rebirth. He will be resurrected with renewed vigor, for the fiery spiritus (breath) of the Emperor has become too rarified, and must be balanced by the dark waters and solid earth of the Empress. Balance will be achieved when each consumes the other's substance. (Jung, MC 308-10, 331, 357-9)

So in Sumeria they say the shepherd-king Dumuzi, grown old, no longer can care properly for his flock, unless he mates with Inanna (Ishtar) in the sacred marriage rite and thereby undergoes death and resurrection (Kramer, SMR ch. 3). So also in Crete they show where Zeus was born and where he was buried, for they said that he is born and dies each year, and that each year he mates with the Earth Mother Demeter, who bears her successor, the Kore (Maiden). (OCD s.v.)

We also know the story of how Leto (also Latona, Lada, the Lady), a goddess of the night, gave herself to Zeus, and so bore Artemis and Apollo, the shining twins of moon and sun, after nine days labor (OCD s.v. Leto; Larousse 113). And how he took the form of a swan to mate with another nocturnal divinity, Leda, who after she had also slept with her husband, bore Pollux and Helen by Zeus, and their twins, Castor and Clytemnestra, whom she bore by her husband; nevertheless the boys were called the Dioscuri (Boys of Zeus) (OCD s.v. Leda; Larousse 105-6, 188-9).

The ancients knew that Sol, like Luna, has light and dark sides. Thus in addition to the Zeus of the masculine conscious mind, we find the underworld Zeus Chthonios of the animus, the masculine subconscious. The Etruscans likewise recognized two Thunderers, Tinia (Jupiter) of the day and Summanus of the night (Larousse 203); they are the Emperor and the High Priest.

Zeus is most often represented as a robust, mature man of grave countenance; he has a finely curled beard and thick, wavy hair over a broad forehead and deep-set eyes; his hair is coal-black, Homer calls it kuaneos (dark blue). (Larousse 98; Iliad A.528) In alchemy, he is the Black King, the Umbra Solis (Shadow of the Son) and the Sulphur Nigrum (Black Sulphur), all manifestations of the dark, Saturnine nature of the active, masculine side of Mercurius (Jung, Aion 38).

Hellenistic statue

Zeus usually wears a long himation (mantle), which leaves his chest bare and his right arm free; Phideas makes it golden and decorated with flowers. An oak or olive wreath is on his head. He holds the keraunos (thunderbolt) in his right hand, and a sceptre, which Phideas shows surmounted by an eagle, is in his left. Also in Phideas' statue Zeus sits on a throne of bronze, gold, ivory and ebony; his eagle is at his feet. (Larousse 98)

In Petrarch's Africa and in Pictorius' Apotheoseos (see Albricus), Jupiter is naked to the waist. He sits upon a throne, holding the bolt in his right hand, the sceptre in his left. The eagle is at his feet, having brought from Ida the Cupbearer (Ganymede), who brings the cup at his left. Mortals are below, blasted or stunned by his bolts. The image in the "Tarocchi of Mantegna" is similar: Jupiter is enthroned, surrounded by an oval surmounted by an eagle, and he prepares to hurl a dart at small figures on the earth.

On Etruscan mirrors Jupiter is young, naked, with cloak, crown (garland), and perhaps a necklace. He stands with Uni (Juno), or with Lasa and Maris (Mars). Or he may sit, a robe wrapped around his legs, with Uni, Laran, Thalna and Maris. In his right hand a tall (2 m.) staff (disk at top), in his left, the bolt, arrow tipped on the bottom, wide trefoil on the top. He may be clean-shaved, or have a mustache alone, or a beard, no mustache, and long curling locks. (van der Meer 33, 110, 116; Wellard 143)

The form of the keraunos, which is virtually identical to the Tantric thunderbolt, the vajra or dorje sceptre (Butterworth, Tree 129-37), represents Zeus's dominion over the universe: the central orb is the earth, the upper point and the four surrounding tongues represents the four quarters of the heavens, and the lower point an its tongues represents the four rivers of the underworld. Four is, of course, the number of cosmic order and completeness, which is also reflected in this trump's Greek letter, Delta, which is the numeral four.

The keraunos, like the vajra sceptre, shows the basic pattern of the trumps. The one central orb (0.Fool) divides into the dual points (I.Magician, X.Fortune), which generates the eight tongues, which represent the first ogdoad (trumps II through IX). Likewise it represents the second ogdoad recombining into the second duality (XI.Old Man, XVI.Star), which merge into unity (XXI.World). (On the 1-2-8 pattern of the vajra sceptre, see Blofeld 99-103, 118)

The sceptre reminds us that the Emperor is Master of the Sceptre. The orb on top, as in the keraunos, represents earthly dominion. The orb surmounted by a Maltese cross, seen in many tarot Emperors, is here replaced by an orb surmounted by a spread-winged eagle, as is seen in classical representations of Zeus and Jupiter (e.g., Larousse 206).

Ebony, ivory and gold on the bronze throne represent the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms on earth, respectively. The throne is on a mountaintop to show both its spiritual exaltation, but also its remoteness from ordinary affairs (cf. Case 69). The ram, which is sacred to Zeus, is a symbol of the masculine creative force and intellect. Also, since Aries the Ram initiates the new year, it a symbol of rejuvenation, the renewal of solar energy. The ram heads are golden because Aries was the ram with the golden fleece. (Biedermann s.v. ram; Cooper s.v. Ram; cf. Case 66-7)

The color red symbolizes the Emperor's fiery nature. Likewise the Emperor's red eagle represents the alchemical tinctura rubea (red tincture), which has the solar nature of gold, as the white eagle of the Empress represents the tinctura alba (white tincture), which has the lunar nature of silver (Crowley 78). These are the goals of the Great Work: first the white tincture must be found, then the red, and finally they must be united (Jung, P&A 232; Silberer 368); this is the mating of Empress and Emperor to beget Temperance, who mixes the wine and water, the red and white tinctures (Silberer 122, 125).

The eagle is a variant of the uroboros, for it is said to devour its own wings and feathers (Jung, MC 144n, 445); it thus presages the resurrection of the Emperor. When that is accomplished, the earthly lion becomes volatile and is transformed into the eagle, representing the higher mental faculties, which will fly up - the spirit will soar - to receive the rays of the Sun (Jung, MC 4, 295, 323n; von Franz 14-5, 114-5). Although the eagle is a solar animal, it is a predator and reflects the shadow side of the Paternal Logos (Jung, MC 148). Old tarots, such as the Visconti-Sforza, Cary-Yale Visconti and Marseilles, show an imperial eagle with the Emperor.

The character of the Emperor corresponds to the Tetrad, which is the reduced isopsephos of two of his titles: O KRONIDHS (Ho Kronides, The Son of Kronos, i.e. Zeus) = 532, reducing to 2-3+5 = 4; and QEOS O ANDRWN KAI QEWN PATHR (Theos Ho Andron kai Theon Pater, God the Father of Men and Gods, i.e. Zeus) = 2743, reducing to 3-4+7-2 = 4. The Tetrad is the principle of stability, tranquility, of four-square, solid structure; the Pythagoreans call it Justice and Perfect Harmony. (TA 27-9; see also the meanings of Delta, above, and the Fours in the Minor Arcana)

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Last update: Mon Jun 7 16:44:35 EDT 1999