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 tarot card

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.

Like this post? Please share it!


  1. satori says:

    Very synchronous, ’cause I was having thoughts about judgment this morning. Thinking how when we judge others, it speaks volumes about us. It shows what we loathe about or are not accepting of in ourselves.To me, when we realize there are no "others," the Tarot (and life) becomes much easier to decipher. Knowing there really are no "others," then it becomes clear that judgment is always about judging oneself. The Sun card comes right before the Judgment card. It is us at our best. When we are feeling our joy/love, we are touching upon our "God-ness" or "divinity." And I think, when we are truly joyful, some part of us is realizing that we are "God." And in that realization, and from that powerful joy/love, we grow, we heal, we become new, we are "reborn." I think the Judgment card represents our wrangling with that realization. The healing process, the ups and downs of it. Like moving through the birth canal, kinda rough at points, maybe smooth at others, definitely a freaky experience (lol), and then you see the light at the end of it 🙂 And there’s the World. In the knowledge that you are "God," the "Magician"(Sun19=1), that you create your world, that you create all of it. At that point, the World is your oyster :)In my view, "do-gooding" is reflected in the minor arcana, 6 of pents. We learn from it, that it’s a circle… Do-gooding, in and of itself, is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, it seems harmful (co-dependency) and disruptive at times. And in many cases, do-gooders are merely acting out their need to control (fear), and their need to feel superior. We are still living in fear when we feel an urgency to get others to do this or that. When we are living in "faith" (awareness that we are "God"), we simply follow the path that brings us joy. One person’s joy might be saving the whales. Another’s, adopting unwanted children. Another’s, saving the rainforests… There’s no way we can all do it all. And that’s why we do our best for the world, when we are following the path of our joy(Sun)– that heals us, that heals the world. That’s the best do-gooding there is. I think we do best when we simply share our joy and knowledge of saving the whales with others. Then let them choose, without judgment. "Judge not"… because we know not what is truly the "right" thing for another(their "world"), only for ourselves(our "world")–because it brings us a depth of joy.I think the message being conveyed to me this morning was that when we begin to judge another, because we don’t think they’re doing enough or the "right" thing, we’re really just believing that WE aren’t doing enough–or, maybe, that we aren’t truly doing what brings us joy. Sometimes misery loves company 😉 Our first responsibility is to ourselves, to make sure we’re on our path, living our joy/passion, so we can then take that healing joy to the world. If instead we’re taking judgment to the world, trying to "rebirth"(change) others ourselves, to our liking, then we need to roll back the tape–do a little more work on ourselves.Peace,Dovewww.TarotwithLove.com

  2. Just discovered this older post on Judgement — it is excellent!! I swear to god, this card comes up for me ALL the time right now, so I’m I’m really trying to dig in and understand it better.
    I love how you reflect on it’s position in the Major Arcana — falling between the Sun and the World seems to give this card the potential to be a fairly positive and enlightened space!

    • Beth says:

      Thanks Leah!

      Judgement is such a fascinating card – I think the name makes it tricky too, if you’re not familiar with the biblical reference, or else you’re put off by the same thing, it feels kinda terrifying. I much prefer the renaming of the card ‘liberation’ (e.g. in the Collective Tarot), which feels to me to convey the idea behind this card.

  3. Robin says:

    Excellent post! Really enjoyed reading this. For me it also speaks of forgiveness. For others sure, but mostly for oneself. Pulling out the deep, dark inner parts of ourselves that we choose to suppress or keep hidden. It’s putting closure to sny issue, choices, or mistakes once and for all so we can finally move forward and complete the cycle.

Comments are closed.