Tarot Trumps: Justice and Judgement

Tarot trump XI, Justice, and Tarot trump XX, Judgement, are both Twos, and I have written about them, as twos, in the posts Twos and Elevens, More on Twos and Elevens, and The Number Two in Tarot. Now, I want to look a little more closely at these two particular cards, one (Judgement) “a pure Two”, the other (Justice) an “Eleven equals Two”.

In the physical world, the world of which we are conscious under normal circumstances, justice is the prerogative of the worldly authorities, symbolised by The Emperor in the Tarot pack and by his representatives (such as Pontius Pilate) in this world.

But the justice they dispense, whether or not they wash their hands of it, may not be just in any real sense. In this poem (from The Complete Tarot Poems) it is that this-worldly notion of justice that is being discussed:

XI – Justice

Looks good. But what is it?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?
A life for a life? Jesus said ‘No’ to that,
‘that’s part of our brutal past,’
and he spoke the truth,
but was he perhaps
a Fool in some ways,
a Fool with his head in the clouds,
talking about what should be
rather than what is?

Sounds good, too. Half the cake
for little Johnny, half for Jane.
One slap for one slap,
two slaps for two. But that way
they will never learn
that life is full of pain
and justice a fairy tale.

A fairy tale,
like Larry the Lamb and Peter Pig
in little Johnny’s book.
Peter Porker and the Larry the Lamb
Chop more like.

Justice? … In
another life perhaps.

In another universe.

However, since I wrote that poem I have come to realise that (unlike Tarot trump IV, The Emperor) Tarot trump XI, Justice, does not relate to this world in that sense. On the contrary. “We are formed by the actions we have taken in the past; we form our future selves by the actions we take now,” says Rachel Pollack, speaking of Tarot trump XI, and that is exactly the point.

This card refers to Karma, something no government, no police force, no court of law, can influence or affect one iota. What goes around, comes around, we see on the card preceding this one, The Wheel of Fortune (the final card in the top row when the trumps are arranged in two rows of eleven cards, the physical, material sequence) but here we go deeper than that. Here we see that all our actions (and inactions) in this life are reflected, mirror-like, in our present and future life and lives. There is nothing anyone or anything can do about that, no divine forgiveness – and anyway this is not a matter of “morals”, of “sin” and “repentance”, for morals are subject to fashion and vary greatly with time and place. No, this is “Fools rush in where angles fear to tread”, and if the Fool steps off the edge of the cliff and plunges to his death no one is surprised or considers it unjust no matter how much they may mourn his passing.

Pilate played the Emperor card. Jesus’ karma was to rise from the dead. And Pilate would discover that “washing his hands of it” did not and never would or could wash away the fruits of his actions.

And speaking of rising from the dead, Tarot trump XX, Judgement, is usually, and quite rightly, interpreted as a call to action.

Actually, “Judgement” is something of a misnomer. Underlying all “pure 2s” (as opposed to 2s which are also 11s) is sense of being doubtful or hesitant about something, or of being unwilling to, or unable to, make a decision, to take action, to DO SOMETHING. It is the sitting-on-a-fence number. Look at these cards:


In trump card XX, we do indeed have a wake-up call:

Come out of your little boxes, the boxes that shelter you from life, and

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