Introduction To The Major Arcana, Part 8: Judgment

If you’ve ever played a video game or roleplaying tabletop game such as Dungeons and Dragons, you may be familiar with the idea of leveling. Characters have levels, and when they get enough experience, they level up. The Judgment arcanum is about your level. Judgment, at its core, is the real-life equivalent of leveling up. The card art depicts men, women, and children awakening from coffins to stand up and greet the Archangel Gabriel, who is blowing his trumpet because it is Judgment Day. However, the eschatological side of this is one of transformation, not a final end. Thus, the Judgment card is very similar to the Death card. The big difference is that Death just means a bare ending, which can be good or bad, that has a transformational component. Judgment, by contrast, has a qualitative character: what comes after must be essentially better or higher than what came before.

Upright Judgment is a card that speaks of rebirth, the renewal of vital energy, shedding skin or hatching from an egg, figuratively speaking. When we see upright Judgment, we know that great things are afoot. Upright Judgment calls for decisive action now.

Reversed Judgment is stagnation, ignoring the higher calling, or being too afraid of what you have to sacrifice to reap the benefits. Reversed Judgment calls for a pause from decisive action and a period of quiet reflection.

In a past-present-future spread, the Judgment card represents the following:

  1. As past, upright Judgment represents a recent event where everything changed. The last time you really shook up your life and made a change is what upright past Judgment refers to. Basically, your current situation is entirely due to the last time you “leveled up.” Reversed Judgment in this position shows that your current situation is the way it is because of a missed opportunity.
  2. As present, upright Judgment is a big opportunity that is right here, right now. It’s an opportunity for you to “moult” and throw off the shackles of the old you, to move closer to perfection of your inner self. Reversed Judgment in this position means that an opportunity is slipping away, or that you are being too self-critical. Believe in yourself and let go of that negativity.
  3. As future, Judgment shows a transformation coming down the line. This is a very important and portentous position for this card to be in, because it means that you need to ready yourself to change everything. Reversed Judgment in the future position means that something big is coming, but that you will easily miss it if you are not attentive. Pay attention!

The next time, we’ll examine one of the most sinister of the major arcana: The Devil!

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