Our Tarot Tuesday card this week is card IV of the Major Arcana, The Emperor.

The Emperor: “Authority, Father figure, Masculine influence, Rational, Stable

Counterpart to the Empress, the Emperor signifies a powerful influence, generally male in nature.

It is generally acknowledged that there are two main authorities in any civilisation: Church and State. Looking at the first of these, there are many examples where the Christian church has subsumed earlier important sites. A famous letter from Pope Gregory to Mellitus in June 601 is quoted (by Bede) encouraging the use of pagan temples by converts to Christianity:

Tell Augustine that he should be no means destroy the temples of the gods but rather the idols within those temples. Let him, after he has purified them with holy water, place altars and relics of the saints in them. For, if those temples are well built, they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God.

Looking at the ‘male’ aspect of this card, there is one site that has been subverted by the church from its original purpose that stands literally head and shoulders above all others. The tallest monolith in the UK, the mighty Rudston Monolith.

Image by Moth Clark

Standing nearly 8m tall (and reputed to be as deep below as above ground) the stone stands in the churchyard and has been capped with a metal ‘hat’ – the stone was originally as much as a metre taller. The stone is part of a wider complex of monuments which includes cursii and barrows and is seen as a phallic focal point for rituals in local folklore. The current church is Norman in date, although it’s possible that an earlier Saxon church occupied the same site (see the Bede quote above).

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.