20. Judgement

Judgement (XX), or in some decks spelled Judgment, is a Major Arcana in Tarot decks.

Iconography

Very clearly, this card is modeled after the Christian Resurrection before the Last Judgment. An angel is depicted blowing a great trumpet, from which hangs a white flag bearing a red cross, most likely the St George’s Cross. A group of humans (man, woman, and child) of grayish complexion stand, arms spread, looking up at the angel in awe. The people are apparently emerging from crypts or graves. There are huge mountains or tidal waves in the background, which almost seem like glaciers as they are so white and blue. These may signify insurmountable obstacles and the impossibility of avoiding the Judgment, or may be a reference to the ocean giving up its dead on the day of judgment, as described in 1 Thessalonians.

Symbols

Here we see the Magician, Hermes, in his other aspect as the guider of the souls after death. The angel is Gabriel. Tarot scholar Tara Miller writes that “Judgment represents the House of Gabriel, the knowing that Judgment Day can come at any moment; live your life to the fullest, as the trumpet of Gabriel is at hand.”. The seven lines coming from the trumpet are the seven tones of the Creative Word that liberates Mankind from his worldly limitations. The solar cross, again, symbolizes balance. The man symbolizes the conscious mind. The woman is the subconscious. The child represents the regenerative personality. The sea is the ultimate goal of the stream that began in the High Priestess. The snowy mountains in the background represent the height of abstract thought.

Interpretation

This card represents the understanding of spiritual things, when we have achieved this, our conscious is ready to bond with the universal consciousness. The coffins are dark and void of light and truth when they are closed. But here they are shown open and light of the angel above trumpeting the truth of the universal consciousness. The resurrection portrayed here shows the moving experience of releasing and liberating that which was buried or imprisoned before. It shows that the truth, the divine, is ascending from the dungeon and entering the light.
The idea of Judgement day is that the dead rise, their sins are forgiven, and they move onto heaven. The Judgement card is similar, it asks for the resurrection to summon the past, forgive it, and let it go. There are wounds from the past that we never let heal, sins we’ve committed that we refuse to forgive, bad habits we haven’t the courage to lose. Judgement advises us to finally face these, recognize that the past is past, and put them to rest, absolutely and irrevocably.

Association

With Fire as its ruling element (or Pluto as its ruling planet), Judgement is about rebirth, resurrection.

Reading

Judgement’s appearance in a reading often signals that a major change is heading your way, but unlike Death and the Tower, the change will not be a destructive one. As the card symbolizes resurrection, it can also be interpreted to herald the return of individuals from the past. The card also represents God’s promise of life after death. In a reading, especially near the Six of Cups, it may represent a preoccupation with the past, while also suggesting a new beginning and clearing out of the past. On a more everyday level, this card signifies every form of liberation: from worries and need, from unthankful situations and bonds, from inhibitions and timidity.
This is also a card of healing, quite literally from an accident or illness, as well as a card signaling great transformation, renewal, change. As with everything in life, the beginning is woven irrevocably into the end and the end will eventually lead to a new beginning. But it’s also about making a final decision, to take that plunge into the new career, to forgive your family, to leave an abusive spouse, to make a new life.
In its reversed position, the Judgement card indicates that you may be indulging yourself in doubt and self-judgement, which makes you miss the new opportunities that await. You may have made some mistakes in the past, but see these as learning experiences rather than failures or faults. Don’t be too hard or critical of yourself and move forward.

Judgement in the Tarot of Marseilles
Alternative Decks

In the Mythic Tarot deck, Judgment is depicted by Hermes.

Opposing cards

Death – death, endings
Five of Cups – regret, mistakes
Nine of Swords – guilt, blame, feelings of sinfulness

Reinforcing cards

Fool – rebirth, new starts
Justice – deciding, accepting past mistakes/actions
Seven of Pentacles – decision point

Quote

I saw an ice plain, and on the horizon, a chain of snowy mountains. A cloud appeared and began to grow until it covered a quarter of the sky. Two fiery wings suddenly expanded in the cloud, and I knew that I beheld the messenger of the Empress.
He raised a trumpet and blew through it vibrant, powerful tones. The plain quivered in response to him and the mountains loudly rolled their echoes. One after another, graves opened in the plain and out of them came men and women, old and young, and children. They stretched out their arms toward the Messenger of the Empress and to catch the sounds of his trumpet.
And in its tones I felt the smile of the Empress and in the opening graves I saw the opening flowers whose fragrance seemed to be wafted by the outstretched arms.
Then I understood the mystery of birth in death. – The Symbolism of the Tarot by P D. Ouspensky (1913)

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