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Everything you want to know about Tarot--especially for contemplation, self-empowerment, personal growth and creativity--from Tarot expert, author and deck co-creator Janet Boyer.

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Justice Symbolism

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

According to the Merriam-Webster website:

Our Word of the Year for 2018 is justice. It was a top lookup throughout the year at, with the entry being consulted 74% more than in 2017.

The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice. In any conversation about these topics, the question of just what exactly we mean when we use the term justice is relevant, and part of the discussion.

You can read the rest of the story here.

One part of the article noted:

Justice has varied meanings that do a lot of work in the language—meanings that range from the technical and legal to the lofty and philosophical. 


Tarot readers well know that Justice happens to be one of the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot, a "big picture" archetype that touches every person at some point in life.

Justice Jumbo FONT

I was going to write a blog post about my ideas on Justice--but when I re-read what I wrote in the Stripped-Down Overview section on this card in my newest book Naked Tarot, I realized there's no need to reinvent the wheel (or is it The Wheel?):

Justice and Judgment are often confusing to Tarotists, especially if you throw in the Wheel of Fortune. Then there’s The Emperor and Hierophant. So who deals with laws? Rules? Consequences? Court dates? Jail time? Bureaucracy? Government? Karma? Ethics? Morality? Well, you have to read each entry in this book to get my take; if you’re reading from front to back, we’ve already covered The Emperor, The Hierophant and The Wheel. In The Hierophant chapter, I stated, “The Emperor rules the letter of the law, but The Hierophant governs the spirit of the same.” The boxing ring where these two duke it out? Justice. The roots of legal codes reach down towards the bedrock of religion; depending on your moral persuasion—i.e., ideas of right and wrong (Hierophant)—you may take issue with how a particular country translates their religious decrees into actual laws (Emperor).

Even within a particular province or country, some may disagree with laws—as well as their interpretation and enforcement. Thus, the battleground of Justice: this is where laws are discussed, decreed, repealed, appealed and enforced among a group—usually a township, county, state or country. They’re “on the books”, and subject to argument, objection and sustainment. In some patriarchal, fundamentalist, Middle-Eastern countries, laws are inextricably linked with sacred texts with an eye for an eye brand of “justice”: you steal, you lose a hand. You cheat on your husband, you get gang-raped. Bring your family “dishonor” as a modern young woman, and your brother gets to strangle you to death with impunity.

Even the legal systems of Western countries—which many assert are more civilized, rational and fair—may draw harsh criticisms: what of corrupt cops or courts? Jail time for marijuana possession versus multiple DUIs (any of which could have resulted in the death of motorists)? Or the capriciousness (some would say, bigotry) of racial profiling and arrests, not to mention false imprisonments? Granted, some territories appear to uphold equality more than others. In fact, if citizens disagree, they can actually change those laws through voting and political pressure. Participation in local government is important because, in essence, we make the laws of the land—and they directly reflect our sense of parity…or apathy.

So what are your thoughts on the concept (or card) of Justice, dear reader? How does it differ from Judgement in your worldview? Would love to read your take in the comments below!

-- Janet

P.S. Justice image from our Snowland Deck ( For an original Tarot spread I created based on the Justice card, click here.

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Janet Boyer is the author of Back in Time Tarot (Hampton Roads), Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer Publishing) and Naked Tarot: Sassy, Stripped-Down Advice (Dodona Books). She's the co-creator (with her husband, artist Ron Boyer) of the Snowland Deck and Coffee Tarot, and authored both companion books to those decks. A Renaissance Soul, she is also an award-winning cook, mixed media artist, jewelry artisan and journal maker. Next to creating, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her beloved husband, son and 5 cats at her rural home in Pennsylvania. Visit her at


  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Thursday, 27 December 2018

    In the case of confusion over Justice vs. Judgement, I have found a strong hint in both the order of the cards and of course the very different imagery of each.

    It is no accident or coincidence that Justice comes first, and features a single figure. She bears tools of justice, i.e. scales, which indicates both measuring and balancing, and the sword of knowledge and truth. Her similarities to the High Priestess - a lone, robed female figure sitting regally between two pillars - reflect a singularity of purpose and of the solitude intrinsically attached to each of their roles. As well as the need for intuition when it comes to both truth and justice, we often have only ourselves and our own scruples and experience to help us weigh, decide, choose and decide what is right or wrong, equal or unequal, balanced or unbalanced. Or fair or unfair. What is fair is not always exactly "equal" or the same.

    Judgement comes later, a much more widespread, all-encompassing concept and effect with usually more far-reaching effects and implications. In fact, Judgement is the penultimate card of the Majors, indicating the final step before completion, integration, enlightenment and coming full circle.

    Broader functions and meanings of Judgement include callings, absolution and rebirths and suggest more of a role in the world (or indeed the World, the next and final Major) and our place amongst all with whom we share the world. Where only one, who resembles the intuitive High Priestess, is represented in Justice, all of mankind and a higher power are shown in Judgement.

    Justice is where we learn to think critically, prioritize, balance and choose and sow seeds. Judgement is where we answer for those decisions and reap what was sown.

  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer Friday, 28 December 2018

    Wonderful insights, Meredith! I love your last two sentences, especially. :) To what card/s do you attribute legislation and law enforcement?

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Friday, 28 December 2018

    Why thank you! I'm rather partial to them myself, especially as I realized, right after I posted it, that those last two sentences pretty much summed up everything I had kinda rambled about!

    Legislation and law enforcement would have to be the Emperor and Justice, at least in my book. The Emperor is all about (among some other things) law & order and enforcement, especially on a more temporal plane. The Hierophant is more religious/spiritual learning and order and established dogmas & values.

    I would also attribute law and legislation more to Justice than Judgement, as Justice also strikes me as dealing with more temporal and physical contexts whereas Judgement is beyond matters of societal law and enforcement.

  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer Friday, 28 December 2018

    Totally agree. :D Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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