As some of you know from my previous post I have been working on a bird tarot deck, Occult Ornithology, which is now on Kickstarter. I have decided to do a spotlight every few days for cards! I will be shuffling a deck and pulling a card from random for each one, this morning I pulled out card number 20, Judgement.
As a card, Judgement was one of my favourite cards to draw. I knew early on when I was planning my deck that I wanted to have a barn owl representing this card, in some ways The Moon and The High Priestess cards seemed like much more obvious choices for owls with their associations with the evening but I thought that Judgement would be a more fitting role.
The card when drawn commonly in its upright position can mean: Reincarnation, making wise decisions, transitioning to a new life, spiritual awakening and serving a higher calling. This card can call you to trust your own judgement and trust your instincts when at a crossroads.
When drawn in the reverse position, Judgement can mean: Fear or guilt over how others judge you, poor decision making, a need for self inflection and contemplation. Self- doubt and a tendency to criticise your own actions. Ignoring intuition and not trusting one’s own judgement.
So why an owl? Owls have such rich folklore and symbolism across many cultures. In the UK (and actually, many other countries too) the owl has commonly been seen as a sign of impending death or doom. In Greece, owls were a symbol of Athena, believed to be gifted with ‘inner light’ to see more clearly. The Jewish demon Lilith is often depicted with owls because of their association with the night, darkness and freedom.
The birds association with death and impending doom felt perfect for a card that represents resurrection and personal judgement, impending death of either ourselves or a loved one is when most of us consider our life and past actions as well as make new decisions going forward. The owl’s ability to see more clearly lends itself well to representing the angel in the Rider-Waite deck, many people get the feeling of being judged or scrutinised by owls. The association with Lilith cements it for me, the ability to judge one’s own life and go against what is expected is both a an act of great self judgement and intuition but also an act of spiritual awakening. As well as the cultural aspects associated with owls, I felt that their ability to fly silently and their spirit like appearances fit the role of angel well.
Symbolism in the card. In the original Rider Waite design, an angel plays a trumpet calling the dead from the graves for final judgement day. I mirrored some aspects of this card in my own design but strayed from the more religious subtext. Instead of an angel Instead depicted a barn owl sitting on a gravestone. Instead of raising the dead, the dead lay strewn at its feet. A reoccuring theme across my work is the idea that death is final for the dead but a new beginning for those around us, instead of being literally resurrected the dead become new beginnings for the wildlife around them. I chose to include an eclipse in the piece because it is a meeting of day and night, endings and beginnings. The owl cocks its head in judgement of the reader, it is up to you to determine what it means.
More card spotlights to come!