Discussion: Justice

Few concepts or images are more indelibly ingrained on the American consciousness as that of Justice, the blindfolded lady with her scales and sword. She stands high atop our courthouses and government buildings, meting out her rulings with equanimity and fairness.

But Justice is far more than simply right versus wrong, good versus evil. Justice is balance.

Justice Tarot cardIt’s easy to consider the idea of balance and immediately equate it with the 14th numbered Major, Temperance. I think that Justice more appropriately embodies this philosophy, however. Temperance is about not only balancing two unlike things but also synthesizing them into a third thing, greater than the sum of its parts. Justice is about creating and developing that balance in the first place.

A side note: this morning’s yoga practice was centered on the concept of balance. Weird little bit of synchronicity, huh?

To understand the core of the Justice card, we must look back into antiquity, to ancient Greece and Rome. The Roman goddess Iustitia is the one most commonly seen in statues and engravings throughout the United States. When we think of “Lady Justice,” what we typically envision is Iustitia. She bears in her left hand a set of weighing scales, upon which she measures the relative strengths of a case and its opposition. In her right hand she bears a double-edged sword, which she uses to enforce her rulings; a reminder that fairness and equitability are not always popular.

Statue of ThemisThe Greeks, on the other hand, had Themis, one of the first generation of Titanesses. Themis is the personification of order and both Divine and natural law. Somewhat less exacting and demanding than the Roman Iustitia, Themis is a bit more like what I imagine is really meant by the allegorical concept of “Justice.”

According to AeclecticTarot:

One thing to remember about the Justice card is that it is not about punishment, good, bad, right or wrong. It is about adjustment. The sword suggests that sometimes this won’t be pleasant. Justice pares things down with that sword so that the scales end up equal. Swords represent the mind and suggest that Justice only listens to reason, logic and facts. She will not be tricked by appeals to emotions or passions, nor bribed for that matter. She will be rational and cool-headed.

This is what I think is most important: the idea that sometimes, things need to be balanced. When there is too much focus on one aspect of life, another part will suffer, atrophied and withered like an undeveloped muscle. Justice is about balancing the spiritual with the physical. It is about balancing work life with home life. It is about mediating the consumption of food and drink, and countering excesses with exercise and healthful activities.

Themis represented orderliness, and among her children, the Horae, was Dike, the embodiment of the dispensation and enforcement of justice and rulings. Themis then became representative of Divine justice while Dike personified human justice. Between the two of them, they maintained the order of the world.

Justice is associated (according to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) with the sign of Libra, the scales. Objectivity and clearheadedness are of vital importance to this card. When it appears in a throw, it is a sign to the querent that there are forces at play that must be brought into balance and that he or she must do so with measured objectivity and distance. Viewing a situation subjectively can cause one to make decisions based on emotion rather than on reason, logic, and facts.

Of course, among the things in life that must be balanced are emotional response and objectivity. Knowing when to take a step back and view a situation from the outside is necessary for making good decisions, but then again so is knowing when to follow the heart rather than the head. This seemingly contradictory philosophy can cause confusion and difficulty in a querent’s life, but generally when the Justice card appears, it’s easy to see it in the context of an ongoing situation and determine which course of action is more prudent or responsible.

In general, I think this is a great card to keep in the back of one’s mind throughout the day or week, when stressors at work start to interfere with the enjoyment of home life, or when a relationship seems one-sided. Sometimes, you need the sword to cut and pare and whittle away the things that are too heavy until the pans of the scale are balanced and level.


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