Judgement is the 20th Major Arcana Tarot card. It speaks of higher purpose, awakening, and embracing your inner calling instead of hiding from it.
When the Judgement card appears in a Tarot reading, it is a powerful if not always welcome call to action. Our egos prefer constancy, even monotony, over uncertainty and the unknown. The Judgement card calls for a balance and demands that we make space in our lives for what makes us feel truly alive; adventure, uncertainty, the pursuit of higher knowledge and self discovery.
Is Judgement the best card in the Tarot?
The Judgement card is a powerful symbol of inner awakening, of once again heeding and following the call that made the Fool take first few tentative steps on the hero’s journey.
Judgement reminds us that showing up for ourselves, our convictions and our purpose is a not a one-time act, but a constant and lifelong affirmation through words and actions.
Sometimes we become tempted, or frightened into withdrawing somewhat from our true path and the arenas of life where we feel the most invigorated. The intensity of constantly throwing our full selves into life can seem too much for the security-loving ego.
The Judgement card often appears when we have taken it too far in the other direction, towards complacency and surface level living. It is a reminder of who we really are and why we are here. When it appears in a Tarot reading, bringing you the message you most need at the time, it is indeed the best card you could hope to see – even if its energies are uncomfortable to face.
Symbolism in the Judgement card
Depictions of the Judgement Tarot card vary between Tarot decks. Most are based on the Rider-Waite Tarot card and include its symbols – these are the ones we will be looking at here.
The awakening people
One of the most eye-catching features of the Judgement card are the pale figures rising up in the foreground with their arms outspread towards the sky, ready to be judged for their past actions, and then to start over with a clean slate. They are the dead rising from their graves on Judgement Day.
There is a sense of liberation and awakening, but also of vulnerability, of things being laid bare.
The people rising up are emerging fro tombs in the earth. This suggest that they have been dead, or at the very least in an unconscious state, awaiting this moment.
There is a sense of things that have been dormant and hidden coming to light.
The archangel Gabriel
In the sky above the people, calling them out of their graves and imbuing them with renewed vitality is the archangel Gabriel.
The archangel Gabriel – or merely, an angel – is a prevalent symbol throughout the Tarot, appearing in multiple Major Arcana Tarot cards including the Lovers and Temperance. The angel represents higher calling, the spiritual realm, the will of God, and inner truth.
In the Judgement Tarot card we see the angel blowing into a golden trumpet. The golden colour links it to the Sun Tarot card and its connotations of happiness and good fortune.
The trumpet itself is symbolic of a wakeup call. Just imagine the sound of a trumpet – it cannot be ignored.
The mountain range
In the background of the card is another prevalent Tarot symbol; that of the extensive mountain range.
The distant, jagged mountains signify the spiritual journey and reminds us that it can be steep and perilous.
Meanings of the Judgement Tarot card
The Judgement card contains multiple layers of meanings – these are the most prevalent. Which layers of meaning stand out more always depends on the specific context and the other cards that appear in the reading.
Spiritual awakening, inner calling, wakeup call
The Judgement meaning includes spiritual awakening, heeding the calling of the inner self, and wakeup call.
Daily life can sometimes numb us to our true sense of purpose and aliveness. The Judgement card often appears when you have been letting projects slide that are crucial to you, in favour of something more humdrum and seemingly secure. The Judgement card asks you to realign with your true purpose and to get yourself back on the right path. Don’t hide from your internal calling, don’t sit on your true potential and your dreams. One day it will be too late, but for now, there is still time for you to consolidate past mistakes, cultivate self knowledge, and to forge a new life direction.
The Judgement card is a turning point, a wakeup call, a metaphysical kick in the butt whenever you have become complacent or have let fear and self stop you pursuing your highest evolution.
The upright Judgement card is essentially calling you out, in the most loving way possible, by reminding you that you are so much more than what you are currently expressing.
Judgement, karma, facing the music
Key words that immediately leap to mind when looking at the Judgement Major Arcana Tarot card include Judgement Day, karma and accountability.
When the Judgement card appears in a Tarot reading, the truth is being revealed. Secret are spilling out. This can be both incredibly liberating – and incredibly frightening, if there are things in our past we would rather hide from or keep under wraps our entire life.
The level of self reflection and that the Judgment card requires of us can be unpleasant – but ultimately, accepting full responsibility for our own actions, bad habits and past mistakes allows us to take the next step forward, towards a better future.
By cultivating self awareness and reflection, and by accepting our mistakes and missteps as the lessons they are, we finally arrive at self forgiveness.
There are no shortcuts to absolution. We cannot arrive at it without going through self evaluation -otherwise, it is simply denial. The Judgement card is the polar opposite of denial. It represents the full light of clarity and truth. In the light of truth, you may come to the painful realisation that you have treated the other person in your relationship badly, or that you have caused others pain. But when you are able to see your actions and their effects clearly, you are in a position to grant yourself forgiveness and a clean slate. You are not helping anyone by holding onto past pain and guilt.
Judgement advises you to take the mistakes you have made and reframe them in a spiritual context. Use them to grow. Use them to make create significant change in your life, to make your new relationship loving and healthy where you previous ones were not.
Sometimes, the kind of absolution that the Judgement card brings comes from an external source. Financially speaking, a debt you have created through irresponsible behaviour may be forgiven. In a health context you may finally get the all-clear from your doctor in the wake of a long term illness.
The Judgement Tarot card comes with a refreshing energy of newness, of the pat fading away and of the future opening up. Only one last step and you will have emerged from the tomb, ready to live anew.
The moment of judgement itself is not pleasant, but what comes after can be. If you have been carrying a heavy burden around in silence, or if you have been isolated for a while, the Judgement card is the moment of freedom when the lid is finally removed from the casket. Opportunity awaits.
Meanings of Judgement reversed
Tarot card meanings become inverted, submerged and distorted when a card appears in its reversed position. These are the most significant meanings of Judgement reversed.
Ignoring inner calling
In Judgement reversed the wakeup call is ignored and the tomb remains shut.
The reversed Judgement Tarot card meaning suggests that you may be fearful of your true potential and path, and as a result are trying to hide from them, potentially by burying yourself in something else, or someone else.
The reversed Judgement Tarot card meaning implies that you are disowning, hiding or denying parts of yourself. It is time to open up the tomb and let the truth spill out.
Dodging consequences and responsibility
In the upright Judgement scene, we see the dead emerging to face the consequences of their actions and return to life.
In the reversed Judgement card, there is a refusal to engage with self reflection, a refusal to absorb the lessons that the universe is serving up on a silver platter, a total refusal to accept responsibility or to grow as a person. It could be that you are refusing to grow up, or refusing to shoulder the responsibilities that you yourself have taken on or created.
Judgement reversed advises you to reconnect with your inner strength and step up to the plate. The only thing weighing heavier on you than the responsibilities of your life is the stubborn refusal to carry them. The only thing more painful than dreading the judgement of others is hiding from it. Stand tall and face the music.
Inner critic, self doubt
The reversed Judgement Tarot card meaning includes the inner critic and the voices of self-doubt. We all have them, but when Judgement is reversed, the inner critic is in the driver’s seat, keeping you from moving forward in a positive direction – indeed, keeping you from moving forward at all.
A person under the thumb of the inner critic, so fearful of making mistakes that they would rather not do anything at all, is only half alive.
When Judgement appears reversed in a reading, it is often a sign that you are judging yourself too harshly and that you are becoming paralysed as a result.
What the Judgement Tarot card tells you about your personal development
When Judgement shows up in Tarot readings about your personal development, it often suggests inner awakening, self reflection and the assimilation of crucial life lessons. Sometimes, it is a sign of fruitful shadow work, of freeing yourself of learned behaviours and attitudes that have been making you feel trapped and entombed.
You are experiencing a spiritual revival, a coming a live, a chapter dedicated to spiritual exploration and discovery. You may be reclaiming and reintegrating disowned parts of yourself and as a result you are becoming stronger and more whole.
In readings about self development the reversed Judgement card often suggests an inability or even a refusal to pursue the spiritual journey. Fear holds you back.
It could be that you are running from the past, or feel so much guilt and remorse about past mistakes or pat versions of yourself that you become unable to integrate them as lessons. Perhaps you are afraid of your own truth and potential and are trying to keep a lid on vital aspects of yourself. Your relationship with the truth of who you are is tentative – you are keeping a lot hidden, perhaps even from yourself. It is time to ask yourself, why are you so closed-off, so carefully guarded? Have you lost your trust in yourself, in others or in the universe at large, perhaps because you were hurt or betrayed in a past relationship or by your parents growing up?
We are not meant to live closed-off from the raw energies of life. We are meant to come out and bask in the sunlight, as we see characters in the card doing. You are holding yourself back, staying in the tomb, refusing to relish life. It is time to work on your own healing, on self forgiveness, or on the forgiveness of those who hurt you.
What the Judgement Tarot card tells you about your love life
In a Tarot love reading, the meaning of Judgement is discovery and coming alive.
When we first fall in love with potential partners, there is a sense of our universe suddenly expanding and of all of our senses perking up. A first impression of new romantic interest can be reminiscent of the scene depicted in the card.
In a Tarot love reading, the meaning of Judgement reversed is often mistrust, closing off. You may have been hurt in the past, and now you are refusing to give a new relationship a chance to flourish.