Strength and Justice…

IMG_3984…or is that Justice and Strength?

About 15-20 minutes after you start to study Tarot, you’ll learn that these two cards share a strange sort of linkage.  Much of that is due to sequencing concerns.  In the original Marseilles decks, Justice was card VIII in the order, while Strength was card XI.  Then Arthur Edward Waite came along, and because it made the cards run in perfect order in terms of the astrological correspondences that his mystical society had assigned to them, he switched them in his deck.  And then Aleister Crowley appeared in a puff of smoke, and switched them back in his…

And so part of the legacy of all this sequence-swapping is that in modern Tarot circles, you can find a very vocal faction of readers and scholars who will swear up and down that Justice absolutely *must* be the VIII card in the sequence, or else the deck in question is rubbish — rubbish!  And an equally zealous cadre will insist on exactly the opposite: Strength at VIII or deck be damned!  [And you can generally find a few people — me included here — who will shrug, and read with whichever sequence happens to be in front of them, and don’t have too much emotional energy invested in either direction on this point…]

But conceptually, there’s another interesting tie between the two cards.  I once heard it suggested by someone (and sadly enough, I can’t for the life of me remember who this was), that Strength is the process constantly playing out, in which the lower, animal urges (symbolized by the Lion) of a person or of society as a whole, will vie for supremacy with the higher urges (embodied in the Maiden).  Very rarely does this struggle stay for very long at the perfect balance of the zero-point, though — there’s usually either too much Lion or too much Maiden in the mix, and the best you can hope for is that they’ll kinda/sorta manage a balance if averaged out over long periods of time.

Now say that this is all true, and that you have a cosmic remote-control device, and you can hit “pause” on this Strength process.  You can then see on which side of the zero-point the Strength trajectory currently lies, and how far from zero it is.  And whatever it would take at that specific moment to push the Strength process indicator back to zero…?  That’s what Justice is.  It’s the balancing Force, the zero-ifying factor at work in the Universe.

So in a way it’s no wonder people have always had some difficulty in deciding which of these cards should go where in the sequence of the Majors — they’re actually related in a conceptual way that in some sense wants *both* of them to be VIII and *both* of them to be XI, and all this at the very same time…

2 comments

  1. thank you I think this article is very insightful, I didn’t look at either of these cards that way before, I always thought that the lion and the maiden were two aspects of ourselves, but to think of the lion as an influence of society is definitely new thanks

    • Thank you for your feedback — I’m happy to hear that this article was enlightening for you in some way! I agree that the Strength card especially can indicate a struggle that goes on inside each of us…but then I personally do also feel that both cards can at times speak to external forces, as well. Justice definitely seems to me like a phenomenon that’s always at work on both levels (internal and external). But sure, I believe that if you think of any group of people, they’ll exhibit a sort of “average group will” as a collective, and such a group will also have its overall Lion-versus-Maiden struggle happening. This could be a small-sized group, such as a neighborhood book club, or one large enough to be on the scale of a nation…

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