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I am the girl next door... who reads tarot!
Exploring the 78 cards of tarot through the lens of life experiences, plus the perspectives and opinions of a professional tarot reader and witch.

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Justice vs. Judgment in the Tarot

King Baldwin IV: A King may move a man, a father may claim a son, but remember that even when those who move you be Kings, or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God, you cannot say, "But I was told by others to do thus." Or that, "Virtue was not convenient at the time." This will not suffice. Remember that.

—Kingdom of Heaven (2005 movie)


"for my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, declares Yahweh.

For the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts." —Isaiah 55:6-9


"Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”—Matthew 20:1-16 (Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard)


Above are some quotes that I found relevant to the Judgment card and the Justice cards. Combining the quote "my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways" with the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard was something I heard in a sermon when I went to a Catholic church with my godmother this past year. The priest there had used both quotations from the Bible as examples of man's reasoning versus God's reasoning, and applying man's reasoning to decisions that God makes is inherently faulty.


I sat there fascinated as the differences between the Justice and the Judgment tarot cards revealed themselves to me through a Catholic priest's sermon. My family looked at me as if they saw me having a religious conversion before their very eyes. But nope, people, still a witch... just applying what I see in the world to tarot, that's all!

My tarot lesson card for the year 2015? The Justice card. (as calculated by year card system, seen here.) I have also been told that 2015 is my Judgment year as well, hence my ramblings on the subject and compare/contrast of these two cards. They can be particularly confusing, even to people that have been reading tarot for a long time. I struggle with the Judgment card much in the same way I struggle with the Hierophant card (and the Hierophant card itself can be confusing/intimidating as well if you are coming at it from a formerly Christian, now Pagan background... some deck designers do deal with this by renaming the Hierophant and changing its artistic depiction in their decks).

In brief, here is my comparison of the two cards, side by side:

Justice: laws of man, legal issues, social contracts

Judgment: higher law, are you right with your gods?, the final AHA moment or a veil lifted that reveals a spiritual truth

Any time I have been faced with a "tarot is evil" from a Christian viewpoint (truly, I am happy it happens SO infrequently by people I actually know nowadays), I want to laugh and point to the Judgment card. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck (and consequently, most modern tarot decks that follow RWS as a template) depicts the Judgment card as the Rapture. Specifically, this:


First Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

In my opinion, this is the moment of reunion with God (from a Christian standpoint). The flesh is left behind, and the mortal becomes immortal. Perhaps this is the reason why I have had trouble with the Judgment card... because there is a striving in the Pagan faith to live our lives knowing that we are all Gods ourselves, that we all have the divine spark within us.

Keep in mind also that the Judgment card is NOT the final card of the Major Arcana in tarot: The World is. The Judgment card is that final reckoning of past actions, the stepping stone to true wholeness that is depicted in the World card when all our lessons are integrated.



Image from personal collection

Ma'at and Awakening cards from the Sacred Bridges Tarot by Rachel Paul (top)

Justice and Judgment cards from the Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot distributed by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. (bottom)

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Owner and content-provider of Tarot by Hilary, professional tarot reader with over fourteen years of experience slinging the cards, posts weekly on the Tarot by Hilary blog, and all around woman-about-town. My clients are awesome, and you should be one of them.


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