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4 The Emperor (Atractylodes)


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Today, I've decided to resume my studies of Herbal Tarot Deck which got waylaid by life.  I continue today with card IV The Emperor and the herb 'Atractylodes'.


4 The Emperor

The Emperor sits in a green meadow on a solid, red throne.  A river flows behind him and the landscape disappears into the distance with a wood, some green hills and eventually white mountains.  He is wearing a purple robe, trimmed with gold at the sleeves and fur about his shoulder.  On his head he wears a royal crown decorated with four red gems.  In his right hand he holds the 'sceptre of the ankh' and in his left hand a sword.  The herb grows in two places - proudly out of the meadow in front of him and also up the back of his throne.


The Emperor symbolises a father figure in the tarot (represented by his elder appearance) and can symbolise the power of organisation, authority, and protection (symbolised by the sword).  The mountains symbolise his wisdom while the river represents the more feminine aspects of his personality - it is a continuation of the High Priestess and her intuitive wisdom which also flowed through the Empress's card.  The purple of his robe symbolises his power and authority and his higher consciousness.  The symbol of the ankh represents life in all aspects and here seems to show his powerful life force.



This a herb I'd never heard of until I got this deck, so now seems a great time to look into more detail at it.  Most of my information comes from the deck's companion book.


Family: Compositae (the daisy or sunflower family)

Botanical Name(s): Atractylodes macrocephala


Atractylodes is a warming herb that comes from China and is used in Traditional Chinese Meditation.  The root (or rhizome) is used for ailments affecting the spleen and stomach.  A quick research online suggests that it has many active compounds and has been used for a wide variety pf uses.  It is also a 'drying' herb and can help to rid the body of excess of fluids while also being able to build energy ('qi') and strengthening the muscles.

According the the companion book, this herb is called the Herb of Power and can fire up the Emperor inside each of us so we can feel more energised to accomplish our goals.  Apparently a nice balance can be made using Dong Quai as well, which is the Empress's herb, to counter a lack of wisdom and to reduce some of the fiery energy! 


The book also mentions a few other combinations relating to other cards which is interesting but I'm not going to study those just yet as I feel I'm working on an overview of the symbolism of each card currently.

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Atractylodes (Bai Zhu), is warming (yang) and works on the spleen and stomach. 

As suggested in the companion book and your research, it is added to formulas to deal with a condition that is called 'damp'. In traditional medicine a sluggish spleen will often cause this issue as it struggles to assimilate fluid in the body. Things like drinking cold drinks, and an excess of damp causing food like sugar and dairy causes damp. An imbalance in the Triple Burner system (in this case the middle jiao) can cause a leak of qi, often in the form of yin fluids. If this happens long enough, life force will be eaten into. There is an example often used, you can't burn an efficient digestive fire with wet wood - and Bai Zhu is often used to help 'dry' out this situation. And as pointed out, in a balanced formula with other herbs a good balance can be met. Too much fire (heat) can cause a whole bunch of other problems (even if it is a warming, not hot herb). Anything that helps the body to assimilate qi will have the affect of providing access to a better flow of energy that can be used to build muscles and the sinews related to that particular organ. It does however assist in weight loss, excess fat being a form of dampness in the body. It is also used in formulas for pregnant women to aid in qi availability, and gentle flow. 

Bai Zhu wouldn't necessarily be my first pick for the Emperor, but it still works. Perhaps I will learn to see the match differently as time goes on. Need to think on that one a little more perhaps. 

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