XI - Justice

XI - Justice - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

Returning once more to the concept of Justice, taking the place of the eleventh card in the Major Arcana by Rider-Waite convention, here the Strength card would be placed in other conventions.

Justice is yet another card of the Major Arcana that is often misunderstood, Justice does not represent good triumphing over evil or morality bias, it instead represents equilibrium and balance. It is better to separate the modern concept of the justice system as a means of punishing others for perceived discretions and instead to turn to the word “justified” which descends from the Latin word “ius” which serves as their root; to this end the question asked by the Justice card is not one of righteousness and virtue but instead whether our actions can be justified.

It is important here to remind ourselves that equality means treating everyone the same regardless of circumstance, for example giving the same amount of money to every person regardless of their income – it differs significantly from the concept of equity. Equity as opposed to equality does not treat everyone the same but rather it attempts to compensate for imbalances to bring everyone back to the same level. It is still equality that is the focus of Justice however not equity which despite our desires ultimately preserves the existing system by treating everyone as equal whether that is perceived as fair or not within the context as opposed to reforming the system to be more equitable.

In the upright state Justice represents the natural order, balance, equality, and reward proportionate to effort. This card can apply to any of the four domains of the Tarot, in the context of emotions and feelings it can relate to the imbalance or one-sided nature of our relationships for example. The interpretation of this card relies heavily upon its position within the spread and the other cards it appears alongside, the suits they belong to, and in particular where those cards that relate to a point in time within a spread for example the distant past, or near future.

In the inverted state, Justice represents the need to imbalance or to “tip the scales” in our favour. Again, here the antonym of Justice is Injustice which does not imply evil triumphing over good but instead represents actions taken which we cannot justify. The need to employ this tactic is complex and multi-faceted and ultimately requires faith in the wider Universe to correct the imbalance we create, lest we pursue with malice. Whilst it is within your power and freedom of will to pursue with malicious intent, you are not free from consequence.

In the Rider-Waite deck this definition of justice is reinforced by the depiction of a ruler, in this place a Monarch holding in their hands a set of scales representing balance and equilibrium and a sword representing consequence and repercussion. The Scales of Justice have long served as a symbol of justification since the time of Pharaoh’s and beyond when Anubis, God of the Underworld was said to take the heart of a man upon death and place it upon the scales and a feather to compare their weight and determine the fate of their soul after death.

As a minor aside, the concept of sin weighing heavily on the soul and righteousness being uplifting also stems from this belief. An ostrich feather is what was believed to be used by Anubis to compare the weight of a human soul, with a range today falling between 16g and 60g depending on the age of the bird when the feather was plucked. Rather interesting to note here, in 1907 an experiment conducted by a physician named Duncan MacDougall found that the human body upon death loses approximately 21g of weight; despite the rejection of this experiment by the Scientific community, this has led to the belief that a human soul weighs approximately 21g in weight which has an interesting correlation to the approximate weight of an Ostrich feather.

The Sword in particular within the Tarot serves to represent thinking and communication with an entire suit of the Minor Arcana dedicated to this domain. The presence of the sword underlines the emphasis that Justice embodies the concept of justification over the concept of balance, this is depicted by the sword elevated higher in the right hand with the scales of justice falling lower in the left hand. Again, recalling the Latin words for right and left as ‘ius’ and ‘sinister’ respectively. This reinforces the assertion that actions whether morally ambiguous or overtly immoral can be overlooked if you can justify those actions.

It is worth reiterating here that Justice is often misunderstood to represent just desserts or the idea of comeuppance this card in reality represents the balance between light and dark, positive and negative, it ultimately represents equilibrium. The story arc of a certain Space Opera centred around the misinterpretation of a prophecy due to the ignorance of this distinction, serving as an allegory for the pitfalls of this misunderstanding.

It is unrealistic to pursue a life free of sadness and negativity, it is an inevitability that there will be negative elements that we will face. When someone smiles all the time, they are probably not truly happy, no life is void of sorrow. Happiness and Sadness exist on a scale, when we try to eliminate the extremes of that scale, the only thing that we achieve is to change our frame of reference which in turn can amplify or minify the emotional significance of our experiences.

In self-reflection this card can be useful as a prompt to consider equilibrium as a goal rather than elimination. Knowing what to tolerate is part of defining the limit of our resilience. This works both in the positive and the negative case, it is important to focus on the stimuli that influence your thoughts and your feelings and understand that you shouldn’t make the promise of a better tomorrow serve as an excuse to tolerate misery today, a balance has to be found in order to determine what should be tolerated.

Ask yourself “Is this normal?” or “Is this to be expected?” and in recognition of the things we should tolerate to an extent “Is this too much?” or “Is that not enough?” accepting what we may have been able to handle initially can in time grow to become a burden we can no longer carry, forming an imbalance that we need to correct.

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