Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot, 1650, as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy (Photo: Camelia Elias)

If you saw these three cards on your table, the Emperor, Death, and the Tower, you wouldn’t think, ‘a light heart’. If the heart would be in the picture at all, it would more likely be heavy.

Let me explain.

The Emperor’s function is to rule imperially, issue edicts, strategize, conquer, and territorialize. He is the boss.

We all know bosses, and they are all alike in performing the above functions. If there’s a difference between bosses, then it’s one of application: some bosses abuse their power, some are indifferent to it, and some underscore the essential in it.

With this in mind, let’s look at these cards again.

What do we see? We see the Emperor in conversation with Death: ‘First you take their heads, and then I’ll go in there with my hammer and smash the house.’

Without a context for this reading, you’re now welcome to speculate about the Emperor’s motive for being so hard on everybody.

How about this idea?

If the Emperor performs his function correctly, he is bound to be interested in dealing with people who receive his rulership with a light heart.

Why is this important?

Imagine the opposite. You’re a ruler who leads from the heart, but the ones you lead resist you; they are closed off to your vision, and as if that’s not enough already, they also insist on not getting it.

So what do you do? Negotiate? Scrutinize your own motives to make sure your heart is in the right place, or make a deal with death to take away the stubborn identity?

In many esoteric texts dealing with the description of the Tower, you’ll find the association of the tower with identity and ego constructions.

Indeed, identity doesn’t exist other than as fiction in our heads, and the function of the ego is to make sure that we know our place.

When towers grow too narrow or too tall, the first thing that happens is that we lose our sense of situation and space. This is another way of saying that we experience our hearts as barred from seeing things as they are. With thick walls around our minds, acting according to our correct function is not possible.

With this in mind, think of the Emperor’s ability to territorialize. How about letting him conquer your head?

It’s easier to see the consequence of this if you have someone you truly worship, or someone who, once upon a time, has smashed your claims to crowns one by one to your great benefit and liberation.

For instance, there isn’t a single day that passes when I don’t read the words of the great master, Nisargadatta. I’m afraid of Nisargadatta. He sits on my dresser next to a bald Buddha, demanding black coffee and tobacco. I make offerings to him every day, and he responds with a question everyday: ‘Are you engrossed in concepts again? Fuck you’.

Some would say Nisargadatta is a great spiritual guru, but to me he is a great Emperor who lightens my heart. I start my day with answering him back: ‘I’m engrossed in concepts again, fuck me, amen.’

When Death clears the path under the able guidance of the ones who know just what death is, what you experience is a lightness of being, space in the head, zero burdens and worries, and vastness.

When you territorialize your head, you lighten your heart. Tarotizing with a hammer means getting rid of all belief. How light my heart. . .

Stay in the loop for cartomantic activities.

Check more deconstructed cards here too, for your sheer entertainment and delight.

About Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias, PhD, Dr.Phil., is a former university professor. After 20 years in the academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Lucy Peerenboom

    This lightened my heart!! However, when I pulled my own cards from my CBD deck, the Emperor faces away from Death and Tower, which feels very different from your Emperor, who faces them. I never realized this difference in the decks before.

  • Indeed, each deck has variations on the different cards, and it makes a lot of difference in terms of what we see and how we spontaneously respond to what we see. I’m glad it lightened your heart.