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Thursday, 20 December 2012

King of the World

Arthurian Tarot, 1990
Today I finish work at 4.30, then I am off until next Friday! King of the world indeed. :)

Our last card from the Arthurian Tarot, Aquarian Press 1990, is Arthur, The Emperor. I'm not sure why a lot of people dislike the Emperor card. I've always liked him both in concept and in art, for most decks. Unless the deck creator is one of those who don't like him, and have made him into a negative image.

The Emperor is the card of authority, power and paternal figures. He represents the civilizing qualities of mankind -- organized systems of government, social heirarchy, systems of commerce, economies, agriculture and so on. Anything that requires organization, leadership and decision-making. The Emperor is the one in charge of all these systems. Gender roles, family roles, societal roles, work roles -- all these exist because of the organizing factors of the Emperor.

In the movie 'Camelot', we see King Arthur using these qualities. 'Proposition,' he says, 'Everyone knows that might makes right. Wrong or right, they have the might, so wrong or right, they're always right, but that's wrong -- right?' He then proposes to try something new. 'Not might makes right, but might FOR right.' And thus is born the civilizing order of the Round Table.

The Emperor rules firmly but can seem cold and inflexible, because he does what he must do to preserve his realm and protect his people. This may mean making unpopular decisions or seeming (and even being) overbearing or heavy handed. When in the same film Arthur discovers Lancelot and Guinevere are having an affair, he is hurt but does not descend into animal vengeance and anarchy, though he is tempted to: 'I love them and they answer me with pain and torment. Be it sin or not sin, they betray me in their hearts and that's far sin enough. I can feel it in their eyes, I can feel it when they speak, and they must pay for it and be punished. I shall not be wounded and not return it in kind! I'm through with feeble hoping! I demand a man's vengeance! [Calming down] Proposition: I'm a king, not a man. And a civilized king. Could it possibly be civilized to destroy what I love? Could it possibly be civilized to love myself above all? What of their pain and their torment? Did they ask for this calamity? Can passion be selected?' And so, he uses systems of logic to control himself and come to an answer, to see things from their point of view.

Though he might wish to be merciful, the law, with all its force for good, for 'Might for Right', demands something of him, and so he chooses the lesser sentence: banishment for Lancelot, retirement to a convent for Guinevere. Even though the old school of 'Might makes Right' would surely have seen them both dead.

And that for me is the Emperor. He creates systems that are not perfect, but that have ideals, and overall, work for the good.

May any power I have today be used to the good. And may I be on the receiving end of mercy from those with power over me.

Mantra: Om nama shivaya

Flower essence: Vervain (For those who may overstrive for perfection, enthusiastic in their views, who wish to change the world or the way people think. A moderation of the force of one's personality)


  1. Strangely, what strikes me with this is how much our reaction to the Emperor may have to do with our feelings towards our fathers. I remember the whole King of Cups discussion we had. Likewise, I'm none too keen on the heavy-handedness of someone who always thinks they're right. But I can really see what you're saying about the King Arthur archetype (bitter irony that my father was called Arthur).

    I also giggled at your description of Vervain ;)

  2. I agree with the father thing. I adored and admired my father, and so anything described as 'paternal' automatically gets a positive reaction from me.