Monday, March 22, 2010

Arcana. The emperor & Aries

Many western systems have tried to link tarot (the 22 major arcana), astrology, and kabbalah; this system has been called Qabalah and is different from the Kaballah with the latter being one of the many sources of the former. Some people say Qabalah is a much better system; other people say Kaballah is the real thing and Qabalah is a sorry placebo. I don’t want to enter that debate now, I just want to explore some of the correspondences because I find them useful.

The last part of each post will show examples that in my concept illustrates the sign/arcane correspondence. Some of them will be historical figures, many will be take from fiction. They are picked up as archetypical examples with no care if they have their birthday in the sign in the case of the historical figures.

There’s common agreement that Aries correspond to the arcane number 4, "The Emperor", which is odd: Aries are the zodiac infants and "The Emperor" is the patriarch of arcana. Why choose to link them? Because usually the Emperor, to become one, both in history as in myth, had to deploy virtues of Aries. And to keep the defects at bay because once in the throne a major danger was the temptation to behave like a spoiled brat...

The card

From an archetypal point of view it makes sense to make this arcane the fourth, but the designers of the deck did not even know the word “archetype”, let alone making a design following its meaning. So granted: using archetypes is an anachronism, but one that I find useful to introduce sense in the jungle of meanings and combinations of the cards. The first five arcana form a "court" where"The Magician" and "High Priestess" would be his advisors/Seers (maybe "The Magician" also represents the military), "The Empress" his wife and "The Hyerophant" represents the sustenance of the church.

Except themed tarot decks (feminists, animals etc.). "The Emperor" is an older crowned man on a throne, his costumes let have a glimpse of an armor. He usually has a scepter, which represents its ability to enforce its wishes, and a globe that shows his worldly / global power. Many decks include in this card head or ram's horns and an eagle, the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire. Another feature is that the throne is made of stone (in some cases it is a stone) located in some desert.

The card speaks of a king, a patriarch, a ruler, a tribal chief who is not in the office for dancing, dresses or palaces. He seems to be in colonizing campaign. This is very important in the symbol of "The Emperor": he is more a ruler who keeps order in a colony that is being formed, a new settlement that requires control and monitoring. "The Emperor" symbolizes civilization with all the good and evil.

Although “The Emperor” is the Freudian Father, he requires some characteristics of a child to perform his tasks, for if he spends too much time thinking over he would not undertake his campaigns. We already said that Aries is the infant of the zodiac: as “The Emperor” Aries is full of enthusiasm, stubbornness, energy and aggressiveness. He is direct, hates deception and in general is so easy to resist as a battering ram. Unfortunately, as baby may also be impatient, demanding and controlling.

"The Emperor” is the boss of the kings of the minor arcana and summarize them. He represents the peoples and the institutions that create, organize, defend, maintain and proclaim the structures that guarantee freedom, order and creativity through the common memory. The emperor is "the boss", "the man”, “the system” that guarantees the empire of the law because of his control over the repressive apparatus and the imposition of values he never let come into question. His energy is dedicated to one goal: the search for peace and stability so his people can grow and develop: his peace.

In readings this archetype speaks of authority, either to exercise it or to suffer it. He is responsible for validating but not care to be validated: he provides guidance and recognize the merits of others. Denotes logic, willpower, mental organization and the ability to think on a large scale a future plan. And above all, is an archetype of success: "The Emperor" will not be satisfied with nothing less than total success on his terms, at whatever cost. While all the archetypes need checks and balances to enhance their performance, “The Emperor” needs them to be conatined, not enhanced.
In the West the notion of empire comes from ancient Rome, where ironically there was no similar title. Neither "Caesar" nor "Augustus" nor "Imperator" was what we now mean by “Emperor”. The ancient Rome loved its republican traditions and hated the monarchy (Julius Caesar was assassinated for wanting to become "King of Rome") so they ended up with a man with absolute power while retaining the forms of a republic.

Throughout history, the archetype is recognized: empires come from power vacuums in chaos. With the promise of order and peace from a leader who seems strong everybody bow thinking that’s the lesser of two evils. Be a dynastic empire (China) or an elected one by an elite (Rome, the Aztecs) or legitimized by their connections with God (Byzantium) all empires are held together by a promise of peace born out of order. If history has taught us anything, it is an empire is magnificent in the hands of someone capable but a tragedy in the hands of an incompetent.

The Archetype

Examples of “The Emperor”, besides the obvious are:

Professor Francis Xavier and Magneto,

Leaders of both factions of the X-Men, each controlling in his own way his group, each convinced he is right without compromise. Although the writers strive to distinguish the "good guy" and "bad one" they are not that different.

Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in "The Godfather":

Not only is the head of his family but the great leader of the entire New York underworld. The film chronicles the rise of his crown prince and the attacks don Vito must suffer from those who aspire to his throne.

Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus "Lost":

Although this is a difficult character, Linus is the absolute leader of “the Others” and from that leadership the island society is born, where the word of Linus is final. His relationship with the newcomers apart (and the mysterious Dharma Initiative) Linus is the emperor of the inhabitants of the island and behaves ruthlessly with the strength that gives this post.

Brain in "Pinky and the Brain"

Although a cartoon The Brain is a megalomaniac mouse who has the fixity of a wild emperor with unusual but definitely wasted gifts.

Finally, the father of Palpatine from Star Wars, recognized by the George Lucas himself as the emperor par excellence of the twentieth century. Many of his features survive in some characters even though the current generation has not heard of Ming the Merciless, Flash Gordon's arch-enemy, the most popular science fiction character in the first half of the twentieth century. He has had several editions (the last for 2007-2008 by Sci-Fi Channel, when he resembled Saddam Hussein), the soundtrack was made by Queen for the 1980 film, the best rock band of all time ... Granted, not their best song, but what can I do? Is the one useful for the post!

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