IV. The Book of Right-On

The Emperor, inspired by the song The Book of Right On

Do you want to run with my pack?
Do you want to ride on my back?

Joanna Newsom, “The Book of Right-On” (The Milk-Eyed Mender, 2004)

Image Description

Flanked by two white dogs, a person sits against a tree in an open landscape, with gold ground and light blue sky. She holds up a scepter topped by an 8-spoked wheel. With her other hand, she points at an open book that rests on her leg. Her arm rests on a table decorated with a circle with a dot in the middle (the symbol for the sun) bordered by tiny pictures of animals: narwhals, tadpoles, a seahorse, and an owl. She wears a crown of laurel leaves, a thick gold chain, and boots with a seven pointed star on the side. She wears a cloak with four large stripes of color: red, gold, green, and blue. The upper part of her cloak has a decorative pattern made of rings, leaves, and rope. The middle of her shirt has a pattern of two twisted threads.


In contrast to the shaded spring of card III, IV sits in a shining and arid landscape under the “wandering sun.” The motifs on his clothing and table refer to the Sun (see XIX. Sprout and the Bean), and this solar energy comes with both clarity and austerity.

The number four signifies stability and foundations, as in the four cardinal directions, the four classical elements, or the four legs of a table. IV is the card of law and order. As it is written in her book, so it goes in the world. The eight-spoked wheel of her glowing scepter references the wheel of XIV. No Provenance. Her cloak has a four-colored rainbow, and the heptagram on her boot is a reminder of the Chaldean order of the planets, from which we derive the days of the week. She is crowned with a laurel wreath of victory, and like her dogs she is at ease but ready to fight if the need arises.

This card walks the line between confidence and arrogance. The question to work out is whether her strength is protection, or domination.

Selected Meanings

Clarity, ambition, prowess, arrogance, belligerence, order, stability, tyranny, imperialism, support, protection, predation.