Justice without blindfold
is not always fair.
The Justice of the Tarot is not blind. There's the sword representing the sharp firmness of the law, and the scales by which to judge the actions of men, as carried by every image of Justitia. But the Tarot Justice has no blindfold, the guarantee that all people are treated as equals before the law. Unfortunately, that has often proven to be closer to the truth about justice.
The blindfold on the personification of justice appeared at the end of the 15th century, as on the 1543 statue by Hans Gieng below, which may be the first known representation of blindfolded justice:
So, the Tarot Justice card indicates that the system of justice is hazardous even to the innocent. You need not only to obey the law, but give the impression of doing so. That's not always easy. How can you prove that you are a law-abiding citizen? A basic principle of justice is that we are innocent until proven guilty, but in reality it has happened far too often through history that we've been regarded as guilty until we were able to prove our innocence - beyond any reasonable doubt.
The Tarot Justice card, then, refers to the judgmental attitude - the one expecting and seeing faults in others and not in a hurry to reconsider or forgive. But if you stand the test, you are acquitted, most definitely, and everything will be fine. You may even receive respect.
Notice also that on the Tarot Justice card image, the sword is held high, as if to strike, whereas the scales are held low. That's an indication of values between them in the mind of this figure of justice: Fairness in trial is of less importance than the order imposed by the might of the law. So, beware of justice in the shape suggested by this Tarot card.
Even if you come out of it free of any accusations, you can't be sure that it's because of justice being done or just because you pleased the court. That's a victory with a bitter taste to it and a remaining sense of uncertainty.
The other great uncertainty with justice, implied by the Tarot Justice card, is the elusive nature of truth. As Pilate asked rhetorically: What is truth? We are rarely sure of having found it, extremely rarely all of it and nothing but it. So, who can judge, really?
Still, Justice on the picture of this Tarot card shows no hint of humility or hesitation. Not much benefit of a doubt is to be expected. A person with this characteristic needs to learn moderation and consideration. We all err. That goes for judges, too.
Compare the other Tarot card about justice: Judgement.
A. E. Waite's Texts
About the Tarot Justice Card
11. Justice. That the Tarot, though it is of all reasonable antiquity, is not of time immemorial, is shewn by this card, which could have been presented in a much more archaic manner. Those, however, who have gifts of discernment in matters of this kind will not need to be told that age is in no sense of the essence of the consideration; the Rite of Closing the Lodge in the Third Craft Grade of Masonry may belong to the late eighteenth century, but the fact signifies nothing; it is still the summary of all the instituted and official Mysteries. The female figure of the eleventh card is said to be Astraea, who personified the same virtue and is represented by the same symbols. This goddess notwithstanding, and notwithstanding the vulgarian Cupid, the Tarot is not of Roman mythology, or of Greek either. Its presentation of justice is supposed to be one of the four cardinal virtues included in the sequence of Greater Arcana; but, as it so happens, the fourth emblem is wanting, and it became necessary for the commentators to discover it at all costs. They did what it was possible to do, and yet the laws of research have never succeeded in extricating the missing Persephone under the form of Prudence. Court de Gebelin attempted to solve the difficulty by a tour de force, and believed that he had extracted what he wanted from the symbol of the Hanged Man - wherein he deceived himself. The Tarot has, therefore, its justice, its Temperance also and its Fortitude, but - owing to a curious omission - it does not offer us any type of Prudence, though it may be admitted that, in some respects, the isolation of the Hermit, pursuing a solitary path by the light of his own lamp, gives, to those who can receive it, a certain high counsel in respect of the via prudentiae.
The Inner Symbolism of the Tarot Justice Card
As this card follows the traditional symbolism and carries above all its obvious meanings, there is little to say regarding it outside the few considerations collected in the first part, to which the reader is referred.
It will be seen, however, that the figure is seated between pillars, like the High Priestess, and on this account it seems desirable to indicate that the moral principle which deals unto every man according to his works - while, of course, it is in strict analogy with higher things; - differs in its essence from the spiritual justice which is involved in the idea of election. The latter belongs to a mysterious order of Providence, in virtue of which it is possible for certain men to conceive the idea of dedication to the highest things. The operation of this is like the breathing of the Spirit where it wills, and we have no canon of criticism or ground of explanation concerning it. It is analogous to the possession of the fairy gifts and the high gifts and the gracious gifts of the poet: we have them or have not, and their presence is as much a mystery as their absence. The law of Justice is not however involved by either alternative. In conclusion, the pillars of Justice open into one world and the pillars of the High Priestess into another.
Divinatory Meaning of the Tarot Justice Card
Equity, rightness, probity, executive; triumph of the deserving side in law. Reversed: Law in all its departments, legal complications, bigotry, bias, excessive severity.
The Tarot Major Arcana
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool