The Emperor's Old Clothes
Queer Tarot, pt 5
Hello if you're new here! (Though I seem to be picking up a few regulars, followers and subscribers). This is a series where the unique perspectives of LGBTQIA+ people are turned towards the Tarot cards, to see if we can unlock some extra levels of meaning.
As always, quickly for those who didn't know: Tarot is a series of numbered images added to a deck of playing cards, depicting a journey - The Fool, as seen above, is the one taking the journey - and its modern form is used to help us on our inner, spiritual journey - as a fortune telling tool or as inspiration for meditation. What's now considered the standard traditional deck design was drawn by a biracial and bisexual lady named Pamela (Pixie) Colman Smith, which got me thinking what her unique way of looking at life through her own lens might have added to the meaning of the deck. So I've been asking questions in LGBTQIA+ groups, and Tarot groups, comparing the answers, and collecting them into these articles. What's written below is a whole variety of other people's opinions, my only personal input is to edit them together into a coherent article, without imposing my thoughts over what they want to say about the cards, or feel that the cards say to them.
In particular, this time, the next card in the sequence, known as the Emperor.
This is one of the cards that seems at first glance very binary gender specific. But essentially the Emperor is about mastery of oneself, one's environment, self control and control of others. Navigating the temporal world. This person is where they are due to a combination of innate ability, circumstance of birth, and unstinting effort. They are respected by the community for these reasons. Their sceptre is a symbol of authority. Empowerment; leadership; security; the boss; taking on responsibility; a strong helping hand. The real "binary" thing about it is, whether all of the above is done in a kind and loving way, or dictatorial.
But there's a different perspective, too, of what an "Emperor" archetype conveys, to those of us who break down the barriers that things like gender have ordinarily had put in front of us. When we're seeing patronage, gender and similar things that apply to the Emperor, as merely social constructs, what does his meaning then become?
One person said he looks uncomfortable on the throne. This is not a place he wants to be. Another called him hot-headed, quick to judge, but loyal to those he loves. A third said, a just ruler, but guilty about something. In the traditional image you can see him side eyeing, like "I hope they never find out".
He's the establishment; routine; the stoic mentality of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"; while keeping his gaze securely focused away from what is broken. Hoping the ideal of the sceptre in his hand still holds enough power to hold back what he perceives as being so dark, he won't look at it. But there's progress - in the traditional image you can see the chair being chipped away; see the age overtaking. He's the last bastion of the old age, with all the fear that entails.
One person saw the background colours of the landscape on the card as molten lava, swelling up behind him to swallow up the white supremacist patriarchy. And, they said, he's just annoyed assuming that somehow he will get out of this mess without consequences, the way the rest of his life has been. Impostor syndrome and overcompensation as a result; hiding behind grand flexes and established brags.
"Trump vibes", said another. Basically white patriarchy - terrified paranoia of attacks that aren't there; but only looking to the side (where his equals would be) rather than down and around where the lands are rising against him. He has all the power but assumes everyone wants to take the throne, so he can't relax and sees attacks coming that aren't there. At the same time, they said he 's not doing anything about it, because he thinks he's shielded by virtue of who he is.
The Emperor has his hands full. This doesn't usually apply to the Kings and Queens of the Tarot.
"Uneasy is the head at wears the crown"!
What's funny is, that one of the things that best sums up everything about the Emperor, is the conversation itself about LGBTQIA+ perspectives on the Tarot cards, that happened in one of the threads where I got all this from. One person who replied - this was in a group where all manner of different spiritual paths are welcome to discuss - was confused and frustrated by my insistence that (a) we all learn Tarot in different ways, and (b) that LGBTQIA+ people had unique perspectives on things, that heterosexual or cisgender people might not, because of the different way of the world they grew up in. We all start with a guidebook, they insisted. LGBTQIA+ people have the same brains as the rest of us, they insisted. That's a very "Emperor" way of thinking: read the instructions and follow them. Take your place on the starting line and wait for the bang. That has its place, sometimes - we all need to listen to medical advice; we all need some kind of education; those kinds of basic foundations. But we all need to build our own structure on those foundations; we all need the instructions given to us in our own language; We all need different kinds of training to get us ready to run the race. We need to know those taking care of us, really care about us; we all need to be allowed to flourish in the areas where we're gifted, not forced into the box of keeping up with the other kids. And no one knows that better than people of other races, and other sex identities, than those the straight white ruling class of our society recognise or respect - people just like Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith. We can only imagine what she was thinking when she had to design a card that made its readers willing to take the advice of an imperial masculine figurehead. Maybe that's why he looks so powerful yet so uncomfortable at the same time.
"It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it... anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." (Douglas Adams)
(If you'd like your own online Tarot reading done, looking at your cards from the perspectives I've talked about, you can send me a message by clicking Here. To join an LGBTQIA+ Tarot group on bookface click Here)