Sunday, 11 September 2016

Justice is part of temperance

Daily Draw: Ship of Fools Tarot,  Justice

In the image Justice is deprived of her rightful role by the fool.  Late medieval and early modern society was quite litigious and the original woodcut was intended to show the folly of "Quarrelling and going to court' or recklessly taking every dispute before a judge. 

Within the moral scheme of the seven virtues justice comes under the heading of Temperance along with humanity, honour and abstinence. As well as restraint Temperance refers to the practice of mindfulness of others, judging among different courses/causes of action and rightful moderation between self-interest versus public interest and the rights and needs of others. 


Here's a link to a tarocchi card with the image of justice without blindfold dated 1530-1561.


  1. Interesting that Lady Justice didn't start wearing the blindfold until the 15th century. Wonder what caused the change?

  2. Good question! I've done a quick internet search including the law library at University of Washington. The idea of a Goddess of Justice goes back to antiquity. For the Eqyptians she was Ma'at (from that word we get magistrate).

    To the ancient Greeks she was Themis guardian of divine law and order but also of prophecy. Her ability to foresee the future meant she became one of the oracles at Delphi. There is an argument that classical representations of Themis did not show her blindfolded because of her talent for prophecy. Nor did she carry a sword because she represented common consent not coercion.

    The Roman Goddess was Justitia who was sometimes depicted with blindfold however early Roman coins depict her also with her eyes uncovered.

    The blindfold represents objectivity or equality - the idea that justice should be doled out fairly without favour and regardless of money, wealth, power, status or identity. I can only speculate as to why this symbol became more pronounced in the fifteenth century. Perhaps the ascendancy of the Latin church over the Greek and hence a preference for Justitia? Or maybe the idea of Justice as an oracle fell out of favour. Or perhaps as the law developed a growing concern for more (not completely) equal rights.

    Not a definitive answer but your question reminds me each card is a research project in progress :)