Justice is a Major Arcana Tarot card, numbered either VIII or XI, depending on the deck. Justice accompanies two of the other cardinal virtues in the Major Arcana: temperance and strength.
On the card of Justice we see the familiar figure of Justice. In Waite’s classic version, to the right are represented the scales (Libra), signifying balance and justice; to the left is the sword of decision, signifying accountability.
Justice is traditionally the eighth card and Strength the eleventh, but the influential Rider-Waite-Smith deck switched the position of these two cards in order to make them better fit the astrological correspondences worked out by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, under which the eighth card is associated with Leo and the eleventh with Libra.
In the tarot, Justice represents the understanding that life is ultimately fair and just. Even though the vagaries of day-to-day life tend to make us doubt this fact, Justice reminds us that there is divine balance. Notice the similarity between the Emperor and Justice. Both cards stand for universal order; the Emperor in its underlying structure, Justice, in the action of karma – cause and effect.
The card justice stands for clear, objective knowledge, for conscious and decisively reached judgment, for incorruptibility, balance, and fairness. It shows that we will get what we deserve. On the everyday level it says that we experience our surroundings as our echo and will be confronted with the results of our actions, be they good or bad. If we behave in an upstanding and fair manner, our actions will be recognized and properly rewarded, but when we try to gain advantages by questionable means, we will fail.
This card expresses a high degree of personal responsibility. It shows that nothing is given to us, but also that nothing is kept from us, so that we alone carry the responsibility for everything that we receive and experience. Through visualisation and meditation, Justice assists you in breaking through the veils of illusion or deception. This archetype helps you achieve and maintain balance in all aspects of your life.
When this card appears, the art of decision-making is required. Something in your life needs attention, mediation, a solution. We cannot become honest without ourselves, without extending that honesty to ourselves and others. In this sense the card carries the obvious meaning of Justice; fairness, honesty, correct actions, and in legal matters a just decision.
Justice is often a sign that the Querent make adjustments, do whatever is necessary to bring things back into balance: physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. In a more mundane sense, this card may signal a court case, legal documents, adjustments in a marriage or partnership.
Sometimes Justice is a signal to do what needs to be done. A time comes when responsibilities must be accepted, and accounts settled. The past will continue to haunt you if you do not recognize your mistakes and make amends for them. You will need to weigh matters carefully and perhaps make important decisions about your future course.
Reversed, Justice is the classic signal of life out of balance. It shows an unwillingness to see the meaning of events, and shows that you are missing some opportunity for a greater understanding of yourself in life. It can also indicate bias, obstruction of the law, or legal complications.
Justice, in many Tarot representations, is Athena, the Greek Goddess of Justice or Maàt (or Neith) the goddess of justice in Egypt. She ties Judgment with Justice, as she helped judge the souls of the dead. The Justice card is closely connected to The High Priestess through its cross sum (the sum of the digits). Unlike the hidden knowledge of the High Priestess, Justice is decided in the open; we are left hoping that our intellect and our intuition take us to the same place. Justice is also connected to Judgment (Tarot card), Key 20, the ultimate weighing of souls.
Justice in the Tarot of Marseilles
Two of Swords – avoiding the truth, disavowing your role
Five of Swords – lack of integrity, not doing what is right
Seven of Swords – shirking responsibility
Emperor – justice, regulations, legal issues
Judgement – deciding, accepting past actions/mistakes
Ten of Wands – accepting responsibility, being accountable
Nine of Swords – guilt over the past, acknowledging mistakes
Seven of Pentacles – assessing where you are, deciding a future course
When I possessed the keys, read the book and understood the symbols, I was permitted to lift the curtain of the Temple and enter. its inner sanctum. And there I beheld a Woman with a crown of gold and a purple mantle. She held a sword in one hand and scales in the other. I trembled with awe at her appearance, which was deep and mysterious, and drew me like an abyss.
“You see Truth,” said the voice. “On these scales everything is weighed. This sword is always raised to guard justice, and nothing can escape it.
“But why do you avert your eyes from the scales and the sword? They will remove the last illusions. How could you live on earth without these illusions?
“You wished to see Truth and now you behold it! But remember what happens to the mortal who beholds a Goddess!” The Symbolism of the Tarot by P D. Ouspensky (1913)