11 – Justice

This article is part of a series of posts that will compare each card in the Tarot across different decks in order to study and explore each archetype and concept more deeply. This is not necessarily meant to be a teaching tool for others, but if you like to study the Tarot as much as I do, I hope you find it interesting. Enjoy!

For more on the decks referenced here please see this page in my blog: Tools of the Locksmith https://wordpress.com/page/theramblinglocksmith.com/163

A major reference for this study was “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack.

Justice can mean many things to many people, but all point to some version of a greater understanding of our own truth, and finding equilibrium between action and understanding.

A quick note on the number and position of this card. The Justice card position is one of the few controversial things in the structures of different Tarot deck architectures. In the Rider-Waite-Smith its number is 11 as reaching an understanding of Justice bisects the Major Arcana. In some other systems its number is 8 and the Strength card is number 11 for the idea that 8 turned on its side as an infinity symbol is the ultimate representation of balance. I personally like the Justice card at position 11 but have included examples of both here. I also think that what we learn from the journey of the Chariot is Strength first, and that we need to understand a few more things before we can understand Justice at 11.

Up to this point the archetypes have either been inward, and reflective, or outward and action oriented – the Hight Priestess vs the Magician for example. In the Justice archetype we are asked to be both in a balanced manner. How can we do this? By holding an understanding of our truth in any given situation and understanding what action is required for that given truth.

In this card we are also asked to balance dualities instead of becoming aware of or choosing between them. Those scales are heavy, but because we already have strength from the Strength card and free will from the Chariot, we are able to do it or if we aren’t this is what we are asked to contemplate and understand by reflecting on these concepts.

Another quick note on free will from Rachel Pollacks book referenced above. If we have free will why do we need a tool like the tarot? Isn’t everything just going to happen the way it needs to and we will act accordingly? Well yes and no. Everything is going to happen the way it needs to, but we can execute this in a more present way if we understand ourselves and can move out of the past and into the present. If we don’t understand ourselves how can we be making a free choice, and also if you don’t understand the choices, how can you be making a choice in the first place.

Standard images in the card include:

  • Sitting on a bench looking forward, and though sitting being poised to stand
  • A sword pointed up to represent action and also readiness to pierce through illusion to find the inner meaning due to achieving wisdom.
  • Scales balanced between the past and the future

The Lua Tarot chooses to use the goddess Athena to represent Lady Justice. Some key differences here are the addition of the owl to emphasis the importance of wisdom in order to exact Justice and understand balance. Athena is also presiding over the city from beyond the veil and does not sit but rule from above.

For some this is a comforting ides – the idea that an all knowing/all wise karmic force is presiding over us and so we can trust that Justice will be served, but if you are not taking responsibility yourself for knowing your own truth and taking action when action is necessary instead of leaving things up to “fate” I feel we have missed the point of this Major.

Maybe this card works if you can see Athena as yourself presiding over and taking responsibility for your own life, and understanding what actions you have and haven’t taken to get where you are in the present, but I also would caution to see the owl as all the wisdom you will ever need to stay in balance. Wisdom is dynamic, and while we can understand much at one point in our lives, in other time points we can understand very little.

Check in to see if you understand what you are presiding over, if you are taking responsibility, and if you know what you have left to learn.

In the Ancestral Path Tarot the Justice card is number 8. In this card we have blind justice being bound to the “bench” until an outcome or decision is reached.

On one hand laying the tools of the sword, scales, tomes of knowledge aside and just using your intuition to measure the balance of one thing versus another could be quite freeing, and free of bureaucratic tools that ultimately prevent justice and truth from being found.

On the other hand unless you are some kind of jedi, you might need some more information, and some additional tools to get that information.

In any case with this version of the Justice card you can ask you self if you are keeping yourself from moving on due to the ability to find this balance, or if you can continue to learn more balance over time and maybe you don’t need to be stuck here until you understand everything.

Awareness of what you do and do not know is in and of itself and understanding of truth. Lift the veil and see where you are, weigh things out and act accordingly.

In the Brady Tarot we have all of the tools represented in the scales themselves. The arrow of the mind is used to asses the weight of the spirit against the egg or seed of the physical world. There are no horns to represent the emotions which means in order to see the situation clearly we must be detached from our emotions.

This turkey vulture isn’t trying to understand its own truth, its a turkey vulture and it knows that. It is confronting an argument by using mental capacity to balance the two sides or positions.

What are the two sides you are balancing? Are you only confronting one or are you weighing both? Are you weighing and confronting them yourself or are you trying to subcontract that out to the universe? The universe might know the answer, but it wants you get in there and do the work yourself.

The Tarot of the Divine illustrates the concept of Justice through the Korean Legend of Amhaeng-eosa – the secret royal inspectors who were employed to spy on the local officials in each province. The Amaehg-eosa would report back to the royal government and at that point consequences would be exacted. In some cases the consequences were a reward for serving the people in a just manner, in some cases there was a punishment for corruption. In either case the inspector presented all the facts.

From this card some key differences we can use are the idea that all exacting of truth is not a punishment, in many cases being able to weigh things justly is a reward all by itself.

A second new idea here is that responsibility is not only required for understanding what the truth is on your own, but also the consequences of it. What are you more afraid of? Understanding more fully where you really came from and moving into the present, or the consequences of what that will change for you?

Be brave Amhaeng-eosa, in any case you will be freed from the past and able to move on to your next mission.

In The Way Home Tarot the concept of justice is put in very black and white terms, and the sword has become the balance. It would be great to think that any situation that has caused us to ask for a reading is this black and white, but if it was you probably wouldn’t need the tarot as a tool in the first place.

Maybe the best way to look at this card is to ask yourself if you are viewing the situation with too much simplicity, it may not be black and white, and you may need more than just your mental capacity to weigh and understand the truth of the matter, and what actions to take?

The Voyager Tarot also incorporates a Sword and Crystal into the Justice Card which it calls Balance. All suits are being considered in this card which is different than all of the above. A hummingbird is balancing a cup while the dancer is balancing a world, and both are being balanced on a wand on top of a crystal.

The message of this card is slightly different in that it asks us to consider that we are always rebalncing after each new change. In this way we can consider Balance as a verb and not a solid state that is achieved and then stays that way once achieved only once. The text of the book even calls this a “dance” of rebalancing.

What has happened in your life recently that has changed the balance or equilibrium, and is an adjustment or new “step” needed? How many times can you be aware of adjusting and readjusting? Are you comfortable with the dance?


The Osho Zen Tarot takes a very large step outside of the traditional meaning of this card. So much so that it was hard for me to relate back to the concept of Justice when writing this article but here goes.

This meaning is very close to the meaning of Judgement, but where this is in the souls path of the major arcana means it is a breakthrough that allows you to make transformation within or within your own life, where as later with the Judgement position we are talking about a breakthrough or decision that allows you connect with everything, the world, humanity, the universe, etc – an even bigger “breakthrough”.

We all reach points in our life where we have had enough, and we want to make a huge change. This might be why we are looking for “justice” “Balance” “A decision” in the first place, because something has come to a point where change must happen.

In this case, the change is internal, and “breakthrough” from within. You are ready to take action and make major changes which will change your life in a big way, and therefore require you to rebalance things once the change occurs.

What have you had enough of? How big of a change can you see yourself making to balance this “injustice” in your life.?