I used to think this card was scary.
The ‘day of judgement’ I’ve heard of, where someone’s god is deciding who’s been good and who’s been bad. But as I spent time with it today, reading a little, thinking a little, I started to feel less that it was about being judged, and more that the judgement was our own.
Judgement by John Horler, from the New Tarot
I read around the card a little on the internet, and found a variety of ideas. Biddy said some things about a time for making choices, using your own judgement – I can see that, how that could be an element, but gazing at this card as I’m doing now, it doesn’t feel quite right. What’s the angel doing? Why are dead people rising up?
Closer to the meaning I feel comes Aeclectic.net, talking about coming to terms with your past, laying it to rest, and being reborn. In this interpretation, the people rising from their coffins are like the spirits of your former experiences, all your deeds, good and bad, rising up for you to accept and move beyond one by one.
But still this doesn’t satisfy me.
This is an essential part of the Tarot journey, for sure, but how does this differ from Justice (taking responsibility for your actions), The High Priestess and The Moon (allowing innermost secrets to surface), Temperance (bringing together and unifying different aspects of your life)?
The clue for me is in Judgement’s proximity to The World.
It’s the last step in The Fool’s journey before she achieves that sense of true unification, and of understanding of the complexity of the universe and how all of us fit into that, body, mind and spirit. The idea that really floats my boat, and the idea I don’t find in any other card in the Tarot, is the idea that this card is about a call for integration. The integration of the self into the whole, of the mind into a shared consciousness. Of a person into their community, of a community into a society.
Rachel Pollack puts it best, in 78 Degrees of Wisdom:
We call the card Judgement because, like Justice, it involves coming to terms with past experiences as part of going beyond it. With Justice the experience and the response were personal, based on your actions in the past. Here a force greater than yourself is leading and calling you, and the Judgement is not simply on the meaning of your own life but on the true nature of existence, and the way in which you and all beings are part of it.
As Pollack says, the key here is that the experience is not intensely personal. It’s about seeing a far wider picture. Following The Fool’s journey, we have already come to terms with past selves and behaviours, we’ve acknowledged our innermost secrets, we’ve seen everything crash down around us, and found hope and strength to rebuild our lives.
But these important stages relate to us as individuals. The angel on the Judgement card asks us to consider our place in the bigger picture. It’s about change alright, but that change is one of world-view. It’s like that moment when you’re a teenager and you suddenly come over all philosophical and go ‘oh my god…everything’s connected!’… well, this card asks us to take that knowledge to the next level. Everything is connected, and you are part of everything.
So what’s the difference between Judgement and The World?
They sound pretty much the same! But as Rachel Pollack points out, ‘the important thing here is the call’. This card is about something encouraging us to understand this. To evaluate our place in the world, to alter our world view, to see a bigger picture. Take a look at the mechanisms of society – are they just? What role do you play in that? Do you go along silently with ‘the system’, are you a passive consumer who doesn’t think about where their coffee or their clothes are made? Do you talk to your neighbours?
I’m not trying to get preachy about Judgement – these are just examples of the way our world-view can be altered. For some people this could be finding a religion, for others it could be joining a political party or becoming a social activist. For some it’s not about becoming part of any particular ‘group’, but just about living differently. (PS As a major card, Judgement isn’t itself about these actions in themselves – it’s about the spiritual path that may include some or none of these things. For more thoughts on this, and the card in general, please read the *amazing* comment below this post by Dove!)
And yes, it’s also about laying our past to rest.
Understanding our place in the world involves a spiritual journey – this may be longer or more arduous for some people than others, but a process still takes place. During which we acknowledge the selves we have been, and how those selves have impacted (or not) on the world around us.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.