Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Emperor: the good, bad, and scary

The Emperor
Concepts about The Emperor of Tarot can easily be associated with, or extracted from, what historians have written about the governments of early Roman Emperors. Their diligent and industrious city planning was exemplified in the design of Roman cities, and the layout of roads and streets. Roman rule consisted of a constitution, king, a senate with a lot of power, and an assembly of publicans. Modeled on this system, our own US government is set up in much the same way.

The general meaning of The Emperor in a Tarot reading is a person who has authority; a leader who may be the head of government with the power to set things in order and to declare war. The Empire is larger than a kingdom and may include many territories and other countries. An Emperor takes precedence over kings and, in the past, there have been many famous Emperors, both good and bad, wielding power over the citizens.

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings
…the die is cast.” Julius Caesar, Shakespeare

After the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., by Brutus and Cassius, his adopted son, Octavius became the first Roman Emperor known as Caesar Augustus.  All this has been made famous of course by Shakespeare in the play “Julius Caesar.” In 27 B.C., Octavian instituted Imperial Rome and the senate was then considered a secondary power. The Empire covered the countries we now know as Italy, Spain, France, Greece, England, Lebanon and Syria, Turkey and North Africa. It did not include Germania, or the countries east of the Rhine and Danube Rivers. Eventually in 313 A.D., Constantine became the first Christian Emperor who then established a new capital in Istanbul, which became Constantinople. There were many other Emperors in between, some good, and others that were very bad. Most of the Roman Empire ended by the 5th century when Italy was overrun by the Goths and Vandals. Later, there was the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) and the Napoleon Empire (1804-1815).
(Reference: The Ancient World, Thomas W. Africa, University of Southern California, 1967)

How does one describe a so-called “good” Emperor” versus a “bad” Emperor? The known tyrannical, violent, Roman Emperors were Caligula (37-41 A. D.) and Nero (56-68 A.D.) Emperors who worked for the betterment of society were Trajan (98-117 A.D.) and Hadrian (117-138 A.D.).  There have been many Emperors since, both good and bad.

The Good
The qualities of a good Emperor are expressed in the ability to create reliable and stable governance based on creating order and structure. This is achieved through fairness and well thought out leadership. Like a strong Father, he expresses compassion, patience, and benevolence in making wise decisions for the good of society. In Roman times, these Emperors were known for their courage and responsibility, and allowing the constituents of each country to basically govern themselves and practice their own religions without a strict overlay of rules and regulations.

The Bad
Ship of Fools Tarot
These are arrogant and ruthless Emperors drunk on power, who are conquerors trying to gather more empire through war, plunder, and destruction. They rule by fear and tyranny of underlings; use censorship and suppression of critics, dispense misinformation, and have a disregard for rule of law. In Rome, they were overriding the decisions of the senate. The bad Emperors were domineering dictators and tyrants crazed by the corruption of power and had no moral parameters.  More recent despots like Napoleon (1769-1821) and Hitler (1889-1945) come to mind. Traits to look for in the bad Emperor consists of their use of propaganda and censorship to control information; vilifying unwanted populations and, in Hitler’s case, resorting to murder and genocide in the form of an authoritarian, fascist regime. In the extreme, these leaders engaged in war and military takeover of land and other countries. They were unpredictable and had the urge to overpower everyone by bullying and threatening punishment while playing on the weaknesses of others.

This type of Emperor is generally followed by a group of dutiful “yes men,” which recalls Hans Christian Anderson’s story of The Emperor’s New clothes. The story was about 2 weavers who were “con-men,” who convince the Emperor that they can make magical clothing, and when viewed by his constituents, the clothes will become invisible if those workers are not fit for their jobs and they will be fired. The Emperor’s minister goes to look at the weaver’s progress and sees nothing on the looms. But as he fears reprisal and loss of his job, he lies and tells the Emperor how beautiful the clothes are. Then when the Emperor parades in his so-called “new clothes,” the public cheers him on.  He doesn’t see anything either, but thinks he will also lose his job when the public sees the invisibility of the clothes. But when a child in the crowd says, “He doesn’t have any clothes on,” the whole population, who were afraid to question his judgement and criticize him, now recognized the reality of the situation. He became the laughingstock of the people.

The moral of the story is - question everything and tell the truth. Lies and obfuscation can’t be covered up - eventually, every lie gets exposed.