My grandfather, whom I affectionately refer to as the very Southern epithet, “PawPaw,” was a Pentecostal pastor. A charismatic man, the Reverend Wallace P. Sellers, Jr. was an inspired, engaging communicator, and those who were in his presence always paused to listen to what he had to say. A few years ago, which was many years after his death, when my grandmother (Meme) wanted to redecorate her home, she called me and asked me if I wanted his rolltop desk. “Are you kidding?!” I exclaimed. “Of course, I want it.”
Before I arrived to pick it up, Meme had warned me that the desk was full of PawPaw’s old sermons and notes. She said I could keep anything of value that I found, and it was okay to just toss the rest of it.
What was inside that rolltop desk—the one that was off-limits to my cousins and me when we were grubby-handed little kids—was a treasure trove of memories. After I brought it home, I spent almost an entire day sorting through the stacks upon stacks of yellow legal pads filled from front to back with sermons and the notes he’d used to pen them. There were photos and legal documents and lapel pins and cufflinks and trinkets and fountain pens. Oh, the pens! Looking back on that memory, I realize where I get it from; PawPaw was also a pen hoarder.
As I thumbed through the legal pads, sorting them by date, I noticed a distinct progression in my grandfather’s handwriting. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1988, and for many years after he retired from his career and the church, he faithfully studied his Bible and scripted weekly sermons. Comparing his earlier notes with the ones from more recent years, his handwriting evolved from boxy, slanted print, to deliberate, elongated and stiff characters. The words became spaced apart as if a young child had been practicing their printing.
On one of the earlier sermons, a series of emboldened, underlined sentences in red ink caught my attention: Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve, Mercy is NOT getting what we deserve, and Justice is getting what we deserve.
“Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve, Mercy is NOT getting what we deserve, and Justice is getting what we deserve.” Rev. Wallace P. Sellers, Jr.
Those words sat with me. For days, weeks after cleaning out that desk, I went back to my own notepad where I’d scribbled my grandfather’s message. There were so many lessons hidden within those sentences, so many ways of interpreting the three constructs. Eventually, one morning when I shuffled my Tarot cards and asked Spirit to reveal to me what I needed to know about my life that very day, the Justice card jumped out. Immediately, my intuitive voice whispered, Justice is getting what we deserve. I thought about the notion in relation to me as a writer. The word “getting” stood out.
What if Justice isn’t given but obtained? I thought. What if we are in control of the scales and not waiting around on other forces to balance the [writing time, publishing efforts, marketing] scales for us? Carpe Diem.
As my thoughts are known to do, they immediately jumped to one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society, specifically to the scene when Mr. Keating has his students follow him out into the hall and consider all the old photos in the trophy case. “Carpe Diem,” he tells them. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”
If justice is getting what we deserve, wouldn’t we want to take the reins on securing whatever that looks like? Now, I don’t believe my grandfather deserved Alzheimer’s disease; that happened because of family genetics. His mother and all of his brothers and sisters developed the disease. But what I do believe he deserved was a successful career and position within his church, both of which he worked so hard to secure and nurture. He also deserved a family who loved him, but in that regard, his scales were overflowing.
I also believe God, the Universe, fate, whatever you want to name it, can step in and adjust the scales on our behalf. How does that occur? I have no idea, but what I do know is that justice happens for me all the time, even without my efforts. What about you? What are your thoughts around justice and how the construct works? Next, let's take a look at the Justice card and what it means in general, to the creative individual, and in character development.
What is the meaning of the Justice card?
The Justice card reminds us that the Universe will always make things right. There is a tedious balance to life, and we are only participants at helping to level the scales. This card is associated with Libra, which also teaches balance, and it informs fairness, education, and choice. Like The High Priestess, the figure sits between two pillars, gray for wisdom. Like The Magician, they have one hand up and one hand down—as above, so below. They hold the Sword of Justice in their right hand (which is similar to the sword from the Ace of Swords) and the scales in their left, on which they only balance what is deserving. Like Themis, the Greek goddess of wisdom and good counsel, this individual has taken their mission, knowledge, and experiences seriously and is leveling the scales. Justice reminds us to adjust our karma, to center ourselves on what is best for us and what works in our highest favor.
Justice: A Deep Dive
As the Justice card is positioned at the apex of The Fool’s Journey, it’s now time for The Fool to take what they’ve learned thus far and apply it to the rest of their ventures. To elaborate on this notion, let’s break down the number eleven. The number eleven is easily seen as two ones, and when we add the two ones we get a two. Therefore, as previously mentioned, the Justice card embodies both the energy of The Magician and The High Priestess.
As a creative, you deserve to pay justice to your work. To draw upon your intuition and your skills, balancing your creative scales and manifesting only the best outcomes for your endeavors. Write what you deserve, not what you think everyone else will want to read. Throughout this blog, you’ve run across mentions and examples of the importance of—and empowerment in—writing authentically. If you’ve ever experienced injustices, hardships, marginalization, adversity, or just a terrible hand of cards, the Justice tarot card invites you to write with courage, bringing justice for what you went through.
Allow justice for your characters and their muses. Create a horrible character after a horrible person. I know I did. Lorna Willoughby, the mother-in-law in The Decembers, my very first novel, was inspired by an individual I knew a long, long time ago who was unkind and bitter. She made the lives of everyone around her difficult and miserable. On the other hand, should you write a deplorable character, Justice reminds you to balance the scales. Consider providing a backstory that will shed light on that character’s motives and origin of their antagonistic behaviors.
Justice Reversed: the Shadow
When reversed, Justice’s sword falls, and the scales are tipped. Nobody gets what they deserve. Injustice can cause chaos and discrimination. Misalignment. Turning the Justice figure on its head means the figure’s robes fall over their face, shielding their vision and turning a blind eye on matters that need addressing and balancing. This looking away perpetuates systemic inequality, marginalization, turmoil, and confusion.
Notable Symbols for Justice
Spirit / Air
Eleven is a master number, informing strength in trying times, and helping one to cope during times of chaos and crisis. Eleven is a psychic number, a gateway to the subconscious, just like the pillars on both the Justice and The High Priestess cards. Speaking of The High Priestess, 1 + 1 = 2, which informs duality, balance, and partnership.
The sword represents air, cutting through conflict and inspiring clear thought. In the Tarot, swords also represent intellect and wisdom.
The scales mean balance, measuring, and making things level, even.
If your character is influenced by the Justice card, they are wise, careful, and fair. They likely move through your story with a mission to make things right and fair for all, not just for a select few, like your sinister antagonist and their wicked cronies.
Who can the figure in the card be?
Martin Luther King, Jr., Greta Thunberg, Michael Moore, Judge Judy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wapner (in my best Rainman voice)
Next on the blog, the spotlight shines on author Havana Wilder!
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself. And that's a good thing!
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.