Arcanum IV, The Emperor, is called The Sovereign in Egyptian Tarot.  The number four is a symbol of containment. When four lines are combined, they form a box and four walls make a room.  The four winds and four directions define space on a larger scale.  The four elements describe our physical plane, the four seasons measure a year.  There are also four principals of magic, or manifestation, that we have briefly touched upon.  The four principals of magic are: Thought as represented by The Magician; Reception or Assimilation as represented by Veiled Isis; Action as represented by Isis Unveiled; and, finally, Manifestation or Realization, as represented by The Sovereign.  The key word for The Sovereign is Realization.  The Sovereign represents the final result of magic, the manifestation of a dream or quest.

In Egyptian Tarot, The Sovereign is ruled by Scorpio.  Scorpio rules the male sex organs and sexual drive, so further key words for this card are Desire, Magnetism, Creative Energy, Sexual Energy, and Control over Passions.  Like The Magician, he is masculine and poses with his right hand pointing up to gain insight from the inner plane and his left pointing to earth to manifest in accordance with Divine Will.  But The Sovereign is not standing before an altar nor is he dressed like a priest.  He is seated on a square throne, representing earth, and wears the beard and crown of a Pharaoh.  So, this is a more earthly representation of masculine energy. This card brings to mind the famous quote by John Dalberg-Acton who said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  With this quote in mind, The Sovereign’s pose could also quite easily be interpreted as right hand pointing up to show rulership and left hand pointing down to show subjugation over those he rules.

But to understand the deeper meaning of this card, it is important to remember that Scorpio is the only sign represented by two images, his lower form by the earthbound scorpion, and his higher form by the heavenly-soaring eagle.  To quote Frederick Goodman from Zodiac Signs, “…the degenerative Scorpionic is often given to anti-social behaviour, and to criminal activities, being a law unto himself: such a direction brings a sense of violence and intrique, rebellious-ness, cruelty, self-indulgence, and the like.”  He further writes, “… the regenerative scale is penetrating, inspirational, extreme, magnetic, intense, creative, shrewd, self-confident, masterful and healing.”  In other words, The Sovereign may represent someone who struggles to learn self-control or how to redirect passionate energy in a positive way. 

The Sovereign is wearing an Eagle on his chest, as does his consort, Isis Unveiled. So, once again, looking at his pose, his right hand pointing upward could represent awareness of the spiritual application of his desires, and his left hand pointing down could symbolize his use of energies to subjugate, control, or redirect physical desires in order that he may soar to new spiritual heights.  This concept of not repressing sexual energy, but redirecting it is the basis for Tantric sex, pagan ritualistic sex, and celibacy in connection with spiritual or religious quests.

Finally, the cat pictured on his throne symbolizes psychic ability because cats can see in the dark, implying an ability to see into the inner planes.  So, other key words for The Sovereign are:  Discipline, Order, the editing process of creativity, and psychic ability. 

The spiritual message of The Sovereign is: 

Remember, then, son of earth, that nothing can resist a firm will which has for a lever the knowledge of the true and just.  To combat in order to secure its realization is more than right; it is a duty.  The man who triumphs in that struggle only accomplishes his earthly mission; he who succumbs in devoting himself to it, gains immortality.  If the Sovereign should appear in the prophetic signs of they horoscope, it signifies that the realization of thy hopes depends upon a being more powerful than thyself.  Seek to know him and thou shalt have his support.  (The Sacred Tarot, by C. C. Zain) 

For more information and correspondences about The Sovereign, consult The Sacred Tarot by C. C. Zain available at



About letstalktarot

Allyn McCray began reading Tarot in 1971 after discovering a deck in an occult shop in San Francisco, California. In 1999, the American Tarot Association recognized her as a Certified Tarot Reader. During her experience as an Internet reader between 2000 and 2002, Allyn’s readings were regularly featured on the websites, Psychicnut and Roadtalk. In 2002, Allyn joined The Church of Light, aka Light.Org, a non-profit international school of esoteric studies, where she is now a Hermetician, Certified Teacher, and Minister. Allyn also serves as the Communications Director of The Church of Light and is a Section Advisor in The Order of the Sphinx.
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  1. leslie says:

    I love your insight!

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