The Emperor & Year 2020: What Does It Mean?

You probably heard in tarot circles that 2020 is the year of The Emperor. If you add together the numbers in 2020, you get 4, which is the number of the grey-bearded, stern looking father-figure of the tarot. But what exactly does it mean that this year will be colored by the energies of The Emperor and their red robes? This tarot archetype, often associated with themes such as authority and political power, as the setter of a year-long journey may not feel like a breath of fresh air. We may prefer an Empress year, thank you very much. But like all other cards of the tarot, The Emperor brings divinely-sourced medicine and its share of important lessons. Join me as I explore what The Emperor can mean for humanity for Year 2020 while in the company of some potent-minded tarot thinkers, who gracefully shared their 2020 opinions with Mantis Tarot.

The Ground of Alexandria

A couple of nights ago, I was watching a documentary that followed a passionate archaeologist as she looked for Alexander the Great’s tomb underneath the city of Alexandria in modern-day Egypt. Her team dug around areas of interest, removing millennia worth of sediment, and washing off more recent construction, until they reached the very floor of the ancient city. The ground, they found, was made up of huge cubes of rock, like stony thrones upon which an entire civilization was built. The blocks, each with worn-out four corners, stood out for me as symbols of The Emperor. But to reach that bottommost platform, there was a lot of digging. There was a lot of old stuff to unearth. There was mud, and there were tears.

While the archaeologist didn’t find the Macedonian king’s tomb on that round, that story matched so well with some insights I gained from my recent Reading for Humanity for the Year 2020. The main card for that reading was the King of Pentacles, the earth king, that in the Luminous Void Tarot‘s depiction shows a benevolent figure reaching down and lovingly moving the soil from which a garden emerges. That reading helped me understand that this year, for many of us, will be about doing deep groundwork, and removing from the ground whatever rocks, weeds and junk are keeping the soil of our lives from growing abundantly. In a pass of tarot magic, our year card, The Emperor, showed up on that reading as well– as what to Release. What does releasing The Emperor entail? It means shaking off the years-old layers of dust, and the burdens of oppression, so that our true Ground may be found. From there, we can build stable structures upon our lives again.

The Emperor for 2020 is a leveling and a restart. After all, this card is ruled by Aries, the sign of a new beginning in the cycle of the zodiac. This is the Big Bang that gives rise to the Cosmos. This is an unapologetic birth. Related thus to the Fire element, The Emperor connects us to pure Spirit, and to the sense of order and structure that pervades the universe. This year invites us to take down our flimsy foundations, and to build while connected to the true Ground of Being. We leave behind our fundamental lies, our outgrown beliefs, our comfortable half-truths, our modes of being that are not in accordance to the good of all life and all beings. Whereas The Emperor has been linked to the patriarchy; to oppressive political authority; and destructive worldly systems; we reclaim that power. The Emperor invites us to step into our utmost power, by being directly tapped into the true spiritual Ground, and in doing so, protecting and bringing stability to a world in the verge of chaos.

In the years following 2020, we will be going through a journey of 6 sequential tarot cards and their respective sequential zodiac signs. After The Emperor and Aries; our cosmic curriculum will take us from The Hierophant to The Hermit–from Taurus through Virgo. Those lessons will require our utmost strength. But now, in preparation, we are creating a solid, rock-like, bad-ass of a foundation. As the stony floor of Alexandria has stood the test of time, so will our work this year carry us through the eras of our lives.

The Wisdom

In this spirit of collective rebuilding, I asked some very potent readers that I know for their opinions on what The Emperor means for 2020. Here is what they had to share. A heartfelt thanks to them for sharing their wisdom with us for this article.

“Breathe into the ancient wisdom of your body. Honor the sacredness of the land. As the world around you agitates, come back to your deeper knowings. You can find this in the wisdom of a tree, or in the medicine of a canyon.”

~ Jeff Hinshaw, tarot philosopher and host of the Cosmic Cousins podcast @cosmic.cousins (astrology) / @brooklyntarot (tarot)

Each and every one of us, in our own way, is building an empire.  Think of the shade a giant Oak provides, think of its deep roots, the tiny nooks and crannies that host all various forms of life— you are this great tree.  Your very life is an ecosystem that others depend on. A tree doesn’t apologize or ask permission, a tree simply grows because to not grow would be a type of death. This is the year you claim the full scope of the space you have always occupied. This is the year you make your sovereignty known, first to your own heart and then the wider world. You have a right to be here, in a big beautiful way. And this year we will all come to glimpse the wide reaching value of living our biggest lives.

~ Brandon Alter, co-host of The Spiritual Gayz podcast @thebrandonalter / @thespiritualgayz 

“The Emperor can symbolize protection, security, and power. In its positive sense, this can indicate taking care of each other and using our power for good. For example, we can work to protect Mother Earth, or we can ensure that we eradicate poverty. If every being has access to a dignified, healthy, secure life, then the realm is safe – and we all benefit.

In its lower vibe, the Emperor becomes the dictator, someone who is hellbent on absolute control. Instead of looking out for the collective, the focus is on “what’s in it for me” and ego. This could lead to the rise of authoritarianism. As the saying goes “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We must guard against this.

Which means we must stand in our power as individuals and members of the collective to combat corruption, tyranny, and greed. We must channel the protective nature of the Emperor and do the right thing for ALL. When we do that, the world is a better place.

~ Theresa Reed, The Tarot Lady @thetarotlady /

When I see the Emperor as the collective beacon card for 2020, I see an opportunity for all of us to do some necessary restructuring on both the individual and collective levels. With 2019 being Hanged Man, I believe we were spending time in some stagnancy and really getting to stop and see things for what they really are. Now, with this Emperor energy, it’s time to make methodical and necessary changes to the supports in our lives.

In practice, this can look like setting boundaries, making choices that honor yourself first, and assessing and making changes to the structures that support you. It can also mean really seeing the web of conflicting wants, needs, emotional drives, and the desires of others that you are caught in and working to untangle yourself. We are all building foundations for the future and it strikes me as a really important year to focus on whatever that means to each of us as individuals, as well as what that means for us all as a collective.

~ Weston, host of Root Lock Radio @rootlocktarot and

“The Emperor makes me think of us stepping up into leadership. Restructuring our lives for a rebirth. This new structure is rooted in self disciple and self will. Determined to live in authenticity, the Aries energy embodied in The Emperor is about embracing your individuality. The ankh in The Emperor card stands out like a collective rebirth.”

~ Clementine Chloë, “The Cardi B of Tarot” @bigempressenergy

“The Emperor has a dark side which we don’t really like to talk about that much. We prefer to see him as a benevolent sovereign, providing for the needs of his people, protecting and offering them stability. However, he can also represent violence – after all, the zodiac sign related to this card is Aries, which is associated with Mars, planet of war. Under the light of the most recent geopolitical news, it seems legitimate to think of this year as a time of tension between big nations (empires) that pride themselves on their military power… Let’s keep watching the news and see where this whole situation is leading to!”

~ Victor Faro, Brazilian tarot reader at Il Faro Tarot @il.faro.tarot

“I really think the emperor is going to show up as individuals stepping into their power, honoring and speaking their message alongside, and with joined hands to others who have their own unique message and power to share. What I see when I think of 2020 is a vast mountain range. Each mountain unique in its size and shape, joins with some but not others, but holding strong in its space in this vast range.”

~ Cedar Taylor, artist, astrologer, tarot, and akashic record reader @cedar.taylor

Blessings of a 2020 full of holy restructuring and empowered action to you! Thank you for being here.