As I alway do every year, I suffle my tarot oracle and choose a card for each year. So, I picked up the Justice…and add deeper meanings for it this time.
Meaning: Balance, Harmony, Law, Rightness, Fair Play, Equality
Justice: 11 Astrological correspondence: Libra Kabbalistic letter: Lamed Path on Tree of Life: Gevurah (Power) to Tipheret (Beauty) “Justice, justice, shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land the Eternal (YHVH), your God, is giving to you.”
(Deut. 16: 20) In the traditional (Marseille) sequence of the trumps, Justice appears as card eight and Strength as eleven.
Justice as eight suggests a commitment to truth in preparation for the withdrawal of the Hermit. In the Golden Dawn numbering, Justice comes exactly in the middle of the Fool’s Progress, with ten cards before it and ten after it. This match is one of the many pairs symbolized in the perfectly balanced scales shown in most versions of the card. Here are some of the others: Justice Cards from Visconti, Marseille, Rider, Golden Dawn Ritual, and Egyptian & Shining Tribe
The standard imagery for Tarot Justice— a seated woman holding a sword and scales— resembles the figure in many courthouse statues. They derive from a Greek goddess named Themis, also known as Astraea. The resemblance of “Astraea” to “astral,” as in the astral plane of spiritual principles, indicates that Justice is not just an earthly concern or a human invention with no meaning outside the arbitrary rules and decisions of the legal system.
Legal Justice, especially in America, often wears a blindfold to indicate impartiality. The scales, however, tilt since the courts must decide for one side or the other. In Tarot, Justice sees clearly, with all blindfolds of prejudice, conditioning, indoctrination, and fear removed. The scales are balanced for harmony and unification of the physical and the spiritual. By “spiritual” here, I do not mean any particular religion, tradition, or doctrine, or even a belief in a supreme being. Instead, there is a kind of awareness of a sacred dimension of existence that the Tarot teaches can emerge in each one of us. Nevertheless (to give the Hierophant his due), particular traditions can help awaken that awareness.
Repetition signals great emphasis. Some see that as the message. The pursuit of justice is so vital we must pursue it with passion, with doubled effort.
“When God wants us to hear something, He says it twice.” She also comments that repetition calls something into being, like a spell. I find that repetition says something else as well, meaningful to the Tarot card. There are two kinds of justice, and we must pursue both with equal energy, for one cannot exist without the other. In human justice, we treat people honestly and with respect, struggle to create a just world.
People often weary of the pursuit of justice. Every victory or advance seems overwhelmed by a hundred setbacks, and how much can we do? And yet, we must continue, for ourselves as much as whatever effect we can have. Justice stands at the center of our lives as well as at the center of the Major Arcana. Justice is who we are, our basic nature. Along with justice in the world, we must pursue spiritual justice. This includes self-awareness, a deep and honest look at who we are and what we have done or not done, whether we’ve stayed true to our nature or betrayed our innermost being.
Spiritual justice calls on us to examine our relationship to the divine. The Hierophants of the world sometimes describe this relation as a set of rules. Follow the commandments, don’t sin, make your offerings, burn the right incense, say the right words at the right time, and God or Goddess will reward you, usually when you die. These lists of rules speak to me of a deep pessimism about human behavior— that if doctrines and churches did not control people, we all would do despicable things. But justice comes from deep in ourselves as well as from any heavenly source. As above, so below. As within, so without. If it exists in the sacred world, it exists in the human.
One of the things I admire about modern Paganism is its essential optimism. “Do as you will and harm none,” it tells us, and that says, to me, that if we follow our genuine inmost nature, if we truly trust who we are, we will not seek to harm other people or nature.
Aleister Crowley went further (as he so often did) and described “Do as thou wilt” as the only command. This speaks of an even more powerful optimism, one perhaps shared with Nietzsche and Ralph Waldo Emerson in his much-misunderstood essay “Self-Reliance.” If we follow our nature, look inside ourselves, we will discover our own divinity. This is a difficult path, and the Devil waits just a few cards away.
But the Devil is not the final card. Remember the words above the entrance to the Delphic Oracle— not “Know the future” but “Know yourself.” This willingness to genuinely know ourselves opens the way to spiritual justice. Delphi was one of the inspirations for the Shining Tribe Justice. We enter an inner place where the truth speaks. The picture shows a primordial goddess with hard, piercing eyes. In the Rider deck, too, the eyes stare out at us intently, a challenge to look at who we are and what we have done, to balance the scales. Coming in the middle of the Major Arcana, Justice forms the midpoint of our lives, no matter when we might experience it. In Justice, we balance the past and the future.
Through self-examination, any amends we need to make with others, forgiveness of those who have hurt us, and forgiveness of our own mistakes, we free ourselves from the past and create a genuine future. People sometimes ask, “If the cards can predict the future, does that mean free will does not exist?” First of all, the cards do not predict events, and they certainly do not cause them (as some people fear).
Instead, they show us trends and likelihoods. But what makes something likely? The answer lies in our lack of self-knowledge. As long as we do not truly know ourselves, we will follow patterns, act from fear or shame or unacknowledged desires. We will respond to life in predictable ways. We all possess free will but we rarely use it, for genuine freedom requires self-knowledge. We must meet the staring eyes of Justice and balance the scales. Justice, justice, shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land the Eternal, your God, is giving to you. We cannot live without justice.
This sounds like an abstract ideal, but think of the stunted lives and early deaths of abused children, or the survivors of genocide. We really do need justice to live. And we need to pursue justice.
The child’s cry of “That’s not fair!” reveals an inner sense of how the world should work. The parent’s answer, “Life isn’t fair,” describes how things are, but justice is an ideal, something to pursue as passionately as wealth, love, and adventure. What might we mean by “occupy the land”? This is not a place outside us, a piece of geography, but the land of our true being, a sacred land so complete that the final card of the Major Arcana simply calls it the World.
To enter it, we must pursue justice— justice, for the longing for justice comes from our deepest selves. The sentence describes Y-H-V-H as “your God,” not a remote, detached figure on a throne far away, but a part of us. And notice the verb tense is giving. Our pursuit of justice never ends, just as the sacred land of our true selves is a constant gift. What, then, of the Egyptian story?
The version of Justice in the Egyptian Tarot above shows a scene from the Book of the Dead (whose actual title, Pert Em Hru, means “coming forth into light”). When a person dies, the god Anubis (see the previous card, Wheel of Fortune) leads the soul to the goddess Ma’at, with our old friend Thoth standing alongside to write down what happens. The goddess, whose name means “truth,” takes the person’s heart and places it on one side of a scale; on the other side lies an ostrich feather. If the scales balance, the person moves on to the next life, in a higher spiritual realm. All souls bore the name Osiris, for they seek to mimic the god who died and came back to life. If, however, the heart weighs down the scales, a monster named Ammit devours the unlucky “Osiris.” On an exoteric level, the story serves, like so many others, to scare people into obedience to a moral and religious code, for as well as truth, Ma’at meant correct behavior, the sort of list of do’s and don’ts considered necessary by those who do not trust the human spirit to “do as you will and harm none.” But is that all that is going on? If you’ve ever held an ostrich feather, you will know that it weighs next to nothing.
A human heart weighs about half a kilo. Clearly, we have entered the realm of symbol. Expressions such as “heart to heart,” “the heart of the matter,” or “a good heart” (vaguely) recognize something the Egyptians, and later the Sufis, understood in detail: that the heart is more than a pump; it is the center of our being, the place of knowing and truth. The heart chakra stands at the midpoint of our bodies, with three chakras of physicality below and three of awareness above, just as Justice stands at the midpoint of the Major Arcana.
The heart forms the border, the place where Above and below join together. What weighs down the heart— when we seek to “come forth into light”— is guilt, and fear, and shame. What opens the heart, makes it weightless, is Justice. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive.
Some Justice Meanings Excerpted from Mystical Origins of the Tarot by Paul Huson. De Mellet (1781): Justice.
Court de Gébelin (1773-82): Justice.
Lévi (1855): The Hebrew letter Cheth, Justice. Balance, attraction and repulsion, life, terror, promise and threat.
Christian (1870): Arcanum VIII. Themis: Equlibrium. The ancient symbol of Justice weighs in the balance the deeds of men, and as a counterweight, opposing evil with the sword of expiation. The eyes of Justice are covered with a bandage to show that she weighs and strikes without taking into account the conventional differences established by men.
Mathers (1888): Themis, or Justice. Equilibrium, balance, justice. Reversed: Bigotry, want of balance, abuse of justice, overseverity, bias.
Golden Dawn (1888-96): Daughter of the Lord of Truth, Holder of the Balances. Justice. Strength arrested in the act of judgment. Legal proceedings, a court of law, a trial by law.
Grand Orient (Waite, 1889, 1909): Justice. Equilibrium on the mental side rather than the sensuous; under certain circumstances, law and its decisions; also occult science.
Waite (1910): Justice. Equity, probity, vindication. Reversed: Law in all departments, legal complications, bigotry, bias, excessive severity.
Christian actually combines Themis and Ma’at, and emphasizes an outer force that weighs our actions and at the same time opposes evil. In Wegener’s original version, Justice wears a blindfold to illustrate Christian’s idea that she “weighs and strikes” without concern for social convention. Does Justice exist outside humans? Is there an actual goddess? Maybe a principle exists beyond the rules of any particular social order.
More widely, the card means self-examination, a time to weigh things in the balance as you assess your life. You might face a moral choice of some kind and need to examine your motives. Be careful of blaming others, or— the other extreme— of believing that everything is your fault. Balance the scales.
Another kind of balance— awareness and action. The sword reminds us of the requirement to pursue Justice, possibly with a specific action. Does some situation require a response? The other cards can suggest whether we might need to act, and if so, where— in the community, in a relationship, in work, or elsewhere. Reversed indicates the possibility of unjust or unfair conditions. If cards such as the Tower, some of the Swords, or reversed court cards appear, it may warn us to be careful. What do you need to do to bring Justice right-side up again? Do you need to protect yourself or take action?
SOURCE: Pollack, Rachel (2014-02-01). Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom: Spiritual Teachings and Deeper Meanings (Kindle Locations 2434-2468). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD… Kindle Edition.
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