2009 Tarot Study – VIII Justice
Justice — Is There Any?
The subtitle for this section of my post is borrowed from the chapter on Justice in Sallie Nichols’ Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey.
I’ve had a lot of trouble with this particular card in my study, and I’m not sure why. It’s not as if I’ve never given the Justice card a lot of thought before. But during the past week, I’ve been skirting around the Justice card as if it were anathema to me. I thought that didn’t make much sense. It makes even less sense when I consider that as a person with Sun in Libra, I’ve often identified with the Justice card as an archetype representing me to a great degree.
Fairness and Justice have always been important to me, and they’ve been factors in my life at every turn, sometimes as ideals or aspirations, sometimes as great disappointments. And maybe that’s where my difficulty comes in. We search and search for Justice in certain matters, in our world. Yet I’m sure we don’t always find it, and more recently I wonder if we always should. After all, there are mysteries and powers, and events that we fail to recognize or understand completely. Some things are best turned over to a higher power. But I think that we should always seek Justice, within limits.
So, Justice — what is it? Can we ever hope to understand? I don’t think so. All we can understand is what it means to us as individuals, and how it might play out in our lives on some level, and of course what it might mean in a Tarot reading.
Justice impacts our lives on many levels. It can present itself as activism, in being a participant in representative government, as well as in personal life, where we need to seek balance and to govern our actions, to live according to our highest ideals. Some of the concepts covered by Justice as balance overlap those covered by other cards, such as Strength and Temperance.
Justice in Tarot Decks
The Golden Tarot’s Justice card shows an angel holding a balance. In each of the balance’s pans is what appears to be a soul. One is attended by angels, the other by demons. The angel’s staff is topped by an owl, I’m guessing as a symbol of Athena, a goddess often associated with Justice. Kat Black offers the keywords, “Do what is right.”
The Haindl Tarot’s Justice card depicts eight peacock feathers arranged behind a balance, which appears to weigh two bubbles. Haindl assigns the Hebrew letter Lamed, meaning oxgoad, to Justice, which makes me think how sometimes we grow complacent and have to be prodded into fighting or standing up for what is right, especially when our own comfort, freedom, or life aren’t at stake but someone else’s is.
Justice in Government
In the US we like to think that we have a pretty good Justice system. Yet we read of errors, of inJustices, of the guilty going free and the innocent being blamed, of pointless deaths, and so we have to be honest with ourselves and agree that ours isn’t a perfect system. Our founding fathers realized how difficult Justice is to achieve in this world, and that was why they were so careful of the rights of the accused — more it sometimes seems than they were of the rights of the victims of crimes. But what does it mean to a society if someone — any one person — who is innocent of a crime is punished for it? What kinds of punishments do we have a right, as fallible humans, to impose?
It’s a tough question, and certainly not one to answer in a single blog post about a Tarot card. But that is a big part of the concept of Justice covered by this Tarot card, so it’s at least worth mentioning and thinking about.
Thinking about this card also takes me back to the idea I explored when studying the Hierophant, of seeking perfection in an imperfect world, as imperfect people. But then every time we study an archetype we are, in effect, studying a perfect concept that doesn’t exist in pure form in our world. And when I think about it I realize that what we consider the “perfect” realization of an archetype is only a part of the archetype as a whole. An archetype contains all the positive and negative (from our perspective) potentials of itself.
As far as judging others and deciding what they deserve, I think that’s best left up to the best systems we have in place, as well as to exercising a certain amount of empathy and compassion — toward victims and criminals alike. But again that’s just my opinion. People have varying views on the harshness appropriate in criminal punishments.
This is partly where I got hung up, when considering Justice this past week, in the idea of criminal Justice. Maybe I tried to write mystery novels for too long and grew too disappointed in that. Maybe it’s more personal, the result of having a family member murdered years ago. Perhaps it’s a result of the last eight years when the US has had a president who seemed to treat terrorism and other concerns with such harsh Justice that it bled over onto innocents. It did so in many ways, in war that killed and maimed civilians, as well as in the diminishment of civil rights here at home, in torture, and in prisoners being held without charge. Perhaps it has to do with others, here and in other countries, wanting harsh Justice in return against that same president. Perhaps it has to do with terrorism itself, hardly something we consider even approaching a valid form of Justice. And yet that’s what the terrorists like to call it. In any case, I feel as if I’ve had too much focus already, in recent years, on this criminal aspect of Justice.
Government comes in as an aspect of Justice in other ways than preventing or punishing crime, though. We pay taxes, and in return we get services. We vote, and in turn we get representation. We serve our countries, and we’re protected and served by those who serve our countries. We hope that all these things balance out, and in many cases they do. We can be quite efficient in some matters, and the civil aspect of government seems to be one area where we excel if everyone wants to make it work. We enter contracts and legal agreements such as marriage, and we file or defend ourselves in lawsuits that are decided by judges or juries to serve balance and fairness within the law — sometimes fairly, sometimes not so much. We support each other, not just as families, but as legal entities, businesses, taxpayers, customers, investors, lenders, and if all goes well, all those balance out and serve everyone equally.
Personal and Spiritual Justice
It’s difficult to separate the personal and spiritual aspects of Justice, for those of us who consider ourselves spiritual, because it really is both personal and spiritual at once. It’s all about balance.
Again, Justice isn’t the only Tarot archetype that deals with balance. Both Strength and Temperance do as well. I’ll get to those cards in time.
In our personal lives we seek balance in the form of dividing our time and attention between work and family, between work and play, between paying the bills and enjoying the arts, between the mundane and the numinous.
Everything we do either feeds us spiritually or it doesn’t, and those same things that don’t feed us spiritually don’t tend to feed us at all, except at the basest level of survival. Some things we do are only meant to afford us the things that do serve us spiritually, or to make room for those that do. We learn at some point in our growing up process to take what doesn’t feel good — the bad — with the good, because it’s all necessary in order to get to the really good, somewhere out there in the unknown, or in here in the unknown, and in that other mysterious realm we call happiness.
We work all week so that we have time off, and perhaps part of that time off is spent in spiritual aspirations, study, worship, prayer, or contemplation. To make room for all these things in our lives, we seek balance. An orderly home and an orderly mind that still leave us freedom for the sometimes chaotic messiness of imagination and play, a working day and a restful night, healthy foods and comforting foods, exercise and sleep.
Action and reaction, cause and effect. These are concepts covered by the Justice archetype both on the mundane and spiritual level. Reaping what we sow. When things don’t seem to balance out in this world, as they often don’t, then we tend to hope they will in the next.
Copyright © 2009 Barbara W. Klaser. All rights reserved.