Understanding Pandemics & U.S.A. Fuckery through the lens of the Sacred Tarot

“Emperors & Death – Who Will Wear the Crown this Year?”

It’s a number FOUR year according to the numerology within the ancient divination system of Tarot. Tarot is a system of archetypes and energy patterns that serve as a storybook for our spiritual journey through life. This system is a deck of 78 cards including 22 Major arcana and 56 Minor arcana. Tarot is full of archetypes that are ancient and access a primordial wisdom that reaches much further back, predating the Tarot system completely.

The numerology within each year holds an archetypal energy that is based on the numerology from the tarot’s major arcana. If you break down the numerology of the calendar year 2020, 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 it comes out to 4. The number four card in the Major arcana of the Tarot is the Emperor. The year of 2020 also activates the thirteenth card in the tarot deck. The numerology 13 breaks down to 1 + 3 = 4. The thirteenth card is Death. The Emperor and Death are the two governing archetypes that will continue to influence the rest of the year 2020. 


Initial thoughts and musings:

So it’s an Emperor Death year. Grrreat….


When I first calculated the numbers for the year, I sat back and took a deep breath. This year was sounding fucking awful. I imagined a world at war, oppressive patriarchy and lots of unchecked toxic masculinity. Having said that, the emperor does not mean that this archetype will be embodied by a man, though we and the patriarchy have elected mostly men into positions of power, so it is predominately men embodying this archetype in our systems of governance today. Archetypes are genderless but also hold certain energetic dynamics. I’ll use the pronoun ‘he’ when talking about the emperor for the sake of this article. The emperor archetype is inherently masculine – by masculine I am referring to a quality of energy, meaning direct, firm, authoritative, fatherly, yang. This is a card of leadership as well as self-control and discipline.

In the fatherly companion thread of this energy, emperors fearlessly protect those they care for and love. This archetype organizes and holds a position of leadership. The emperor archetype is related to the root chakra and where the number four appears again in the symbol of a red four petaled lotus. Four is a number of stability. Think of the foundation of a house, the shape of a square, the legs on a chair – Four. Four stabilizes. Four creates a strong foundation.

The emperor archetype in the tarot represents masculine energy in a position of leadership.  Individuals and systems that resonate with this archetype are ones that typically hold great power and authority with land and people. The light positive aspects of this archetype generally show the emperor as being just and fair and deeply concerned and committed to those he loves and leads in the land. This archetype is one of leadership and supporting and caring for tribe and family. The burden of the emperor’s robes, however, become a tremendous mantle to shoulder when the land enters unprecedented and unforeseen hardship. Positions of power may sound enticing in the good times, but imperialist authority is not something someone generally desires at a time of pandemic crisis and the emperor’s staff of power seems to become a baton that is getting a relay pass on a regular basis.

Our president, per usual, has dodged responsibility and has been inhumanely unsupportive of states getting enough ventilators and personal protective equipment to support the ill and dying and those on the front lines of the war with this virus. He refuses to federally mandate mask wearing and encourage and fund contact tracing and throws the ultimately responsibility of health to governors who many do the same thing. But don’t forget he did sign off of sending U.S citizen’s stimulus checks – a quick fix from the country’s head patriarch who doesn’t know how to properly parent a nation. Throw a little money at it, only enough so they’ll be distracted from the demise of the country. An integral emperor shoulders the responsibility and carries it for the land and people. He doesn’t throw money for distraction based quick fixes, but rather looks for whole system approaches.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit: Would it surprise you to know that Donald Trump’s life path tarot cards based on his numerology are also The Emperor and Death? Would it also surprise you to know some of the shadow qualities of this archetype are abuse of power, lack of discipline and shirking responsibility. The shadow of the emperor archetype acts in a ‘power over’ paradigm seeking to disempower, humiliate and sabotage anyone who threatens his authority.

As the wheel of this year turns, we are seeing more of the shadow aspects of the emperor archetype shake loose. Subsequently, this shadow is being met with its own reckoning. The feverish rise in the Black Lives Matter movement is result of the people calling out the shadow of the emperor and the blind spots and corruptable nature that have come to rest easily in the folds of his robes. Police, as figures of authority, are part of the emperor archetype system of order and control and law and punishment. In its highest good, the system of policing is there to protect and serve, but when unchecked, this authority like all authority will self-corrupt.

This time of pandemic is collapsing the previous infrastructure that held the fabric of our society together. And when there is a collapse, the grip of an emperor leans in hard to hold together a system that is crumbling, or an irresponsible one turns his back in apathy and shrugs off responsibility completely. In the hard grip or the apathetic one, when there is not consistent, clear leadership intent on serving the well being of the people, the people suffer. The mismanagement of reopening states has turned into a childish emperor pissing contest to see who has the biggest staff of power.

What are the emperor’s priorities? Some emperors favored the economy over the health of their communities and now new viral hot spots are spiking rapidly in the U.S. Some favored the free will of non-mask wearing over mandated mask wearing which also contributed to infection rate.  In some places where masks were mandated, vitrial spewed from members of the public about how masks were killing them and taking away their freedom. New systems can create madness in people who are holding such a strong inner rigidity of this archetype that changing the structure around them feels like a world break down and as a result they lash out. Daddy issues?

Emperors have had to weigh preventing deaths while contending with job losses, hunger, poverty and economic crisis. It has been a hard year for emperors. The novel corona virus that has infected the planet has contended head to head with every emperor. Everyone from the top down has had to issue edicts to the land, from the leaders of nations, to the managers of grocery stores and gas stations, from land lords to heads of house holds, emperors have had to form new orders, fight new battles and create new systems of order in a world that is under attack. But as we see in the rising numbers particular in the United States on a daily basis, our Emperor archetype is very, very sick.

Emperors are holding the gates of the land firm to contend with card 13: Death.

Ahhh Death – lucky thirteen. Death is the companion card to the emperor this year. Of course when the Death card shows up in a tarot spread, it usually sends a jolt through the one receiving the reading. Does that mean I’m going to die? Generally, no. The Death card represents an end of a cycle, a time of completing, a dismantling or demolishing, a time of rest, a sweeping reset, the great equalizier. This year, however, the Death card has often literally meant death. Many. Daily. Excruciating deaths. The United States is leading the world death toll in 133,000 deaths this week. We have reached over half a million deaths world wide. In this case, this card absolutely is a harbinger of the physical manifestation of death on its most basic level. It is asking us to contend with, become aware of and deal with the consciousness of death, dying and mortality every damn day.

Every city has been touched by death from the virus. Death has touched countless jobs and avenues of employment. Unemployment is over 25%. Death has touched community gatherings and sacred ceremonies. We are not allowed to gather to bury our dead, celebrate unions and birthdays and commune in-person with friends and relatives. For those dating or not cohabitating with their partners, it has certainly touched pleasure and intimacy. But mostly we are contending with the death of the way things were. There is no normal now. This virus has touched us all, our way of being in the world and how the world is with us, our family, our work, our economy, in ways that will be shaking out and reordering themselves for years.

If I were to picture these archetypes dueling, it would be inevitable that Death will always win, for even the emperors, with all the authority and power and control are not immune to death. All emperors, this time or sometime in the future, will always, ultimately yield their crown and robes to death. The archetype of death will touch us all this year in someway and in many ways. Memento Mori“As I am, You Will Be,” or “Remember Death.”

There is a song I absolutely love and play regularly in the autumn and around Samhain and Halloween – “Shaking out the Sheets.” Here is a version of this old song originally printed in 1568 by Chappell. This version is by Steeleye Span from 1989.


It’s lyrics of course cite the inevitable –

“Bring away the beggar, bring away the king, And every man in his degree, Bring away the oldest and the youngest thing Come to death and follow me All the politicians of high and low degree, Lords and ladies great and small, Don’t think that you’ll escape and need not dance with me, I’ll make you come when I do call.”

The war that these two archetypes are in, however, has created a tremendous void and the energy of the feminine. The medicine and wisdom of mothers, grandmothers and of the sacred feminine has been cast aside as superfluous by the edicts of emperors at war who are managing triage. There has been no space to grieve together, to share food and song and touch under the mandates of the emperor / death year. In this time of separation, there has also been no ritual to create unity among our country to honor the tremendous hardship that we are all collectively experiencing, much less one that unites the whole world. We are not flying flags at half-mast everyday. There is no daily moment of silence or candle lighting for those that have passed. These rituals are overly sentimental acts that don’t occur to an emperor not feeling his feelings because the job is to get through, not to create space to gather and mourn and feel. We have been steeling our precious hearts under the authority of emperors warring with death. The medicine of the feminine has been all but shut out completely. The collective heart of our country is bleeding. When we are not able to cradle our dying or gather to mourn their passing, part of the soul fragments. When we are not able to embrace our grandmothers and relatives and closest friends and be embraced by them, the skin starves and the heart yearns. George Floyd’s last cry out was a cry for the feminine in a time of the emperor and death archetype in their inevitable dance. He cried out for his mother. The call for the primordial divine mother to hold him, to make everything okay, to take the pain away, to let him know he was safe, held and belonged. His cry was also a collective cry for the rebalancing of these archetypes and also the primordial feminine in a time where the acts of the unchecked shadow of the emperor brought about death.

Three of the most precious people in my life had devastating accidents or illnesses that required emergency room trips over the past month. No one was allowed to accompany them in or sit with them, hold their hand, show them funny animal memes while sitting together waiting to talk to doctors, sing to them while they self navigated the perils of x-rays, blood tests and broken bones and infections alone with no medical advocate beside them other than an overly weary medical system. Worse than these cases, people are dying, many of them, everyday, alone. Of course it is for everyone’s safety that visitors are not allowed AND our tender hearts are suffering mercilessly. The souls of those left to die alone, gather on the planet as restless ghosts who are not given proper funeral rites. Our collective unmourning turns into a chronic freeze, detatchment, apathy, soul fracture as more and more die. And the emperors carry this burden, but most emperors lack a crucial leading skill – emotional intelligence. The shadow side of the patriarch in this archetype is not being in touch with one’s emotions or the heart and emotions of the community. Planning, organizing systems, creating structure, establishing control is how emperors restore order. Not through feeling. Emotions, feeling feelings is a feminine quality and one that emperors have precious little time for.

As we steel our emotions and detach from our vulnerability to put on our emperor robes to make it through these excruciating situations, make space for your feelings.

We are in the mourning of this collective aloneness. We are in triage. In triage I am wondering if it is possible to collectively breath and presence our feelings.

Ways to call in deeper connection to the feminine and the feeling body with each other at this time:


  1. Feel your feelings through a movement practice of dance or yoga. Cry, move, yell, grieve. There are wonderful group led rituals through online streaming services available for this and plenty of free ones as well.
  2. Make masks for yourself and your loved ones.
  3. Check in on a friend with a video call and share what’s alive for you.
  4. Send someone you love food or a care package and have a virtual brunch or dinner date with a friend or loved one if you can’t celebrate in-person together.
  5. Online funerals – I had the honor of participating in a Zoom funeral service. I’m sure there will be more of these in the future. It gave the opportunity for many people to gather who wouldn’t be able to and find connection and closure at a time where we are all feeling disconnected.
  6. Be in nature. Garden. Care for plants and animals.
  7. Take care of your body and each other.