Tarot for Troubled Times: Justice
The tragic events of this week (and, frankly, of every week under our current regime) bring awareness to the important principle of…
Justice often appears when issues of fairness and ethics dominate a situation. Its presence signifies that we are now called to determine right action, make equitable decisions, and take responsibility in addressing the injustice we see in our world.
In the Major Arcana, Justice is the card that follows the Wheel of Fortune (to be discussed another week); this progression has some philosophical significance.
The Wheel refers to the larger forces of the universe that lie outside our control, but Justice alludes to how our current situation is a direct result of both these uncontrollable forces, AND how we respond to such external events.
In other words, this is the universal principle of karma--which is, just simply, recognizing cause and effect, or how our actions shape our outcomes and future selves:
“It simply means that, like it or not, whatever you do, whatever you experience, contributes to the development of your personality. Life demands that you respond to every event. Not a moral requirement, just a fact of existence.” (Rachel Pollack, 78 Degrees of Wisdom)
When we are able to honestly face the truth about our past choices--and the underlying beliefs that shaped them--this actively engages us in the co-creation of the universe we share with all other beings, and provides more clarity in how we would like to show up for them (and, thus, ourselves).
When applied to our larger social world, this card encourages us to speak up about both our rights and the rights of others; to be aware of and work to address address existing power imbalances.
As we recognize our own domains of privilege, we can consciously use that power to elevate others. We are urged not to meet this awareness with guilt, but to engage our humility and connect with compassion. We can channel our anger productively into activism, advocacy, art, and mutual aid organizations.
And when we see the places that we, ourselves, face injustice, this card reminds us that our strength and courage can sustain our momentum, and encourages us to rise, reclaim space, and work to determine our own fate.
May justice be served.
(Cards pictured here are from the Universal Waite, a recolored version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and the Numinous Tarot, a radical deck with diverse representations and gender-neutral language, and the loveliest Justice card of all time!)
There was a stuck, stagnant quality to the collective ennui this week that brought to mind this image:
FOUR OF CUPS
In this card, we have sunk deep into apathy and emotional withdrawal, having become disillusioned, disappointed, and disenchanted with the world.
We may be finding life stale and flat, or are bored and unstimulated by our environment, stuck in an emotional rut. Nothing feels worth doing, and so we have disengaged from life.
(I admit that I grinned at the "OVER IT" shirt in the second image, as I'd privately named this the "MEHHH" card in my head :P)
Extreme versions of this pattern may find us bitterly sulking in our isolation, completely absorbed in the self-referential loop of our melancholy. Our fantasies about the good ol’ days may prevent us from perceiving the fresh gift being offered to us by the present moment.
(A note of caution around these more intense manifestations: incessant rumination and anhedonia--an inability to feel pleasure--may indicate symptoms of depression or other mental health concerns; if you are struggling with this, you may wish to seek professional support. Please let me know if you need a referral!)
Conversely, this card may also signify an introspective period of self-reflection and contemplation. We may just relish being lost in delicious reverie, or seek spiritual renewal by detaching from mundane interactions.
We can use this card as a mirror to help us direct our inner work. As we did in the Hermit, we can ask ourselves: are we turning towards or away from something?
If we are closed off to others, are we being gently invited to open up to potential new relationships, represented by this fourth cup? Can we trust that there is still yet more beauty and possibility for pleasure to be found in life?
If we feel detached, we can ask ourselves what would engage us again? Do we need a fresh start to shake things up, or just some encouragement to appreciate what is already right in front of us?
Or have we just survived a period of intense stress and overwhelm, and now feel the need to turn inward for respite and to restore emotional balance?
Or... do we just need a minute to fully allow ourselves to be OVER IT? Can we grant ourselves permission to deeply explore the textures of this collapse, to really know how this emotional shape arises, without getting stuck here indefinitely?
Can we move past it by moving through it (and by ignoring that bossy disembodied hand and its shiny new cup for the moment)?
As always, dear reader, I present possibilities, and then trust that your inner wisdom knows better than us both, and can point us in the right direction.
Be well and take care!
(Cards pictured here are from the Universal Waite, a recolored version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and the Modern Witch Tarot, a modern and diverse interpretation of the classic RWS deck.)
Well, friends: knowing that this particular archetypal energy was on its way might not have made it any easier, but at least the deep work of surrendering we did in Hanged Man prepared us to encounter the larger inexorable forces of...
This may be the most feared and misunderstood card in the deck--perhaps second only to the Tower--which is why most readers jump quickly to reassure querents that its appearance typically does not indicate literal, physical death. (And in fact, it is considered irresponsible for readers to cause undue stress by predicting such things, as the future is undetermined and we are creatures with some agency for choice.)
Rather, the emphasis is on Death as a symbol of endings, transformation, and change, as we recognize that something in our world is concluding. A chapter is coming to a close; this is the end of an era.
On a smaller or more personal scale, this may be the end of a significant relationship, career path, or life phase. There may indeed be a literal death of a loved one that we are still grappling with. Or, perhaps, we notice a subtler internal shift as we release old beliefs and ideas.
Sometimes rather than predicting a change, Death may also be encouraging us to prune back any excess in our lives, and to eliminate what no longer serves us in order to make room for new possibilities and growth. We are invited to clean out our psychic (or even literal!) closets, to concentrate on the essentials, and focus on what is most important to us.
On a larger, collective scale, this may be a great cultural migration, the toppling of a dictatorship, or even--yes--a pandemic, climate crisis, and economic collapse. (We are living through highly unusual times, and so here Death may actually represent our shared grieving of the lives that COVID-19 has claimed.)
As a result of these changes, we may be immersed in deep mourning and grief. Even the positive changes we choose to make can trigger feelings of loss and fear. (I work with these patterns a great deal in my harm reduction work and in supporting gender affirmation paths.)
Why are endings and changes so excruciating for human beings? The primal fear of death and the unknown is often what lies behind our clinging, as small changes can suggest the larger inescapable and inevitable forces at play in the universe. We may unconsciously feel as if something is being taken from us against our will; this can prompt intense resistance.
(This might also be why the transformations so sought after in therapy, weekend workshops, retreats, psychedelic medicine work, and other growth modalities get stuck,
as our deep contractions around change may not be fully addressed.)
How can we help both our individual nervous systems AND our larger collective begin to embrace and adapt to the sweeping changes in our path?
First: engaging with awareness and acknowledgment of our sense of loss, and really allowing ourselves to grieve what has passed or is ending. We make space to sit with our feelings and begin letting go.
(There is no skipping over this step, and jumping straight to “OMG, a *shiny* new rebirth!!!” does us a disservice that will often get us just as stuck. The only way out is through.)
Then, we may look to the natural world and the cycle of life for inspiration, noticing that whatever dies becomes sacred compost to fertilize new beginnings. Seeds sprout and grow, are harvested, and then die back into dormancy as the wheel of the seasons turns.
Buddhist teachings on the impermanence of all things, and in cultivating non-attachment to physical manifestations, are rooted in this deep honoring of universal transience. We can be supported by such ancient wisdom traditions to guide us through the most challenging parts of this process.
Once we are able to accept that we are standing in front of a door that is closing, to fully feel our emotional responses to loss, to release the past, to be with the transitory nature of all things: THIS is when we truly begin our transition and transformation stage.
We initiate the rebirth and regeneration process, as our next door begins to open.
Have faith, beloved ones. The next door always, inevitably, opens.
(Cards pictured here are from the Universal Waite, a recolored version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and the Crow Tarot.)
Jessica Katzman, Psy.D.
I'm a psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco's Castro District. I'm interested in harm reduction, LGBTQQIAAP issues, psychedelic integration, social justice conversations, size acceptance, and any intersections of the above. I welcome your comments!
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