11. Justice

NOTE: In some decks, card 11 may be Strength, with Justice as card 8 instead. For the purpose of this course, we will work with Justice today, wherever it appears in your deck.

The law of cause and effect

Following on from the Wheel, Justice draws us into a serious conversation about what is possible when we are all accountable.

This can be a cold card, in that it deals with truth,. Traditionally, it is seen as a card of ‘objectivity’. In a world of fake news, hype and well-stoked ‘culture wars’, that may be a welcome concept, but belief in objectivity itself can be slippery and problematic. Institutional justice, the way we see it in the laws and courts that govern our societies, is not always fair, despite its claims to objectivity. ‘Objectivity’ is listed by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones as a core characteristic of white supremacy culture, since it seeks to remove emotion from decision-making, and invalidates whatever it deems ‘illogical’. Objectivity does not make space for different circumstances, demographics, privileges, oppressions – the unlevel playing field upon which we all stand. When objectivity is indicated in a reading, the Justice card may represent its exact opposite: injustice.

Beyond this, though, Justice represents the balancing of scales. The payment of dues. The ‘right’ outcome. The serving of justice as we enjoy it in films and literature. Social change, progress. Justice is, in principle and by definition, about fairness, balance, equity.

It’s about the law of cause and effect. As we see in the Lovers and in the Wheel of Fortune, every action, every choice, has a consequence. Justice is about the journey from those actions to those consequences, and the forethought that is necessary before action.

Some tarot deck creators rename this card with the aim of detaching it from the oppressive, inherently unjust structures that govern our lives. Personally, I love the word ‘justice’ and its meaning. Justice, sword aloft, scales in hand, is a powerful archetypal figure representing a social and personal ideal. Without justice, there cannot be peace. Regardless of the injustice around us, this card asks us to get clear about our own ideas of justice, and how we can embody these principles in our lives.

Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.
Cornel West

Advice from Justice

Ask yourself: what does justice mean to you? Without the waffle, the ‘ifs’ and the ‘buts’, what is true justice, in your situation? And how will you embody this in your life and work?

This is about thinking things through. It can be hard to remove the emotions from a situation, especially if you have been wronged or are doing wrong to another. But Justice does not ask you to do this. This is not about being purely rational or striving for objectivity, but it is about taking a logical perspective and facing up to the facts. What do you know, intellectually, factually, to be true? What do those truths mean, and where do they – or where should they – lead?

This card can point to the playing out of situations as they should, or as they were set up to. This action has that outcome; often this can be clearly seen. We know this – or we should know it – before we even begin. Think carefully about cause and effect when you see this card. Think about the consequences of your actions on yourself and others.

Our institutions of so-called justice, our courts of law, our prison systems, are built upon centuries of cultural oppression. What use is cold objectivity when people have such wildly different lives? How is it just that our laws are used to define who has a right to safety, and who does not? The Justice card asks us to look beyond the ‘objectivity’ presented to us by our governments, and our media, to see the gross injustice of our society.

This card asks you: what will you do to fight the injustice you see?

Justice asks you to create systems of fairness and accountability within your projects, work, community. This might be about setting ground rules, writing a manifesto, or naming people who will take responsibility for the actions of the group. It may be about doing internal work (such as personal anti-racism work), or having an accountability buddy or mentor. It might mean sharing power or passing the mic, or in turn it may represent asking for more power, or taking the mic. Be bold about steps you will take to move towards fairness, equity, equality and real justice in all areas of your life.

Key words and concepts

  • Rational, logical thought, objectivity (is this helpful or harmful?)
  • Binary, ‘right/wrong’ thinking (ditto)
  • Knowing what is ‘right’
  • Justice, fairness, balance
  • Accountability
  • Social justice principles
  • Intersectionality
  • Cause and effect
  • Cutting through bullshit
  • Legal affairs (whether ‘just’ or not)

Some common symbols

  • Scales (balance, fairness)
  • Sword (rational thought, cutting through confusion)
  • Symmetry (logic, structure)
  • Thrones, crowns, robes (power and status)