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The Judgement Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The Judgement card is about liberation. Let go of the chains that bind you. Stop punishing yourself over things that happened years ago. Seek for higher understanding. It's time to leave your past behind.

The Judgement card is about liberation. Let go of the chains that bind you. Stop punishing yourself over things that happened years ago. Seek for higher understanding. It's time to leave your past behind.

Judgement Card in Tarot

The Judgement card represents a time of significant change. It could signal a time of resurrection, awakening, spiritual epiphany, and/or reckoning. It makes way for dynamic new beginnings.

FYI: Judgement is sometimes spelled Judgment—it depends on the deck.

Judgement is the 20th trump of the Major Arcana and is the penultimate card. It's the confrontation the Fool has been working toward all along. Tarot is the Fool's journey, and we arrive at Judgement after encountering dozens of people and experiences.

This card calls into question your karma, both with the world and yourself. Have you put into the world negative energy or positive energy? Have you been truthful?

Consider this card to be played in the last season of your favorite TV show, it's the final stage before you meet the boss in a video game, and it's the chaos and romance of the Book of Revelation or other apocalyptic works.

Card Description

An Angel, possibly Gabriel, blows a trumpet. A flag bearing a red cross hangs from the trumpet. People come up out of their graves. They are ascending to be judged for their lives on Earth.

Element: Fire

Ruling planet: Pluto

Next card: The World

Card Alignments

Upright

Awakening, decision making, redemption, rebirth, inner calling, absolution, reckoning, epiphany, significant change, heralding in a new future, reincarnation, renewal, transition, no turning back.

Reversed

Poor logic, poor judgement, hasty decisions, self-doubt, stagnation, inner critic, ignoring the call, stuck in limbo, atrophying, self-punishment, guilt, abandonment issues.

Judgement is about allowing yourself to be free. This card is about seeking kindness. Allow yourself to change for the betterment of yourself and others. Judgement corrects your relationship with yourself.

Judgement is about allowing yourself to be free. This card is about seeking kindness. Allow yourself to change for the betterment of yourself and others. Judgement corrects your relationship with yourself.

Symbolism

The traditional version of the card is modeled after Christian imagery, particularly the Resurrection and Last Judgement.

The angel on the card could be Gabriel but also Metatron, Israfil, or several different others. The flag coming out of the trumpet is the symbol of St. George, which references 1 Corinthians 15:1.

(1) Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, (2) through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

The people in the card look at the angel with awe. They're considered the sleeping dead. They've emerged from their graves, calling back to the Book of Revelation chapter 20, when the sea gives up its dead.

There are snow-covered mountains in the background. The winter theme is similar to the Hermit card, and portrays a symbolic end to his journey.

The mountains represent the impossibility of avoiding judgement. There are insurmountable obstacles. There are fated events.

Alternative Decks

Not all decks rely on Christian imagery or teachings. Tarot doesn't belong to any particular faith or practice. The cards were first invented for playing games, not cartomancy.

The Judgement card generally has imagery associated with apocalyptic stories.

  • In the Thoth Tarot deck, Judgement is referred to as The Aeon. It includes images of Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor Khuit, and Harpocrates.
  • In the Darkana Tarot deck, the card is called Prudence. This goes along with the other Cardinal Virtue cards: Justice, Temperance, and Strength (Fortitude).

Angels in Art

People could spend years studying how angels are portrayed in art. Artistic renderings of angels were especially popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Understanding how angels are used in art may help you unlock some of the symbolism in Tarot.

  • Angels have appeared in works of art since early Christianity. They've been a popular subject for European and Byzantine paintings and sculptures.
  • Angels in art for a long time have appeared genderless. In the 19th century, they started to appear more gender-distinct. But you still probably won't find angels with beards, beer bellies, and feminine curves.
  • Angels are often depicted as young, unshaven men.
  • In early Christianity, angels were considered pure spirits. Artists were given room for creativity because of the ill-defined form of angels.
  • In Byzantine art, angels appeared in mosaics. Artists looked to winged Greek figures such as "Victory."
  • In art, angels often wear the royal or military attire of the time.
  • Angels in Islamic art often appear in illustrations of Muhammad's life, alongside depictions of Adam and Eve, and they discern who gets to be saved on the Day of Judgement.
  • Islamic angels typically have multicolored wings.

The Judgement Card and the Fire Element

The Judgement card is the final fire card of the Major Arcana. This card represents the mastery of free-will. When we come into a mastery of free-will, we can decide whether we want our thoughts to be positive or negative.

Free-will is about recognizing our own self-critic, and how this punishing voice can condemn us into a fugue of guilt.

Some guilt is healthy, but when we can't sleep at night because of conversations that happened decades ago or because of poor decisions we made when we were kids, then something is wrong. You're being too hard on yourself. And when you're too hard on yourself: you put yourself in the Devil's seat.

My recommendations to correct this would be:

  • Accept that you're human. You're not an angel. You're not a demon.
  • Accept that your free-will is fallible. You don't always make the right choice.
  • Understand that to master something, you must recognize where you fall short and how to manage things around your shortcomings.
  • Understand that in order to grow you will make mistakes.

The Judgement card encourages you to seek change for your highest good. It is transformative, and it's supposed to be for healthy realizations, not to make you feel worse.

You want your understanding of free-will to mature overtime. You want to have a good grip on what you can do and what are your limitations.

You're not a god or a demon. You don't get to decide cosmic things. You don't get to decide the trajectory of the planets and stars.

But you can decide whether you'll be a positive force or a negative force. You get to decide whether you do good to others or wrong.

The Judgement card is about having a breakthrough. You come to realize what you need to do to go forward. You come into a mastery of your free-will.

The Judgement card is about having a breakthrough. You come to realize what you need to do to go forward. You come into a mastery of your free-will.

Upright Judgement in a Reading

The Upright Judgement card is wild. You're dealing with significant change. You're not just moving from one chapter to the next but to an entirely different book.

You've been asked to rise up and embrace a new calling, to go to a higher level of consciousness, and to use your talents for the greater good.

When the Tower card is in a reading, it has to do with tragic change. There were promises made on faulty premises and things built on shaky foundation.

The Judgement card is also about profound change, but in a different way. It's when the alarm clock says time's up, when you reach a game over in a video game, or when you graduate and leave your high school for good.

Complete transformation pushes you forward. You won't be able to go backwards. Here are some metaphors that may help explain this:

  • Once toothpaste is out of the toothpaste container, you won't be able to get it back into the tube. It'll be too much hassle to try to get it back into the tube.
  • The butterfly has come out of the cocoon. It is no longer a caterpillar.

Judgement is about leveling up. In a general Tarot reading, it isn't overbearingly serious and transcendent, as if you're about to die and meet your maker.

You don't want to worry about the cosmos at large when you see this card. Instead recognize that your life is about to change; you're moving from one phase into another.

  • You're about to move into a new home.
  • Someone is about to come into your life that will forever change it.
  • Pregnancy could be in the near future. Your body won't be the same.
  • A family member may go through a terminal illness.
  • You might have to put someone in a nursing home.
  • You're making a career change into a completely different field.

The change isn't necessarily negative, but it is an absolute 100% change, and you'll have to leave your previous life behind. You'll have to close doors, so you can walk through new ones.

Change can be really hard. It isn't easy to process or manage. It can be hard to graduate and then a few months later move to a different city for a job.

In order to make your life-changing decision, you need to rely on your intellect and intuition. Don't hastily rush into something new without considering all the angles.

Before you make your decision, consider what will bring you to your highest good. Which path will benefit others the most?

Don't make a big decision until you trust your judgement. Seek clarity in all things.

The Judgement card is heavy. It's significant. You have to carefully review and evaluate all variables. Don't just buy a house because it's available. You need to really inspect it, budget your money, and consider the neighborhood too.

Your house will be the foundation for you and those who live with you. It will be the playground for your pets. It will be the building and roost of your children's childhood. It's an important decision, so don't wing it.

The Judgement Card Indicates Many Things

It can be hard to figure out what exactly this card is pointing toward. For the person who asked for a reading, consider reflecting on your life and try to predict where you feel like change is about to take place.

The card could also indicate:

  • Missing puzzle pieces that are about to come into your life, such as a soul mate, the birth of a child, or a new job.
  • A warning. Wait for a more unified picture to form in your head.
  • The parts of yourself that need healing, particularly in regards to mental health.

This card could also represent that you need to forgive others or yourself. Let things from the past stay in the past.

Release guilt, sadness, and anger from the past. You can work with a therapist to dust off the cobwebs from your memories.

There are others who have been in the same situation as you. You can find help and support. It's easier now than ever to find help because of the Internet, but do your due diligence and research your sources. There are an endless amount of scams.

Tips for When the Judgement Card Appears

If big change is in the picture, then you need to first rely on your wisdom to make good decisions.

  • Rely on expert opinions.
  • Study and put in hard work for your education.
  • Save up your money. Things are about to get expensive.
  • Don't let fear guide you. Rely on your wisdom and highest good.
  • Read ancient wisdom literature.
  • Tidy up your surroundings.
  • Volunteer. Be charitable.
  • Watch over your sleep cycle carefully. Are you getting enough rest?
The Judgement card is often associated with apocalyptic images. The card is about the events that take place after the negative sequence. It's the card that connects you to heaven.

The Judgement card is often associated with apocalyptic images. The card is about the events that take place after the negative sequence. It's the card that connects you to heaven.

Reversed Judgement in a Reading

Reversed Judgement calls for a period of reflection and self-evaluation. You need to meditate and contemplate. Things are too hazy for you to make sense of them. You're struggling to interpret things.

You're going through a time where certain themes in your life are becoming apparent. This is a good time to review what's going on and what you can do to change or avoid negativity.

  • You need to clear up past mistakes and regrets that could be haunting you.
  • You may feel guilty for minor grievances from years ago.
  • Even though you might not see it: you can take off your chains.

Review what makes you feel guilty. Process it. Find ways to give yourself self-acceptance, self-love, and release. You need to boldly allow yourself to be free.

The Reversed Judgement card can mean you're actively avoiding change, which is hurting you. By avoiding change, you're self-sabotaging your life.

Listen to the call for change and let go of your worries. Avoiding change can cause your anxiety to escalate.

Stop pretending everything is okay, because the call wouldn't speak to you at all if it wasn't compatible to your interests.

Your calling in life will be persistent. The call you feel toward certain people and jobs will get louder if you don't pay attention to it.

Push past your inner fears and self-doubt. Trust that the Universe has your back.

Take Notice of Your Inner Critic

The Reversed Judgement indicates your inner critic has resurfaced. You may doubt yourself and be struggling with your confidence. Look to the element of fire: take hold of your free-will and use it. Use it wisely.

Give your inner critic a name. Tell it to go away when it's become mean and invasive. Everyone has failures and setbacks. You can have them too. You can't have growth without mistakes.

You need to encourage yourself with more positive messages. If hell is a real place, it's where you berate yourself constantly for your misgivings. You forever punish yourself as a reaction to your guilt. You refuse to wash away your guilt.

You hold your guilt like a security blanket.

Liberation comes when you finally allow your sins to no longer define you. When you have let go of your chains, you then can change your behavior to do good. Study the Cardinal Virtues and put them into practice.

It's okay to fall short sometimes. It's okay if you stumble and crawl. You are human and all humans are imperfect.

Resurrection of yourself will come when you give yourself self-love. You will find healing when you stop criticizing yourself.

Also, continually criticizing yourself and reality won't help you to make the best decisions. It won't help you to be more wise. When you stop being critical, you can open your eyes and begin your search for heaven. Heaven is a place of acceptance, not self-punishment.

References

  1. Chipman, Leigh N. B. (2002). "Adam and the Angels: An Examination of Mythic Elements in Islamic Sources". Arabica. 49: 429–455 – via JSTOR.
  2. "Diligence and Fortune" is the contemporary meaning of the phrase Industrie und Glück. See, for example, Placardi, Carl (1766). Das Kaiserliche Sprach- und Wörterbuch, Cölln am Rhein: Metternich, pp. 72 and 83.
  3. Gorgievski, Sandra. Face to Face with Angels: Images in Medieval Art and in Film, McFarland (2010)
  4. Hassett, Maurice. "Early Christian Representations of Angels." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 25 Dec. 2013
  5. Wood, Alice. Of Wing and Wheels: A Synthetic Study of the Biblical Cherubim. pp. 2–4.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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