198. Le Jugement

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Le_JugementThis was a card that came up yesterday, reversed, in the ninth position on the Celtic cross spread. It reminds me just how steeped the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is in Judeo-Christian mythology.

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 magicianThe 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.

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2 thoughts on “198. Le Jugement

  1. I remember the first time I heard of a tarot deck – well, read about it, actually. It was in a Star Trek novel I was reading, and I didn’t know what a “tar-rot” was, so I asked my mother. I don’t recall her specific answer, aside from correcting my pronunciation, but it was equated with crystal balls and other types of prediction. I do remember one thing from her explanation: “only you determine your future.” Although she is a life-long Catholic, she’s never believed in pre-destiny.
    When I was a teen, I tried to pray-away-the-gay, too. It was hell, admittedly, as one god or another (I was uncommitted after the Christian deity declined to intervene repeatedly) wouldn’t “change” me.
    I wish that I could say with certainty when it dawned on me, but I finally connected the dots of what my mom had said in a casual conversation with life. I had been taking what she said as literal truth. I can change the future because it’s not written. In actuality, what she was saying is that I can drive toward a future I want, and the road along the way may be easier or more difficult based on my choices. When I stopped trying to change my genetics, and slowly started to steer toward embracing and expressing who I really was, life became easier.
    Life is precious, and it is a gift. Not from a deity, but from nature itself.
    I find your posts very interesting and well-written; this need not be said. But I assure you that a tarot deck will never tell you what to do with your life. That’s solely up to you. I’m just going to toss out a couple of totally random thoughts here – so bear in mind that they’re that: random.

    You didn’t get into grad school because that’s not really your best choice; you’re comfortable in music, and so you pursue it. You have great eloquence as a writer, but you didn’t pursue a master’s degree in writing. Why?

    You’re making that foolish mistake of assumption: you’ll never know if someone wants to date you unless you ask him. I struggle with this one myself, too. I’m willing to take chances, however. (Small plug in my own defense – I need them)

    If you feel like an outsider, you either need a chaperone, or you need a different destination.

    • David

      Thanks, Steve. Don’t worry, I don’t approach Tarot as divination. As I wrote several weeks ago, I come at it strictly from a Jungian, analytical standpoint, almost like an inkblot test. The cards are random, but they can help give voice to thoughts and beliefs rooted deep in the unconscious. As a friend of mine explained in introducing me to Tarot, it’s really collaborative storytelling about the Querent. Just as one might find a personal lesson or message in a book or television/movie, the cards can be used to construct a personal narrative from which to glean truths.

      To be honest, I have my doubts about pursuing graduate studies in composition. I wonder if, as in college, I’m simply pursuing the path of least resistance by going with music. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what brings me joy. It was easy. Yet, as you and others have pointed out, I’m also a skilled writer. That skill can still use honing, but producing a quality piece of writing or a particularly expressive turn of phrase brings me joy, albeit a different kind of joy from composing. Honestly, I wish there were a Merlin, a wise old man (or woman), to advise me which path to take here. I also wish that there were a way to combine my passion for writing with my passion for music.

      As to why I didn’t pursue a master’s in writing, there are many reasons. Part of it is fear that there will be no jobs in that field, although (heh) that is probably more true of music academia than writing. Part of it is the sense that by pursuing writing, years spent pursuing composition will be for naught, and I don’t know if I can take yet another failed path in my life (the first being my failed attempt to eschew my sexuality; the second being my faith). Yet my rational mind says to not shy from the path of truth. To continue pursuing a course for the sake of prior investment is folly in itself.

      Oy. The examined life.

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