Judge-y Cards (Justice and Judgement)

An angel blows a trumpet as people-shaped spirits rise into the air to join her.
from Shadowscapes Tarot
Woman holding sword in one hand, balancing scales in the other.
from the Ellis Deck

Justice and Judgement might be the most-frequently compared (or questioned) pair of cards in the majors.

What I see them having in common is (the potential for) clear sight.

True justice means knowing what’s really going on. Judgement Day (the biblical one this card is based on, where sky-daddy God does accounting on all our souls) is when all the truths of our hearts are brought into the light for all to see.

But they also have very different foci, so clarity just represents their overlap.

Here are a few songs to show what I mean.

For Justice (Key 11 in most of the decks I prefer)

It’s about making distinctions. That sword you see in so many iterations of the card cuts between differences.

[“How does it feel” sung by Avril Lavigne.]

This highlighting difference can be polarizing or build understanding (The depiction of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in this video is a good representation of both applications).

Understanding differences is important to justice in this time, as always, because if we always “treat everyone the same” we of the dominant culture will continue to center ourselves and our view of the world (as “normal”), running the risk (or exhibiting a myopic arrogance) of not believing the lived experience of marginalized people.

Justice invites us to admit what we don’t know.

In one hand of many Justice figures is the balancing scale. We can’t act as though our decision don’t effect other people.

What we do to others we do also to ourselves. We are a whole people, a whole planet.

“There is no other. There’s only us. And all of Heaven is here with us.”

[“Find Our Way to Love” sung by The Many.]

Do these two interpretations contradict each other?

Maybe. Or maybe the concept is big enough to hold both. That’s something tarot readers decide for themselves as they grow and practice.


Along with these the Justice card holds the basic idea of fairness, facts and arguments. Sometimes it’s calling someone out for their behavior.

[“I Know” sung by Dionne Farris.]

I know what you’re doing, yeah, yeah
And I don’t think it’s fair

~ ~ ~

The Judgement card (Key 20) is more far-sighted in a way. Farther, perhaps, or deeper (internally). Remember the God/angel Judgement-day connection? That’s what we’re working from with this card: being declared guilty or innocent. Starting over with a clean slate or with deep understanding (sometimes connected to that feeling of guilt or innocence).

[“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” sung by Sara Bareilles.]

I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man
You know you can’t hold me forever
I didn’t sign up with you
I’m not a present for your friends to open

This is a song of awareness, and activating boundaries. Returning to a known goodness or (in returning) starting a new life.

All of those ideas are contained in and represented by the Judgement card.


Here’s another song I connect with this card:

[“My Confession” sung by Josh Groben.]

And I feel my heart is turning
Falling into place
I can’t hide it
Now hear my confession

I have been wrong about you
I thought I was strong without you
For so long
Nothing could move me
For so long
Nothing could change me

Here we have the self-awareness and (one would hope) humility that might lead to a type of absolution or forgiveness – which can also be contained in the concept of the Judgement card.

~ ~ ~

What you may notice in my examples is how the music for each card is distinct. The first set might come across as more “punchy” than the second set. I think this is a good representation of how different cards take on different feels for the card-reader as she or he gets more familiar with them.

While there is overlap between the Justice and Judgement cards – mainly in the areas of clarity and urging to right-action – I see the Justice card as more often interpersonal and focused on the legal/doing-the-right-thing between people.

The Judgement card I see as more intrapersonal. An internal or self-assessment (perhaps inviting the opinion of your higher power) as part of a call or process to becoming one’s best self.

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