The Emperor

This is the fifth-to-last week of Pop Tarot? What the fuck? To my deep pleasure, the last minute guest posts are still coming in, and on Friday I’ll send you a piece by Isaac Fellman (who also wrote the very first Pop Tarot guest post a little over a year ago!). His piece on The Emperor and The Terror is full of mic drops and has possibly my favorite lede in all of Pop Tarot.


Try telling him the subtle difference/ Between justice and contempt. “I have a positive relationship with The Emperor, actually, so it’s fine and great that it’s next in my Wheel of the Year,” I say, choosing only protest songs to include here. (For those playing along at home, it’s reversed in my Wheel, which makes it worse, somehow.) The Emperor is big Authority. I think of it as very tied to The Hierophant. If The Hierophant is the Church, The Emperor is a priest. Not the institution itself, but the person that stands in for it. The Emperor is a little confusing in this regard. Does ze wield actual power, or is ze more of a figurehead? Even if ze isn’t a figurehead, ze’s a very public figure. Everyone know their name, and everyone’s got an opinion. But how much this is based on The Emperor herself, an individual creature, and how much is The Emperor, the title, is a trickier concept.


Wrote a song for everyone/ Wrote a song for truth/ Wrote a song for everyone/ And I couldn't leave it/ Up to you. The thing I have the most trouble with in all of tarot is differentiating between the Kings and The Emperor. They’re all single leaders with a bird’s eye view, responsible for an entire community full of mutually exclusive needs. But the Kings are the end of a cycle, and The Emperor is very early. The Emperor has a ton of ideas, and no context. He’s actually very good at understanding what people need, and at making it happen. But The Emperor was raised with privilege, and does not always yet understand that the thing that’s best for the greatest number of people often is not the most ethical thing, and that in fact it often makes things worse for marginalized people. 

There’s that Tweet that goes around every so often that says “I don’t know how to explain to people that they should care about other people.” The Emperor is the person to be explained to. Once they figure it out, they actually do care, genuinely, and are willing and able to make material change to improve things. But he’s not going to do the research on his own. And he’s going to ask a lot of obnoxious questions until it finally clicks. Like most people, The Emperor doesn’t like being wrong, and things have to be framed very carefully for him to engage positively. 


Let's pretend/ We're just two people and/ You’re not better than me/ I’d like to/ Ask you some questions if we can/ Speak honestly. The challenge of The Emperor is also closely tied into the challenge of The Hierophant. (Or, the challenge of The Emperor for people who dislike or distrust or are in some way wary of authority.) With The Hierophant, it’s about trying to find yourself in systems, seeing how you work in them and they work in you. What happens if you don’t dismiss them out of hand? With The Emperor, it’s a little harder. Person and system get confused. You may love someone who chooses to be part of a shitty system, or you may hate someone personally who you need to deal with in order to access or be part of a pretty cool system. The Emperor asks you to try to differentiate between person and idea. What are you projecting? What power does this person actually have? How are your interactions with them colored by your relationship with the system they represent? I am not in the mood to write a piece about The Emperor and transference, but someone should.


Tramp The Dirt Down, Elvis Costello

Wrote A Song For Everyone, Mavis Staples

Dear Mr. President, P!nk feat. The Indigo Girls 


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