Children view their parents as archetypes, the Father and the Mother. Father is traditionally seen as more remote than the mother, stricter. The father has authority, and is therefor the judge, the father that punishes, teaches the rules of society and demands obedience.
For the child the father is a symbol of society, as the mother represents nature.
Part of the painful aspect of maturing is when we realise that our parents are limited, they are human.
The Emperor represents the laws and structure of society, and the force that makes them work.
In the ancient times, when Goddess was ruling, the king had a special function. Since new life could only come through death, every Winter the old king was sacrificed, and very often divided into pieces and planted in the soil. Later when the patriarchal religion and society prevailed, the king was seen as a symbol of what had conquered what they perceived as the chaotic darkness of the past.
In his best aspect, the Emperor stands for stability that makes sure that in society each person can focus on individual development and needs. Nature is chaotic, so without structure we would all have to fight for survival. Stability also allows spiritual development.
In his more negative aspect, the Emperor symbolises the unjust and corrupt laws that favour stability over morality.
The Emperor is not spontaneous like the Empress, he is dressed in armour, illustrating sterility in a life that is void of emotions, ruled by laws.
Through law, he is ruling over life and death, and is linked with Aries. Aries stands for power, aggression and war, but also the growing life after Winter, emerging after stability in a just society.
The Emperor symbolises a great trial, and our struggle to come to terms with the rules of society.
In a reading the Emperor stands for a period of stability in life, hopefully as an opening of creative energy. The card can also point to a specific person with power in relation to you. This person can be the father, husband, a boss or a lover. This card is very relevant to everyone that gives up the ruling of one’s life to a father figure, and becomes unfulfilled and dwarfed.