The Meaning of
the "Judgement" Tarot Card
Tarot Quick Info
What is the inverted meaning of
the "Judgement" card?
The Meaning of
The Symbolism of the Judgement Card
On the Judgement card, a great angel — most likely an allusion to the biblical Gabriel — appears in the skies, surrounded by clouds. The angel blows a great trumpet while gazing down at the ground below.
Beneath the angel, a scene from the End Times unfolds. Coffins open and the dead rise-up, arms outstretched, with expressions of awe and gratitude on their faces. They gaze upwards towards the sound of the angel's horn.
The angel blows a great trumpet while gazing down at the ground below.
The angel's hair resembles the element Fire, and his wings are tinged with the red of dawn, much like the angel in the Temperance card. Hanging from the trumpet is a flag bearing a red cross — symbolizing life, vitality and rebirth.
In the distance towering, pale mountains rise — symbolizing the incredible challenges of this fateful day.
NOTE: There is an intentional ambiguity in the depiction of the ground and the mountains in this card: Are the coffins floating on water? Or have they risen out of solid ground? Are those really mountains in the distance, or is a great and final tidal wave preparing to crash over the Earth? The visual ambiguity raises the question over whether Judgement is related to the element of Fire, as shown in Gabriel's hair, or Water as the ambiguity hints at.
NOTE: An interesting interpretation of the symbolism in the Judgement card is that it clevely contains a reference to the Eastern philosophy of I Ching: The depiction of Fire in the angel's hair, over the apparent Water below recalls I Ching hexagram number 64, which is rendered from the trigrams symbolizing "Fire over Water". Hexagram #64 is interpreted as Before Completion — which is especially appropriate for the second to last card of the Major Arcana.
NOTE: Many tarot readers refer to the Judgement card as The Last Judgement. In A.E. Waite's classic 1910 Pictorial Key to the Tarot, the card is also referred to by this longer, and more biblical title as well.
How to Interpret the Judgement Card
The Judgement tarot card, or The Last Judgement as it is sometimes referred to, is a positive card indicating rebirth and spiritual awakening.
... a call to our spirit to rise up and become something greater than we are now.
While many readers focus on the name "Judgement", implying some taking measure or a final verdict of some kind, those interpretations are better suited to the Justice card and not this one.
The Judgement card's meaning is more metaphorical — representing a call to our spirit to rise up and become something greater than we are now. Or as A.E. Waite wrote over a century ago, the card represents an internal trumpet call to something within us, calling us better ourselves:
is that within us which does sound a trumpet, and all that is lower in our nature rises in response ... ?
A.E Waite, 1910
When the Judgement card appears in a reading, it may be a call to step up to a higher level of performance, consciousness and understanding. Or it may reference someone else's spiritual growth and improvement.
The Judgement card may also represent a fresh start; A time to put away old ideas and practices and to begin afresh with a new outlook. When making a fresh start, the card calls on us to consider the long-term implications of our decisions, and the greater impacts our decisions have.
If the card references a past event, it may point to a time or to an event which was instrumental in someone's spiritual growth or development. If the card references a future event it may herald a time of transformative spiritual growth caused by a future event.
The Judgement card is a positive card with overtones of self reflection, career changes and the rebirth of a relationship.
The Judgement Card Inverted
Life presents us with only a few, key opportunities to make big, life-changing decisions. When those moments come along it's up to us to seize the day, or sit back and wait for the next opportunity to come along.
... a sign that the universe is sending someone a trumpet call but the call is being ignored.
The appearance of the reversed Judgement card in a reading suggests that someone is avoiding an opportunity to better themselves. Sometimes its easier to just ignore a decision, and avoid thinking about it.
Unfortunately, life is short and not all opportunities arise again. When the Judgement card is inverted it's often a sign that the universe is sending someone a trumpet call but the call is being ignored. Will it come again? Maybe. Maybe not.
Likewise, the reversed Judgement card may indicate someone that is in dire need of a fresh start but is ignoring the chances to make one.
The inverted Judgement card remninds us that ignoring an opportunity is the same thing as making a decision against it. When we put things off and avoid them, we're taking the mentally easy road. We're failing to rise up.
We can decide either way — but we must acknowledge to ourselves that we are making a decision when we ignore a call to do something.
If the card references a past event, it may reference a time when such a trumpet call was ignored or avoided. If the inverted Judgement card references a future event, the card asks us to consider an upcoming opportunity, and to prepare ourselves for the choices we will have to make when the time comes.
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