The imagery evokes the Resurrection before the Last Judgement from 1 Corinthians: “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
In Pamela Coleman Smith’s artwork, the archangel Gabriel awakens the dead with a trumpet blast, who gesture reverently and welcomingly with open arms. The figures below are grey and ashen, while everything above bursts with color.
The banner on the trumpet is likely the Saint George’s Cross, which could be a reference to overcoming the dragon (Revelation 12:8). There’s also a connection in the red and white to the Magician’s clothing. The ocean swelling in the background could be a reference to the sea giving up its dead (Revelation 20:13), but there’s also the connection to the river that seems to flow throughout the Major Arcana cards, starting with the Empress. It mirrors the swelling waves in the foreground of the Fool, the river flowing through Death, and the water in Temperance, The Star, and The Moon. One could say that there’s also a connection to the High Priestess, with her blue robes flowing like water.
Grey is a masculine color in Tarot. The Emperor’s throne, the Hierophant’s church and Justice’s temple; the Chariot, the Hermit, the overcast sky in Death; the Devil’s wings, and the towers in The Tower card and The Moon are all grey (and, dare I say, phallic). The pillars in the High Priestess are black and grey.
The trumpet here has particular meaning for me, as my father is a professional trumpeter.
Some keywords that Waite associated with this card in its upright position are Judgement, Rebirth, Inner Calling, and Absolution. Reversed, it can suggest self-doubt and self-judgement.
Reversed, the Judgement card suggests that you may be indulging yourself in doubt and self-judgement. Your deliberation is causing you to miss the new opportunities that await. A certain amount of momentum has accumulated behind what you have achieved, which could propel you further. If actions are taken now, such momentum will not be lost. Therefore now is not the time for being cautious or introverted, rather it is time to move onwards with confidence and pride.
Additionally, this card suggests that you may be overly hard or critical of yourself and not allowing yourself to truly learn from your mistakes. You may have made some mistakes in the past but see these as learning experiences rather than failures or faults. (BiddyTarot.com)
When I laid out this card, it was in the ninth position in the Celtic cross spread, which indicates any hopes and/or fears of the Querent. One of the major reasons I really haven’t gone out or made any progress with the workshop of my one-act opera is this sea of self-doubt that I’ve been awash in the last couple of weeks. So many things life recently haven’t been working. Job interviews I’ve gone on have proven to be disappointments (the last one didn’t even give a reason: just “applicant was not chosen”); the guys I’ve seen on dates haven’t panned out; my grad school applications… well, that whole thing was rushed and poorly done to begin with.
Tarot scholar Tara Miller writes that “Judgment represents the House of Gabriel, the knowing that Judgment Day can come at any moment; live your life to the fullest, as the trumpet of Gabriel is at hand.” (Wikipedia)
It wasn’t until I renounced my Christian faith that I realized how truly precious and rare life is. As a Christian, I was taught from day one that life is a gift from God. To squander it by pursuing our own wants, desires, and pleasure is arrogance, and a sin. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
What I was most angry about after becoming an atheist was not that I’d been fooled or that I’d believed lies my whole life. It was that I’d lost so much time and experience. Instead of learning about Creationism, I could’ve been discovering the wonders of science and our world. I could’ve been discovering who I am, what I care about, what my values as a human being are. I could’ve been exploring my sexuality as a gay man, making mistakes early in life (when you’re supposed to make them), all on the way to finding a partner—and more importantly, a groundedness in who I am as a person. My parents and teachers were wrong: our rock is not Christ. We have to become our own rocks that can weather the storms and arrows of life.
So if life is so short, why do I keep allowing these petty, negative scripts to dominate mine?
Why do I superimpose an inner monologue on everyone, assuming they’re thinking how unattractive, unoriginal, neurotic, unfit, unsuitable, incomplete, and poorly trained I am?
This is why I often stay at home—because, no matter how irrational I know it is, my lizard brain interprets every stray glance or comment as betraying what people really think of me. And the thoughts cascade into self-doubt, self-hate, and self-judgement.
Of course they rejected your grad school applications. You’re a poor excuse for a competent adult and musician.
Of course no one wants to date you. You’re complicated, selfish, difficult to live with, and you don’t enjoy going out to gay bars.
Why bother going anywhere when you’ll just feel like an outsider? No one understands you. Other people know instinctively how to interact with other humans. You? You’re broken, damaged, and worthless.
And so I shut down, retreat and hide myself away. I let my potential stagnate rather than risk having to confront these messages.
The inherent meaning in the Judgement card is transition, one of awakening from death to “new life.” But I need to face the illumination my subconscious is shining on these issues.