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Scepters and Authority on the Tarot Cards

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Anyone that’s looked closely at a classic tarot deck has noticed that there are a number of scepters held by different characters on a number of Tarot cards. They look simple enough and generally fit the ‘style’ of medieval art that is found on the cards.

If you step back for a moment, most everyone has some association with what a scepter means so they don’t really question why they are found on the cards. A scepter is generally thought of as an emblem of authority or the symbol or token of royal authority. It is associated with kings and queens. He who holds the scepter is the one with authority over others in the realm of the ruled dominion. In simple terms, when a king is anointed, he is given a scepter (and a crown and maybe other stuff too).

So, if a character in the cards holds a scepter, they have authority in some form or another.

Now, look at the cards. You would expect that the kings and queens would be holding scepters. Are they? It surprises people to find that they (generally) do not.

Why is this?

Well, I present my interpretation in both a video and written form. Here is the first and below is the text.

Let’s start. Where do we generally find the first scepter?

The Magician

The character positioned on this card is generally thought of as the messenger of the Gods. If you look closer at the definition on my website, you’ll see that The Magician is here to point out that to make forward progress, we have to want, or desire, something. The Magician understands the infinite possibilities that stand before us, yet he stands to allow us to choose.

In his hand, generally pointing to the sky, he holds a scepter. The Magician has total authority over the manifestation process and he points out that this authority is granted to everyone on their journey through life. He points out one of the most fundamental rules of the game – what you think so shall be done.

The inference here is to be careful what you wish for.

The Empress

This card is all about mother nature and the natural cycles of life. It is about natural, observable laws that are everywhere around us all the time. You can observe that water flows downhill, wheat seed grows into wheat planets (not something else), night surely follows day and that all our needs can be met if we simply accept what is freely offered.

In her hand, she holds a scepter. Mother nature is the ultimate authority over life. She is the one that is able to connect spirit to matter. Even though man can try to create life, the scepter is in the hands of mother nature, not man. The ultimate authority is not granted to man.

The Emperor

Here, we have the card that carries with is the principle of cause and effect. It is commonly associated with the law, for it is one of the most fundamental of laws. It represents that for each action that we perform, there is an associated consequence. With each action, there is karma whether good or bad.

This character is nearly always depicted holding a scepter, but in this case, it’s has a special symbol on it. That is the Ankh. In the simplest of terms, the Ankh is thought of as the breath of life (or air).

Relating that to the Tarot, it is highly probable that the Ankh suggests – that which we do with our breath – speak.

The Emperor is the ultimate authority on the spoken word. It is the gift that is given to humanity and it helps build the foundation upon which culture is built. Through the spoken word, the divine inside each one of us is able to contribute to the overall vibration that is always present around us. Words are an instant manifestation that we can and do bring into the word and there is power in each word.

The Emperor is here to remind us that we should choose our words carefully for the law of cause and effect could play out quickly. He is also here to point out that sounds we choose to make or the words that we choose to form are a divine right of all humans. What you contribute via your spoken word is uniquely your right to give.

The Hierophant

This card is often depicted with the central figure holding a scepter with a cross on it which has led many to interpret this card as representing the church or the Pope. The act of holding the scepter here would indicate this the Pope is the ultimate authority to that connection with God.

On my deck, you will notice that this card is depicted as being the knowledge of the wise or the spiritual teacher (Guru). The reason why I’ve removed the scepter is that I don’t relate to spiritual institutions as being the ultimate authority with regards to spiritual knowledge. The ultimate authority lives within each of us always.

The Chariot

The next card that carries a scepter is typically The Chariot. If you have reviewed my interpretation of this architype, you will understand why. This card represents following the actions generated from the mind rather than from the heart. This is the space where the ego lives. This is the space where logical decisions are made regardless of the consequences.

At the warrior’s side stands a mundane scepter. It is crude, but effective. This scepter represents that every individual can choose to do good or do bad. Choose to save lives or destroy lives. Bring death, or bring protection. When it comes to making decisions, we are all granted the authority to follow through on our thoughts or not. There is nothing that stops you from destroying yourself other than yourself.

The Hermit

The next scepter is found in the hand of The Hermit. If you remember, the Hermit is about self-rule, self-governance and respecting the autonomy of others.

To empower us to do this, we must have the ability to defend ourselves. We are granted the authority to protect ourselves and the means to do so. With this scepter, we are given dominion over our own actions. Just like The Emperor grants us complete authority of the words we choose to speak; The Hermit shows us that no one can force us to do anything that we do not choose to do. We are the ultimate authority for our actions.

The World

The last card that is typically depicted as holding a scepter is the central character on The World card. This card carries the archetype of mastery and practice. This card represents that there is conscious manipulation of energy at hand. It suggests that there are intentional actions or activities in play.

Placing a scepter into this card shows that everything that we do is a conscious choice that we, individually, make. Each one of us holds the power to consciously manifest anything that we want or don’t want to experience. Unlike The Magician card, which kicks us in motion towards this goal, this card indicates that you have reached a level of understanding that has made you the authority over your adventure. You have developed skills or a knowing or an understanding that lets you fully grasp the associated task.

Because this card it commonly shown with the character holding two scepters, it can show that we can form mastery either consciously or unconsciously. Or that the authority granted to us to create *is* what the ultimately goal is for our incarnation. Likewise, because there are multiple areas in life that you could develop mastery over, the replication of the scepter could show that mastery deserves a scepter.

Queen of Coins

It is less common to find scepter in court cards, yet one can generally be found on the Queen of Coins.

Of all the queens, this is the motherly queen, the one with an eye for beauty, a lover of life, self-reliant, practical and respectful. She is the queen that cares for the land, tends to the garden, bares offspring and raises them. She teaches and cares for each individual in the family.

If you look over the different zodiac assignments that I made for all the characters that sit on thrones, you’ll see this this queen aligns to Virgo. If you think about it for a moment, Virgo is the sign that sits in service of all the others. It carries the archetype of the person that doesn’t want power, but helps others uphold it.

Placing a scepter in the hand of this character symbolizes that you gain authority over man as you serve others and help them grow. You, with all your flaws and gifts, have, through your mundane actions or services, been given the gift to influence others. It is through your own actions that you can inspire others to be better people. You, through your service to others, because the respected guide.


The scepters denote authority and that authority is intentionally placed in the cards.

I hope you find this association helpful and that it helps enrich the messages that the cards bring for you.

Would love to hear your argument for scepter placements on different cards.


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