- Pictorial Key to the Tarot
- The Tarot
S. L. MacGregor Mathers
- General Book of the Tarot
A. E. Thierens
Equity, rightness, probity, executive; triumph of the deserving side in law.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Law in all its departments, legal complications, bigotry, bias, excessive severity.
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.
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 Astræa, 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 prudentiæ .
Themis, or Justice - Equilibrium, Balance, Justice.
Divinatory Meanings - Reversed
Bigotry, Want of Balance, Abuse of Justice, Over-severity, Inequality, Bias.
Symbolism of the Keys
Justice - A woman crowned and seated on a throne (between two columns), holding in her right hand an upright sword, and in her left the scales. She symbolises Equilibrium and Justice.
Description and Meaning
Whosoever might hesitate before the emblems of this card and think it might as well stand in relation with Libra on account of the idea of 'justice,' generally ascribed to the latter sign, and the balance which the woman holds in her left hand, will do well to consider the systematic relationship existing between all signs of the zodiac or evolutionary cycle. The left hand derives from, while the right hand is instrumental in giving out. Scorpio derives from Libra the balance and the idea of justice, but the sword in the right hand shows, that we have not justice pure and simple, platonic so to speak, but that which has often been called 'avenging justice.' Au fond it is more vengeance than justice and Scorpio is famous for its tendency to vengeance, in every way and every form. After Libra, the stage of total manifestation, this stage is the taking-back, the first step on the way home, which explains the well-known feature of desire, thirst for experience in this sign, because it wishes to bring home something from the voyage 'westward.' So the card of justice means above all the faculty of desire, higher as well as lower, from the most spiritual or religious longing down to the most crude lust. Sexual experience is one of the most important expressions of it, and we may safely say, that one of the principal significances of the card is sex. Another, principally where sex is sublimated, is occult experience, and the psychical side of earth-life in general. Naturally it stands in close relation to the sign Virgo, on the other hand of the Balance, in which sensation was born; the faculty (or possibility) of the sensation bringing the desire to realise it. It is the sign of transmutation, which is the change of the inner composition by the experience won. The sensation realised makes one feel, actually, bodily, psychically or morally, the meaning of good and evil, and therefore the 'sword of discrimination' is the emblem in the right hand of this figure. Every mistake in the process of life will avenge itself with geometrical certainty. This house is the school of life and it is remarkable how it is concerned with 'school' in every respect. In this house the Self takes from life and from the cosmos surrounding what it wants, consequently what it does not yet possess, and the card of Justice becomes the index for our debts or the possessions of other people.
Meanwhile the balance in the left hand of the figure denotes, without the slightest doubt, that since Libra is on the left hand Justice must be the VIIIth card, not the XIth as some authors have it.
Papus identifies this principle with that of the Hebrew letter Heth, which "expresses a field, from it springs the idea of anything that requires labour, trouble, effort." The sexual union has taken place and Adam-Eve are condemned to "earn their bread in the sweat of their face" on the field. To say it less tragically the divine gift of the senses obliges us to work with them and to suffer by them as well as to benefit by the enjoyment of their impressions.
It is the card of sorrow as well as of deeper satisfaction. In the man under this card there is always something of the 'avenger of wrongs,' and very often it has to do with the proceedings of justitia in the world. It is also the card of the secret, or hidden. Most authors are not very famous for their interpretation of this card, but Papus says a very good thing about it: "The sword here is a sign of protection for the good, as well as a menace for the bad."