The High Priestess & Justice: Two Side of the Same Coin

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Full disclosure -. I am of the camp that believes Justice has found it's proper place as the 11th Arcana, though I know there are many who prefer it as the 8th and I am sure there are plenty of valid reasons why that makes sense. However, I'm here to discuss one of the reasons why the latter resonates more with me, and that is because in the 11th spot, based on numerology, it vibrates in line with The High Priestess.

While on the surface, Justice and The High Priestess appear to have little in common, I actually consider these cards to be two sides of the same coin and the secret to reading the tarot. A bit of a bold claim I suppose, but stay with me and we'll get to that...before we do though, let's explore the visual similarities and differences.

Working with a Rider Waite Smith deck, you can note the following: Both cards feature a character who sits on a chair, each is holding something in their hands which can be considered sacred, both have pillars on either side with a sheet hanging between them. In addition, both are draped in robes and adorned with a crown, and each character looks straight on, with a similar sort of facial expression.

On the other hand, there are also some differences. For example, The High Priestess possesses body language that is a bit closed off, while Justice has both arms extended out in a more open gesture. The High Priestess exhibits a darker background, perhaps indicative of night, while Justice has a bright yellow background, perhaps demonstrating that it is daytime. The High Priestess corresponds to the Water element, relating to emotions and what we feel, while Justice corresponds to the Air element, related to thought and what we think.

And here is where reading tarot comes in. The High Priestess emphasizes the need to engage with our intuition; to see what isn't necessarily right there on the surface. The High Priestess represents everything that lies beyond the veil and she protects this sacred information in the process. There is also an emphasis, in this sense, of feeling the answer in a way that cannot necessarily be explained - the intangible result.

On the other hand, we have Justice. Here the emphasis is on truth, clarity and objectivity; and what Justice teaches us is to see what is in fact, right there. Represented by the Air element, Justice reminds us that even with a tool as mystical as Tarot, logic and the rational mind have a place. 

In fact, in order to get the most out of your reading, it is my belief that you should engage and accept both of these centers as valid resources of information. So, if you find yourself getting too hung up on what is blatant, The High Priestess is a reminder to dig deeper, take a step back and feel it out. Or, if you're pulling messages that are solely beyond the cards, Justice is a reminder to bring it back down to acknowledge also what you literally see happening in the imagery in front of you.

Let's use a single card reading that produces the 3 of Swords, as an example. If we're looking at it through the Justice lens, we can take a very literal and objective approach. What we see, in this case, is a heart being pierced by 3 swords while rain storms in the background. We could easily derived adjectives to describe the meaning, for example: rainy, cloudy, hurt, piercing, sharp, heart. All of these words can help to inform our interpretation and they exist very literally in reality, pulled directly from the card in front of us.

On the other hand, through the lens of The High Priestess, we may invite other feelings and impressions to colour the reading. Perhaps you receive a sudden image involving friendships accompanied by a feeling of heaviness. While none of these pieces can be found within the card, they may come to us by way of third eye or intuitive insight.

Now, combining both these pieces is what pulls the whole picture together i.e Cloudy times and a pierced heart that may be evident in the area of close friendships, producing a feeling of heaviness either for some or all parties involved.

Ultimately, Justice asks "what is actually there?" and The High Priestess says, "but, what lies beneath that?" It is the obvious, but also the subvert, and the union of both of these facets, combined, that make for a truly fulsome reading - in my humble opinion.

Julia Eve