Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols by Robert V. O'Neill The Emperor

The Emperor

Square DaisWestcottVachetta
Stone ThroneWestcottT d Mantegna
Ram HeadsWestcott
CrownWestcottT de MarseilleT d Mantegna
Red White Stones in CrownWestcottVachetta
TrefoilGebelinVievilleCary Sheet
ElderlyT de MarseilleT d Mantegna
White BeardT de MarseilleT d Mantegna
Body ArmorParisianCary Sheet
Armored LegsParisianV di Madrone
Uncrossed LegsWestcottParisianVisconti-Sforza
Red TunicVieville
Red RobeT de Marseille
Hands on ThroneFelkinDellarocca
OrbWestcottVachettaT d Mantegna
No ShieldWestcottVachettaT d Mantegna


  1. Mountain/River - Like the Fool card, the harsh mountains may suggest the long treacherous journey ahead. This is the second river from the Garden of Eden. The mountains and river may also suggest that the Emperor rules over more austere aspects of nature, to complement the reign of the Empress.

  2. Ram on shoulder and throne - This card is assigned to Aries in the Golden Dawn system. The color of Aries is red and may explain the scarlet cloak.

  3. Waite probably associated the Emperor with the alchemical King, depicted as a bearded man enthroned with scepter and orb (Fig 9, The Book of Lambspring from Waite’s Hermetic Museum). This is reinforced by the white and red stones in the crown - white and red being the fundamental, antithetical ingredients in alchemy (Waite: The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelly, p 51). The same theme of red/white is seen in the roses and lilies on the Magician card. So this may be another hint toward the Rosicrucian/Alchemical underpinnings of Waite’s system.

Based on original research by Robert V. O'Neill. To add to this collection of information, please email Robert V. O'Neill.

The Fool
The Magician
The High Priestess
The Empress
The Emperor
The Hierophant
The Lovers
The Chariot
The Hermit
Wheel of Fortune
The Hanged Man
The Devil
The Tower
The Star
The Moon
The Sun
The World
Introduction to Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols

Additional Tarot History Resources Related to
Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols

Holly's Rider-Waite Site A. E. Waite
The Hermitage: A Tarot History Site Villa Revak