This month, we will move back to the Major Arcana, and talk about the Justice card. Since we haven’t talked about a Major Arcana card in a while, before we begin breaking down Justice, let’s define and describe some terms. There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, issues that are archetypes which are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives.
An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, a personality, a behavior, an object, or a concept that can be copied, patterned, or imitated, and which can be identified universally without the need for a common language. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts:
A “stereotype”; in other words, a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative. For instance, “girls make good cooks” is a stereotype.
An “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative. For example, Venus is said to be the epitome of feminine beauty.
So basically, archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has personally experienced (or will at some point in the future) these archetypes in some form, at some point in our lives.
Besides the symbolism in the image of the card, each Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an archetype, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!
The traditional image on the Justice card is of a woman, sometimes wearing mail or armor, sometimes blindfolded, holding a sword in her right hand and a set of scales in her left hand. A woman is imaged because a feminine image is often seen as being able to balance mercy with authority. The armor she sometimes wears symbolizes self-imposed discipline, or the concept of restriction used as a tool of focus and awareness. When the figure is blindfolded, we are being reminded that the Justice imposed by this card is equal for all. When the figure is not blindfolded, we are being given an example of Divine Justice, which has full sight and awareness. The sword held in the right hand (traditionally, the power hand) represents the authority to impose Justice, and to protect and uphold Justice and those being judged. The scales held in the left hand (traditionally, the receptive hand) represent the weighing and measuring that are a part of the process of judging, and the creation of equilibrium that is the desired end result.
The Justice card is numbered 11 in most decks. The Major Arcana cards settle into a basic cycle of 10 cards (remember, in the Minor Arcana, the Pip or numbered cards also run from Ace to Ten, one cycle of evolution of the suit), with each following cycle expanding on what was learned in the first cycle. The number 11 reduces to 2, the number of balance, polarity, and the energy of “distance between,” a good description of the meanings of the Justice card! The number 2 card of the Major Arcana is The High Priestess. The image on this card is a female authority figure; sound familiar? The High Priestess represents knowledge of the cause that is behind action and reaction. The female authority figure of the Justice card weighs both cause and effect in her judgments; she takes the knowledge of The High Priestess to the next level, and manifests it.
In some decks, Justice is numbered 8, which also makes sense. In the Tarot Minor Arcana, the number 8 represents a conscious and deliberate response to the pause and assessment of the 7 card. That pause represented by the number 7 happens because the growth represented by cards Ace through 6 has begun to slow, and degeneration is approaching. When Justice is in the number 8 position of the Major Arcana, it tells of the presence of the peak of energy within the first cycle of 10 cards (after meeting such primal characters as The Father, The Mother, The Priest and The Lovers), and warns us that degeneration is approaching and thus, we must weigh what has been done so far in order to effectively implement our decision as to what comes next. We are asked to present a conscious and deliberate response to what has been presented to us to date.
The archetype of the Justice card is the Judge. The Judge is the authoritative figure who acts as the giver and the enforcer of laws who reminds us that true fairness takes into account both everything and nothing. This archetype has the vision to manage the fair distribution of power in whatever form that power takes. A Judge is a natural mediator, is committed to living within the high standards of justice and wisdom, and always strives to prevent injustice and prejudice. The Shadow Judge is manipulative, misuses authority, criticizes in a destructive or hurtful manner, and deliberately excludes compassion and mercy from the judgment process.
Justice corresponds with the element of Air, and thus is connected to actions, truth and clarity, the intent to manifest potential into reality, mental focus and spiritual guidance, and a striving to achieve balance between the mind and the heart. Air is connected to the beliefs we have, and to the expressions of those beliefs. Air is expansive and adaptive, able to base a final decision on the contributions of multiple information sources, and so can the Justice card.
In astrology, Justice corresponds with the sun sign of Libra. This connection is a no-brainer because the traditional symbol of Libra is a set of scales. Libras are usually very focused on the people around them, and how they interact with those people. Libras are true team players, concerned with balance and cooperation, with fairness to everyone. Libras always put their minds to good use, considering and balancing carefully before choosing a course that brings the highest good to all. Libra is a Cardinal Sign, ready to forge ahead with plans and attract effective supporters, engaging the world in a dynamic way. Because Libra is Cardinal Air, this sign initiates through new ideas, and by being a balancing force among people.
In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected in some way to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. The Justice card corresponds with the twelfth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Lamed, the ox goad. This letter tells of the process of training or teaching/learning, which can often be uncomfortable, and which usually requires a constant awareness of adjustment in order to maintain balance. It tells of instruction through guidance (rather than through example), and it reminds us that sometimes a strong correction is in order if we veer too far to one direction or another.
On the Tree of Life, Justice represents Path 22 (one of the Paths exploring the qualities of higher spirituality), running between Tiphareth (the hub of the creation process where energies harmonize and focus to illuminate and clarify) and Geburah (the place where forms and structures are challenged or affirmed). The 22nd Path connects the Pillar of Form and the Pillar of Balance, and it infuses abstract knowledge into the manifestation of power or authority.
We could say that Justice presents one version of balance, a dynamic balance that exists through the process of adjustment. It tells us that we have a balanced intellect that allows us to deal with difficult decisions and bring about fair and equitable outcomes. We are able to make adjustments in our life in order to create harmony through the balance between our Higher Self and our daily thought processes. Justice can also indicate the presence of or potential for interactions within the legal or justice system, the police department, or any authority figure responsible for maintaining law and order.
The Llewellyn Welsh Justice card tells of remaining impartial and well-centered in order to bring about fair judgment. The Legacy of the Divine Justice card reminds us that we each perceive what Justice means to us through our personal life experiences, and we must remember that those personal experiences could influence us in a non-objective manner. The Thoth Tarot names this card “Adjustment,” because balance happens through dynamic adjustment; it also reminds us that the correction of an imbalance may require the imposition of law. The Hermetic Tarot reminds us that good intentions must be infused with the use of strength or authority. The Tarot of the Sephiroth recommends informed decision making, and tells us that we will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of our decisions.
Justice in a reversed or ill-dignified position can indicate injustice, prejudice, or the unethical imposition of authority. Intolerance or bias, or even false accusations, could be present within a situation. A reversed Justice card could indicate weaknesses in the personality, such as deceitfulness, superficiality, or an inability to make decisions.
Next time, we will look at the Judgement card, and compare it with Justice in order to better understand the similarities between these two cards, and the differences.