The Emperor and The Hierophant

The appearance of either The Emperor or The Hierophant in spreads often brings up strong reactions because they are about structure and control.

I have said before that the major arcana charts the soul’s journey and, following the burst of immeasurable potential for life and creativity represented in the cards that come before these two, it seems that we now hit a pair of spiritual stop signs. Both are often talked about in terms of authority.

The Emperor is the daddy of the pack – and a firm daddy at that – and The Hierophant represents authority on a collective level. But it doesn’t take too big a stretch to understand that any degree of potential needs containing and grounding so that it can achieve its full expression and that part of what we’re here to learn is how to express our individuality within the confines of groups and social institutions.

The Emperor

Love him or hate him he is the archetypal father figure. How you feel about this card is very much to do with how you feel about your father or dominant parent (sometimes the emperor can be your mother if she had the power at home).

The Emperor is the masculine counterpart to The Empress. With The Emperor, you’re talking power and all of the issues that surround it. In itself, power is neutral. The Emperor’s qualities means that he has the courage to wield it wonderfully, pushing us to successes and achievements on a dizzying scale.

His shadow means that he can become rigid and autocratic and use that same power to dominate without any care for reason or compassion. He is your lover, your father and sometimes he is you (regardless of what sex you are).  If you are attracted to older, powerful lovers who are a bit controlling, you will fall in love with him instantly.

If you’re a wild child who hates order, you might kick and scream all the way – but he holds a necessary wisdom.

In a Reading

In a reading, The Emperor usually means we’re running up against a harsh, masculine authority, either in someone else or within ourselves as we contain yang and yin. We’re being asked to learn how to softly and creatively work with authority.

It often comes up in a reading for people who have a powerful, rigid and controlling lover. It can mean it is time to set your own boundaries but it can also mean that you need to check that you are not being too bossy or dogmatic yourself!. Too little Emperor and we flounder around in grand visions but nothing actually gets done.

Too much and we’re held in so tightly that we can’t move in any direction. The only way forward is to integrate what he has to offer.

Emperor Magic

The Emperor’s magic is that he gives you the permission to say no. If you feel that someone has been stepping over your boundaries or pushing you around, use the power of the Emperor to make a stand.

He has his sceptre and his sword. Think about the way he is resting on the sword – relaxed but ready for action if he needs to be. Burn some frankincense – used for cleansing and psychic protection and the incense of Kings – and become aware of your own inner power.

If you are lacking strength and have to say no to someone, put The Emperor in your back pocked and ask for his strength to protect you and enable you to be firm. 
Get to know your Yang side and, just like Beyonce does in her song ‘if i were a boy’, ask yourself, what kind of man would you be?

Look around at your relationships with men – are they the sort of men you want in your life? How would they be if they were a woman?


I am confident and sturdy, I set my own boundaries and am safe.

The Hierophant

If The High Priestess reveals our psychic abilities and The Magician shows us that we can use esoteric powers to manifest our desires, The Hierophant  is that stage in the journey when spirituality and magic are channelled the creation of social institutions.

He’s clearly a religious figure and, in these days of declining church attendance, he can seem stuffy, old and out of touch.

That says more about us than it does about him. He appears in a reading to gently remind us that, he’s there to help us move forward on in our personal journey by developing whatever potential gives us bliss through study or learning. He’s also there to remind us that groups work best when there are rules and that these can both hold us back and help us live in harmony with others.

In a Reading

This card indicates some kind of contact or dealings with an institution. It can also suggest that it is time for you to think about further education and trusting in your own ability to create through making a bit more order in your life. Have you been leaving things until the last minute or trying to get away with dodging the rules? This card helps you examine your integrity and understand that through structuring your life a bit more you gain more freedom – not less.

The Heirophant Meditation

If you’re having trouble studying or losing faith in your intellectual ability, just look at the Heirophant and see the crossed keys in front of him.   Structure has the key to unlocking your potential.  Don’t doubt your brilliance – go for it.  Sign up for a course or look out for someone who can teach you whatever it is you want to learn.


I embrace universal wisdom and am open to learning.

Article first published in Spirit and Destiny magazine

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