It is a familiar image in court buildings: Lady Justice, the personification of the law; a stern looking woman with a sword and scales. Her Greek origin is the goddess Themis, whose task it was to guard the divine order and laws. This divine order made it possible for the gods and people to live together. Themis’ scales stood for inner balance. The tarot card Justice is also about inner balance; an important prerequisite for spiritual awakening.
The John Adams Courthouse, built in 1893, Boston, Massachusetts.
Justice is one of the four so-called cardinal virtues. She owes her place in the tarot to this. The four virtues of prudentia (prudence, wisdom), justitia (justice), fortitudo (courage, strength) and temperantia (moderation, self-control) are considered extra important in Christianity, because other virtues rely on it (cardinal means “pivotal”, based on the Latin cardo: hinge).
Noteworthy, is that the cardinal virtues, both in and outside the tarot, are almost always personified by women. The reason for this can be found in the book of Wisdom from the Old Testament. In this book these four virtues are mentioned as the result of the divine “Wisdom” (Greek: Sophia), which underlies creation:
…her [Wisdom] labours have great virtues: for she teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life.
Sophia (Wisdom) is one of the names of God the Mother; the feminine aspect of God, which is found in the human pelvis as well as in all of creation. The yogi calls her the kundalini-shakti. This is – of course – not how the church explains Sophia, but this meaning can be inferred from the Bible texts if they are read with esoteric glasses. Another quote from the Book of Wisdom:
For wisdom [Sophia] is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets…
(Wisdom 7: 24-27)
We find Sophia – disguised – on many tarot cards. Not only as a personification of the cardinal virtues, but also as the High Priestess, and on cards that follow.
The Visconti di Modrone Tarot
The Justice card from the 15th century Visconti di Modrone deck seems straightforward in meaning. We see a woman in a dress with a floral pattern, a sword and a pair of scales. A cheerfull version of Lady Justice. But this is misleading; the card contains beautiful esoteric symbolism.
The Justice card of the Visconti
di Modrone deck (15th century)
A schematic representation of the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening. The first five chakras are depicted as flowers.
The Damsel of Swords card of the Visconti di Modrone deck. With her left hand the woman makes the sign of the sacred marriage. A pomegranate pattern is printed on her dress. Both the sword and the pomegranate are a symbol of the kundalini energy.
Before the sacred marriage can take place at the sixth chakra, the first five chakras must be purified, and the two energy channels that flow along the spine – and that form the energetic blueprint of duality in man – must be balanced. This is what the Justice card stands for. The sword symbolizes the purifying effect of the kundalini (Sophia) and the scales represent the energetic balance.
The flowers on the woman’s dress all have five petals. Chakras are often depicted as flowers. The flower pattern on the dress refers to the purification of the first five chakras. The alchemical image below uses the same symbolism: the entire naked body of the alchemist is covered with red five-leaf flowers. Red is the color of the final phase in alchemy of the process of God-realization (Magnum Opus).
The symbolic meaning of a sword, with regard to spiritual awakening, is confirmed by a number of other cards from the same deck, including the Damsel of Swords card (see illustration). The woman makes the sign of the sacred marriage with her left hand: the inner polarity has merged to unity as a result of the action of the sword / kundalini.
An example outside the tarot is the photograph at the top of this page, of the Boston courthouse. Lady Justice holds a sword with two spiraling serpents: a reference to the caduceus, the classic symbol of a kundalini awakening.
The scales on the Visconti di Modrone card have different colors: gold and silver. This is a reference to the polar energies of sun (gold) and moon (silver), that have been balanced. The colors of the cloak that the woman wears symbolizes the same: red represents the masculine and blue represents the feminine energies.
From left to right:
1. An alchemical image with Sophia, standing on the moon (16th century, National Museum of Prague). In her opened abdomen we see a sword with a (kundalini) serpent. With her left hand she makes the sign of the sacred marriage.
2. An alchemical image of the Magnum Opus.
3. On the card Cups Six of the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck we see white (= purified) flowers with five leaves, combined with references to the sacred marriage (the two figures connecting, the cross on the stone, and the clothing in red and blue of the figure on the left), that takes place at the sixth chakra (cup).
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot
The woman on the lower half of the Visconti-Sforza Justice card, also from the 15th century, is wearing a dress with a hexagonal pattern. This is a reference to the hexagram (six-pointed star); the universal symbol for the merger of the polarities. The scales are also gold and a silver on this card. With the hand with which the woman holds the scales, she is making the sign of the sacred marriage.
On the upper half of the card we see the same woman in armor, riding a white horse, and holding a raised sword. This is a metaphor for the purifying effect of Sophia / the kundalini-shakti. The horse is covered with a cloth that has the same five-petal flowers as the woman on the Visconti di Modrone card: the animal drives / energies in humans, connected with the first five chakras, are purified by Sophia. A white horse stands for purified animal drives. Both the woman’s armor and the metal plate on the horse’s head are in two colors: one half is gold and the other half is silver.
Undoubtedly, this image of a combative woman on a horse was inspired by the French Jeanne ‘d Arc, who was executed some twenty years before the appearance of this tarot deck.
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot (15th century)
The ‘Sigillum Sapientum’ (Seal of the Wise) of the alchemist. The inner union (hexagram and ouroboros) takes place as a result of the inner working of the divine Sophia (woman with sword and scales). Source: JM Faust, Philalethes Illustratus, 1706.
The archangel Michael also has a sword and a pair of scales as his attributes. In Christian iconography he conquers the dragon (satan) with these attributes. This battle is mentioned in the Bible Book of Revelation (verse 12: 7): “Michael and his angels fought the dragon.” The symbolic meaning of this battle is the same as what the tarot card Justice wants to convey. The angel Michael represents the divine (kundalini) energy in our pelvis that, once awakened, goes to war against our inner dragon (the animal), and balances our polar energies.
The Tarot of Marseille
The Tarot of Marseille is a collective name for tarot decks that have been designed and produced by different people, in a specific period, in a specific geographical area. The various versions are similar in style and are easily recognizable as ‘Marseille decks’. For the tarot researcher, the differences between the decks are particularly interesting.
That the woman on the card is Sophia / the kundalini-shakti can be deduced from her multicolored dress. At the time, printing was still in its infancy. With the limited color spectrum that the designers had available, they tried to incorporate all chakra colors into the dress.
The braided necklace refers to the two polar energy channels that merge during a kundalini awakening. The woman’s curly hair strands represent the same. On both cards one lock of hair touches the necklace, to indicate that they have the same meaning.
Tarot of Marseille,
Pierre Madenié (1709)
Tarot of Marseille,
Payen-Webb (18th century)
We also see this symbolic hairstyle in Orthodox (Hasidic) Judaism. The men wear curled strands of hair on both sides of the head. These so-called peies grow at the height of the temples, the place where the two energy channels merge during the sacred marriage.
The jewel on the front of the crown refers to the pineal gland, which is activated during a kundalini awakening. On the Payen Webb card, the woman has wings to emphasize her divinity. On the card of Pierre Madenié she sits between two pillars. These represent the two polar energy channels.
In esoteric traditions, the three energy channels involved in a kundalini awakening are often represented by pillars.
Remarkably, the designer of the Payen-Webb deck has given the card a different name: La Balance (Balance). This confirms the esoteric meaning of inner balance.
The Tarot of Paris (17th century)
The Tarot of Paris takes a slightly different approach, making the symbolic meaning of the Justice card even clearer. The figure has a head with a masculine and feminine face.
Not only in the tarot, but also in other art forms, as Christian paintings en sculptures, artists attempted to communicate knowledge on the spiritual process of awakening, that went against the teachings of the church. These are three examples of kundalini symbolism on engravings of the cardinal virtue Justice.
From left to right:
1. The woman holds her sword in the middle of the scales, creating the symbolism of three energy channels (1593).
2. The woman sticks out the middle finger of her left hand. The middle finger represents the awakened spine, in esoteric symbolism (Jacob Matham, 17th century).
3. The woman holds the scales in front of a pillar, creating the symbolism of three energy channels (Lucas van Leyden, 1530, Rijksmuseum)
Oswald Wirth and Rider-Waite-Smith
The occultists of the Golden Dawn have not added many new elements to the card. On the Oswald Wirth card, the braided necklace of the woman is larger, and thus more emphasized.
Arthur Waite has swapped the cards Justice and Strenght: Justice has number 11 on his deck. The crown at both Wirth and Waite has three points; a reference to the three energy channels. The two ribbons on the mantle on the RWS card have the same meaning as the two pillars. There is a letter Y pattern on these ribbons. This letter symbolizes the fusion of the opposites. The androgynous appearance of the woman, as well as the visibility of only one shoe, also refers to this. She holds the sword and the scales right in front of the two pillars: she purifies and balances these two pillars / energy channels.
Oswald Wirth Tarot, 1930
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (1909)
The handle of her sword displays the symbol for gold (a circle with a dot in the middle): a reference to the divine energy that this sword represents. Like the card of the High Priestess, the curtain between the pillars is the veil of Isis: the veil behind which Isis / Sophia hides the greater reality.
Château des Avenières
On the mosaic in the chapel of Château des Avenières the two pillars are marked with the letters B and J. An element we know from the High Priestess card of the RWS deck. The letters stand for Boaz and Jachin: the names of the bronze columns at the entrance of King Solomon’s temple. According to the Old Testament, this entrance leads to the Arc of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, where man can communicate with God.
The temple represents man himself, the pillars are the polar energy channels on both sides of the spine, and the entrance is located on the bottom the spine, in the pelvis. The Arc of the Covenant is in the head of man: the pineal gland and pituitary gland are activated by the risen kundalini (Sophia).
A uraeus-cobra is placed on the woman’s small crown: the serpent that represented the kundalini in ancient Egypt, and with which pharaohs were often depicted.
The mosaic of Château des Avenières (1917)
A model of the temple of Solomon
The tarot uses well-known archetypes to translate these into aspects of spiritual awakening. The Justice card shows Sophia in her role of divine Mother. Everything that stands between us and her husband, God the Father, she removes with her sword. Not always painless, but with good intentions and love, like a real mother. Our interior is purified and balanced by her.
These spiritual tasks are similar to the role of Lady Justice (the Judiciary) in the outside world: “cleansing” society of what disrupts harmony, and imposing punishments proportional to the offenses committed, to restore balance.
A statue of the cardinal virtue of Justice on the roof of the Palace on the Dam in Amsterdam (sculptor Artus Quellinus, 17th century). This statue also displays esoteric symbolism: instead of a sword, the woman holds a scepter (symbol of the spine) with a sun at the top, and the all-seeing Eye of God. The scepter is placed on her pelvis, at the height of the sacrum, the resting place of the kundalini, and the Eye of God is at the height of the pineal gland.
This artikel was published in Paravisie Magazine (sept ’19). Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2019
Anne-Marie Wegh is the author of the book
John the Baptist who became Jesus the Christ
Illustrations from the tarot decks, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Foto’s Châteaux de Avenières: http://hermetism.free.fr/Avenieres