Meaning: Always with a sword in hand, this Justice is ready to strike when the scales are out of balance. A wrong will be righted. But be prepared for the aftermath of this reckoning, because justice often does not serve equally.
Reversed: It may work for a while, but eventually every deception runs its course. Face your mistakes, make amends where possible, and start new. Learning to see yourself in someone else’s shoes will go a long way to help.
The win for extraordinary card goes to the Paris deck again, with its curious spelling is portrayed as a Janus type figure. This goes along with other depictions of Justice. The people who fancy an Alchemical explanation for every card see a resolution of the Lovers card, of the merger between opposites, the high spiritual attainment of conjunction. A sword in one hand, and scale balancing in the other, justice is a tense association of forces held in check with each other. As Janus it brings in an additional element that unifies the past and future.
The humanist goddess with scales and sword is a standard for North Italian Renaissance, depicted in churches and without, sometimes with wings. It’s often reported in junior myth guides as a continuation of a Roman goddess named Justice, but this is not correct. The modernized goddess Justice is in fact the continuation of Nemesis.
Nemesis has an onerous name in English of course meaning arch-enemy. But she is better seen as a parallel to Fortuna, or rather that both goddesses stem from an earlier connection between the wheel and justice. She is depicted standing with a wheel to make the connection. For this reason she was associated with games and gladiator arenas, she is the goddess of the referees and the making of fair calls, especially those that meant life or death. She was the last character you could appeal to for mercy when you’d gone too far, something like the modern Santa Muerte of Latin America. She was the making of adjustments, watching over a game of good and evil and adjusting the scales by intervening when evil seems to be prevailing. As divine justice she was appeased together with Tyche or Themis, soul of the city and civilization, making them emblems of law and order for the Romans.
Nemesis, therefore, was the enemy of the wrong-doer. In the setting of the gladitorial arena, the fighters are drawn from slaves captured in battle, making her a kind of Nike or Victoria, to the Romans she was Invidia, the one who defeats the enemy. And the fighters drawn from convicts, her name Nemesis means ‘to give what is due’ they make her a symbol of punishment, the archenemy originally of the criminal.
Nemesis and Themis have their oldest sanctuary in the Southern Greek islands, though the origin of these two appears to be Antioch. Because of their association with luck, good and bad, for last chances, the original insurance claim for ‘acts of Goddess’, and as a solace of victims who seek revenge, all common reasons for people to seek archaic magic, a sense of these characters endured centuries after the Empire tried to put them down.
Though the Paris version of the Marseilles deck shows a Janus type head, this is novel, and I treat the presence of Janus in the Tarot under the card of Prudence.