Who are the Emperor and the Lovers?


Who is the Emperor? The Emperor is a portrayal of the constellation Cepheus, the Ethiopian King. His story is connected with the Empress, who is seen in the constellation Cassiopeia. (See the “Who is the Empress” post for a focus on Cassiopeia.)

The Empress, the Emperor, and the Lovers cards portray the Royal Family of the heavens and are also pictured in the Court Cards. Cepheus is the Emperor of the Tarot and Cassiopeia is the Empress.

The story of the Royal Family has been told in myth and legend since the time of the poet Ovid. Although there are several versions of the myth, it has become a favorite for many centuries. The royal family of the heavens is seen in the Tarot.

Cepheus was a legendary king of Ethiopia, and accompanied the Argonauts on their adventure in search for the Golden Fleece. Upon his return to his kingdom he sought out the most beautiful woman in the land and married her.

The name of the Queen was Cassiopeia, and she was more beautiful than any of the women in the kingdom, but she was soon to become vain and arrogant. In time she had a daughter who was named Andromeda and who was also known for her great beauty. Cassiopeia became so filled with vanity that she claimed that she and her daughter were more beautiful than the Nereids, who were the sea-nymph daughters of the sea-god Poseidon and the sea-goddess named Doris.

The Nereids complained to their father who rose up from the sea in anger and lifted his great trident high and then plunged it down creating an earthquake that shook the boulders away from the cavern that the sea monster Cetus was trapped within. Poseidon released the sea monster and commanded it to attack the harbors and shores in revenge for the vain claim made by the Queen Cassiopeia.

All of the kingdom was in terror and King Cepheus in desperation consulted the Oracle named Ammon who said that only by the sacrifice of the princess Andromeda could the kingdom be saved by chaining her naked to a rock as an offering to Cetus.

In great sorrow, the King Cepheus had his daughter Andromeda chained to a rock by the shore of the sea to await her cruel fate. The King and Queen waited for the sea-monster Cetus to appear from the depths and devour their beautiful daughter in order to placate the Nereids and the sea-god Poseidon.

Meanwhile the hero Perseus was returning after slaying the Medusa. He was riding the winged horse Pegasus and had a magical sword, shield, and helmet as well as the horrifying head of the Medusa in a leather pouch. The Medusa head could turn any living being to stone if they should see it. Looking down from above Perseus saw the lovely Andromeda chained to the rock, and instantly he was determined to rescue her.

He saw King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia standing on a cliff nearby, so he made a hasty landing there and learned the story about Cassiopeia's boast and the consequences of it. Suddenly he struck a deal with the grieving parents: Perseus would have Andromeda's hand in marriage and also a kingdom in return for rescuing their beautiful daughter.

The king and queen quickly agreed so Perseus jumped upon Pegasus and took off toward Andromeda and the sea-monster. As he neared the rock where Andromeda was crying in despair, the sea-monster Cetus emerged from the depths and was about to devour Perseus and his flying horse Pegasus in one gulp. A fierce battle between Perseus and the sea-monster then ensued.

Perseus quickly removed the Medusa's head from his pouch and being careful not to look at the face he held it up for the sea-monster to see. The sea-monster Cetus was immediately turned to stone.

Perseus then freed Andromeda from her chains and the two suddenly fell in love. Perseus later won a battle with Phineus, the brother of Cepheus, over Andromeda. Perseus and Andromeda were married and had a son named Perses who inherited Cepheus' throne.

As a lesson to humanity, Poseidon placed the four characters of the Royal Family in the northern sky.

As a further punishment and a blow to her pride, Cassiopeia was placed in a chair that appears to be upside down with her feet in the air in relation to the North Pole. In that uncomfortable position she spins giddily around. Queen Cassiopeia appears in the constellation Cassiopeia and in the Tarot cards as the Empress.

King Cepheus appears in the constellation Cepheus and in the Tarot cards as the Emperor.

Perseus and Andromeda appear in the constellations Perseus and Andromeda and in the Tarot cards as the Lovers.

Poseidon placed the winged-horse Pegasus in the northern sky, but placed Cetus the sea monster in the southern celestial sky.
King Cepheus became the model for the King cards. Queen Cassiopeia became the model for the Queen cards. Perseus became the model for the Knights and Andromeda became the model for the Pages or equivalent.

- Cartomancer (Lance Carter)

Wikipedia link to the constellation Cepheus:

"Cepheus is a constellation in the northern sky. It is named after Cepheus, King of Aethiopia in Greek mythology. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy,"

"He was married to Cassiopeia and was the father of Andromeda, both of whom are immortalized as modern day constellations along with Cepheus."
"Cepheus is most commonly depicted as holding his arms aloft, praying for the gods to spare the life of Andromeda. He is also depicted as a more regal monarch sitting on his throne." -Wikipedia

Constellations of Words website:
"Cepheus the Ethiopian King" page
"Cepheus is a crowned king in royal robes, whose foot is planted on the Pole star (Polaris). On the Farnese globe (2nd century A.D.) he is depicted in the garb of a tragic actor. He was the son of Belus (Belos), king of Egypt. Cepheus is husband of Cassiopeia, and their daughter is Andromeda. His wife was proud of their daughter's beauty and boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Sea Nymphs, the Nereids who were daughters of Poseidon (Neptune). The Nereids complained to Poseidon who sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the coast. With his kingdom in grave danger Cepheus consulted the oracle of Ammon in Libya for advice. He learned that the only way to save his kingdom was to sacrifice his daughter to the sea monster. Andromeda is chained to a rock and left to the mercy of the monster. The hero, Perseus, arrives at the scene and falls in love with Andromeda, he has a quick consultation with Cepheus and Cassiopeia, it is agreed that if he rescues their daughter he could marry her. The sea monster arrives and Perseus kills it. Perseus breaks the chains that bind Andromeda to the rock. The wedding follows."


Cepheus in the stars:
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"constellation cepheus images"

Andromeda in the stars:
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"constellation andromeda images"

Perseus in the stars:

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