Do not believe that possibly you can escape the reward of your action.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
After being our Card of the Year for 2018, as if to insist that it is not finished guiding us, Justice is ushering in the first full week of 2019, too. (By the same token that I am late publishing this, I am also still working on my essay about the 2019 Card of the Year. It’s taking a little longer than expected due to an unusually busy medical week. Please stay tuned).
Throughout Tarot history, this card has been invariably titled “Justice” and the figure is traditionally depicted as a woman with sword and scales. Sometimes she has a halo; almost always she is seated on a throne. Usually the sword is in her right hand, occasionally it is in her left.
Justice is one of the three cardinal virtues represented in the Tarot. The others are Temperance and Fortitude (or Strength).
According to Tarot author and expert Rachel Pollack, the image on the Waite-Smith deck is the Roman Goddess, Justitia.
Often, in other forms of art and sculpture, this Roman Goddess of natural law may be depicted blindfolded. But in the Tarot, She is connected to the psychic laws of Justice, “by which,” as Rachel explains, “we advance according to our ability to understand the past.”
In order for this to happen, we must see clearly the truth about ourselves and about life; so Her eyes, like our own, must be open.
Symbols and Ancient Wisdom
In the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, like the High Priestess, Justice is a woman sitting on a stone between two columns that hold a veil.
But she also is a reflection of the Magician. Like him, she is clothed in a red robe and holds one arm up and the other, which holds her perfectly balanced scales, is pointed downward.
As Rachel notes, this intertwining of the two cards points to the fact that, “True action arises from self-knowledge; wisdom arises out of action.”
Enlightened people cannot simply accumulate the rewards of power and manifestation that are the gifts of the Magician. Nor can we spend our lives in High Priestess-fueled inward journeys. Both action and insight must be combined in balance.
The Buddhist Eight-fold Path to Enlightenment exhorts us to right action, and here, the Tarot depicts how right action is the result of insightful doing. Justice is the card of ethical conduct.
You might also notice that the figure in Justice has a square on her crown, as well as a square clasp with a circle inside it, that pins her cloak.
As you probably know, Freemasonry was integral to the practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose members created several Tarot decks, most famously, the Waite-Smith deck, published by the Rider Company. Therefore it is not surprising that much Freemasonry symbolism and belief infuses the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot’s imagery.
The square with a set of compasses is probably one of the most commonly recognized symbols of Freemasonry.
Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, ©1929, states, “The Square is an emblem of virtue in which we must ‘square our actions by the square of virtue with all mankind.’”
For the Freemasons, he states, the square represents morality. And this has found its way into everyday language, such as “getting a square deal,” or someone “being on the square.”
And as for her breastpin, the square with a circle inside are related to Euclid’s 47th problem of “Squaring The Circle,” said to be the primary goal of the Masonic craft.
Its use in this card, however, probably has less to do with the ancient mathematical challenge, and instead addresses humankind’s quest to balance our physical (the square) with our spiritual natures (the circle is a common representation of the soul, or the spirit).
The Universal Law
Not only does the Tarot image of Justice represent legal systems of law and order, like making criminals pay for their wrongs, it is the representative of a deeper, Spiritual Justice.
Holding the two-edged sword of compassion and consequences, as well as her scales, she listens to our alibis and extenuating circumstances. She weighs all the evidence. With the clarity of the ancients, in her stone temple, she will at last arrive at a verdict.
And so, as Emerson points out, we can never escape the results of our actions.
But beyond trying to live a moral life (or at least stay out of trouble), nearly every world religion, tradition, or philosophy holds at its core a requirement that the well-lived life must include working in the world on behalf of justice.
For example, many Jewish scholars and teachers would urge, “One cannot claim to love God and not be passionate about justice…Justice is an eternal religious obligation, at the very core of what it means to be a Jew.”
Similarly, the Reclaiming Tradition’s Principles of Unity declare an active commitment that, “We work for all forms of justice: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and economic.”
It is, therefore, up to us to be active protectors of moral rectification. This, again, shows the influence of the High Priestess, of knowing, combined with the power of the Magician, who asserts on behalf of.
Yet Another Moment of Reckoning
Since 2016, the Justice card has continued to show up at pivotal moments in the ongoing drama of the Current White House Resident. As the wheels of the legal system grind ever closer to home, he continues to deflect attention from his personal crises by inventing new dramas to capture the attention of the public.
As I write this, the CWHR is preparing to address the nation with his excuses for shutting down the government and his argument for siphoning billions of dollars from an already stretched budget, in order to build a giant wall along the Mexican border – failed technology more along the lines of the 3rd century than the 21st.
This is a huge distraction, of course, from his disastrous policies that are wreaking havoc and threatening the economy, not to mention the multiple, fractious legal investigations that all spotlight him as the central, common denominator.
My friend, the wise and magical astrologer, Diotima Mantineia, warns that in the wake of last Saturday’s solar eclipse, we are headed into a time of reckoning – a description of the role of Justice in the journey of life, if ever there was one.
We’ll be seeing some karmic chickens coming home to roost, in the sense that we’ll be wrapping up many influences from the past — either past lives or our history in this life — as both groups and individuals. The old needs to be either integrated or disposed of in one way or another before we can focus on building the new.
This may be to our benefit, in the sense that prior training or previously-acquired assets will be useful, and/or established relationships will be of help to us. It may also mean that we have to deal with challenging issues, from the past or a past life, that require our attention.
Certain situations will come to a critical juncture, and need reparation, reconstruction, or simply letting go, either of the situation, or of something you’ve been hanging on to for far too long.
From driving under the influence; ignoring health symptoms; cheating on business or marriage partners; using the system to dodge paying millions in taxes; systemic corporate cheating on environmental protections; and the vast, seemingly endless corruption in our financial and governmental institutions — sometimes it’s hard to believe there is any power in kindness, respect, and prioritizing the greater good.
But eventually, things do sort themselves out. All of life is interconnected, and those who continue to foul the nest will eventually have to deal with the consequences of their actions.
The Justice card reminds us that Nature always adjusts, and the consequences of every action eventually come around. Despite how it may look temporarily, each and every one of us is, eventually, accountable. Rectification may be slow, but it is inevitable.
So once again, it appears that astrology and the Tarot are in profound agreement.
Nature’s Reciprocity and Balance
When Justice appears in a reading, the obvious expectation is that legal matters may be in the forefront. Money, real estate, law enforcement, inheritance matters, and civil or criminal jurisprudence could certainly be important now.
But additionally, since Major Arcana cards are less about particular events, and more deeply about our own spiritual awakenings, this is a time to be scrupulously honest in all your dealings.
Something is working out the way that it must, and while there may be pragmatic material implications, there is also karmic payback in play.
What results might you now be seeing, due to decisions and actions that have been taken in the past?
Although some people may have enormous charisma, or sexual allure, or tantalizing offers of fame and fortune, such influence is almost never a match for our inner compass of right and wrong – our personal sense of Justice.
When the rich, famous, or powerful engage in (or fail to repudiate) racial slurs, sexual misconduct, ignorance, hate speech, and fear-mongering, they may enjoy a temporary notoriety. This can even look like success or triumph as other wounded beings join in.
But reciprocity and balance play out in every aspect of the natural world. Why would it be any different for human systems?
So we are challenged at this time to consider: what needs remediation in our lives? If serving justice is a bedrock value for good people of all spiritual walks, then who will be its defender? How or when are we personally called to stand up and say, “Enough!”
It is in our hands alone to choose whether to support and reinforce the dangerous nonsense that passes nowadays for normal. Each and every person reading this is the ultimate champion — or else saboteur — of what is just.
No matter your spiritual preferences or even political leanings, we are all invited this week to look honestly into our hearts. This is a time of reckoning, for making amends, and restoring wholeness.
Wield with courage your righteous weapons, as long as you can also hold the scales in balance as well. Take off any blindfold you may have been wearing. Consider all the facts.
Make your stand for what is just, fair, and right.
Because if you won’t, who do you think will?