Justice: Then and Now - Tarot in Fiction with Alayna Williams

I use Tarot cards a good deal in my writing, to give me ideas about creating characters and develop plot points. Sometimes, I pick cards on purpose that catch my eye, but more often, I deal them out at random. I let my imagination roam over the pictures to generate situations and connections among characters.

One of my favorite cards in the deck is Justice. She's depicted as a crowned woman in heavy robes, holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other. She's not blindfolded - depictions of blind justice date from only the fifteenth century onward. Instead, she judges those who come before her with clear sight into the past, present, and future

The card's meaning is straightforward enough: Justice is about truth, karmic balance, and putting important things in writing. Seeing her in a Tarot spread is a suggestion to stay balanced, centered, and aware of dealings with the law. She's about cause and effect...every action is remembered and rewarded or punished.

But Justice has a longer history. I often associate her with Themis, an ancient Greek Titan. She was in charge of divine law. She was not wrathful or vengeful, like the Furies. Instead, she represented communities, collective law, and norms of society.

Themis had the ability to peer into the future, and was one of the original Oracles of Delphi. The Delphic Oracle is probably the most famous oracle of the ancient world. The priestess of the Temple of Apollo, the Pythia, wielded a great deal of political influence over leaders who sought her advice and the priestesses who served the temple. The Temple of Apollo was sited over a crevasse in the earth emitting noxious vapors, leading to modern-day speculation that the Pythia’s visions were not sendings from Apollo, but toxic hallucinations. The Delphic Oracle operated from roughly the eight century BC until 393 AD, when all pagan oracles were ordered to be dismantled by the Emperor. After that, no one knows what became of the priestesses.

But the image of Themis remains. She appears outside of government buildings, outside of courthouses, and in popular art. She remains a constant presence in our modern life, embodying an ideal of quiet sight into the past and future.

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