Description of the Card:
The main image for this card is a pumpkin-headed person holding up a set of balanced scales in the center of the image. He wears blue overalls, a red shirt, large tan gloves, and boots (one of which has untied shoelaces). The left side of the scales hold two shrunken heads (that seem to be aware and possibly frightened) and the right holds a large live rat. There is a leafless tree on either side, each with its own animals: on the right is an owl and on the left two bats (hanging upside down with their wings folded around them). A green full moon is in the sky between the two. Three yellow stars can be seen peaking through the branches of the trees (one at top right next to the owl, one below the owl, and the final one slightly above the right side of the scales) A crow is perched on the pumpkin-head's left shoulder. At his feet is a voodoo doll with a large red heart pinned to its chest by a straight pin. Near the bottom is the black cat (who appears in every card) looking at the rat in the scales, with one paw raised. Long and out-of-shape green grass rises up from the bottom of the card to complete the scene.
The card's composition is mainly made up of vertical elements - the tall pumpkin-head, the straight up-and-down birds and bats, and the thin, tall trees. There are two major breaks from this pattern. First, the central image of the scales is very horizontal and seems to cut straight across the middle of the image. Second, the black cat, directly beneath the scales, is also longer horizontal than vertical.
Thoughts from the Halloween Tarot Book:1
For this card the Halloween Tarot book presents a number of thoughts. First, a few general ideas are presented. Justice is linked to sight -- which is why every figure in the card is looking at the scales (with ten pairs of eyes in total). The book also states that this card is about "personal justice -- the inner sense of right and wrong we wish everyone had." 2
Second, we find that the artist deliberately balanced animals across from each other, with good luck bats (Chinese thinking) (upper left corner) versus the black cat of bad luck (American) (lower right corner). The owl is for wisdom and "impartial judgement.", the crow is to get rid of waste and excess. The voodoo doll is for revenge. The pumpkin-head (which the book refers to as a scarecrow) could reflect the Wizard of Oz -- he wants a brain, he wants mental balance.
Finally, it mentions that this is card eleven, half way through the Major Arcana, balancing the two halves on itself.
Personal Thoughts and Ruminations:
I often read Justice as balance, as trying to bring yourself into harmony with life. Generally, it's a positive card -- or a card that shows things can be positive if you make an effort.
The pumpkin-head is off-balance in the picture. He leans in from the left and has all his weight on his left foot, which is the only one we can see. His shoe is untied and the lace is dragging on the ground. Balance is precarious? Balance is only momentary? Any second now he's going to tumble over with all those animals watching. This balance of the scales is only momentary, an instant. He's dancing, but also falling down. I read this to say that balance is all about going from moment to moment with intent. Know where you're going to step and why. Make an effort to understand your actions, rather than just reacting all the time.
The balancing act of the scales is also interesting -- two dead heads for one live rat. What kind of equality are they portraying here? Two regrets for one action now? Events of the past (dead and shrunken heads like memories) hold less weight than events of the present (a live and moving rat)? The heads seem to fear the rat. Maybe the past fears the present? Maybe the heads are afraid the rat will eat them?
(Similarly there's the balance of two bats for one owl. I'm less certain about what that balance might mean.)
The issue of sight brought up in the book is interesting. Haven't we always been told that justice is blind? Are these the eyes of a jury? Are they the eyes of your peers judging you, in life as well as the courtroom? Does this mean that justice comes down to how others see you, rather than being some external ideal? Since I tend to focus on this as a card of day-to-day life balance rather than the action and reaction of a single event (like a crime and the following punishment or revenge), I'm not sure I like the book's reading of these "eyes of justice."
At least once I've read this card much more negatively -- as stagnation, stillness, unwillingness to change or tip the scales. I'm thinking about that voodoo doll in the corner and what its connotations are: revenge, balance through revenge, blood for blood. It has weird little teeth and it isn't smiling. Balance taken too far? Justice just for the sake of justice, with no mercy?
1. Lee, Karin and Kipling West. The Halloween Tarot. Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems, Inc, 1996. pgs. 50-51
2. Ibid, pg 50