At first glance, Judgement shouldn’t have anything to do with Norse cosmology. There is no almighty god in Asgard who declares that such-and-such is sinful or that so-and-so is a sinner. But Freya does pass a judgement on those who fall in battle, with the aid of the valkyries. She chooses which of the slain to bring to Asgard, whether for Valhalla or for Folkvang. How many sagas include a stranger (who never shows both eyes) giving a magic weapon to a warrior, only to take the weapon away in the heat of battle… so the valkyries can claim the hero?
But this card is from Christian cosmology: rather than judging someone’s combat abilities, this card is about judging whether someone is a sinner. Rather than a card of being asked to fight for all eternity in preparation for the battle against Fenris Wolf at Ragnarok, this is a card about being brought back from the dead to be judged on one’s worth to enter into the kingdom of the Christian heaven. If not, then the poor soul will be plunged into the Christian hell, which is not a place of feasting and raucous laughter.
No matter how you look at it, this is a card of ᛏ (Tiwaz), in its aspect as a Rune of justice. There is also an element of ᛊ (Sowilo) as a Rune of discernment. There is even the idea of being reunited with your ancestors, which brings a connection to ᛟ (Othala).
The Fool’s Journey
The true judgement of the einherjar will come at Ragnarok. The true test will be how they acquit themselves against the forces of the frost giants and the fire giants, Fenris and Jormungand, and all the enemies who will be released when Hel throws open her doors and the dread ship Naglfar sails.
It doesn’t matter that there will be no one to judge them. The einherjar are immortal, able to stand back up after being slain. They will live for eternity knowing exactly how they failed. There is no next life for them; their karma will live on into eternity with them.
One of the most prominent symbols of the Judgement card is the trumpet. The Christians will claim that the angel is Gabriel, who announced the coming of their Christ god and will announce his second coming, but we of course know the trumpet as the Gjallarhorn blown by Heimdal at the start of Ragnarok. It is the warning blast, like an auditory ᛊ (Sowilo), that announces to the gods that Naglfar has arrived, carrying the enemies of the gods.
In The Gilded Tarot (Right), the trumpet appears to be on fire, reminding us of the flaming sword which will slay Ingvi Frey. The Aquarian Tarot (Left) shows the curls I have always imagined on the Gjallarhorn, along with a reasonable interpretation of what Heimdal must look like.
The Everyday Tarot (Center) shows a woman climbing out of her coffin and pleading with the valkyrie to take her as well. The valkyries don’t take everyone to Valhalla, not even everyone who dies in battle, and for some reason this woman wasn’t chosen. Perhaps she died in her bed. Perhaps there were too many brave warriors on the battlefield and she was overlooked.
The Judgement card is a card of the dead rising, but these are not the einherjar rising. These are all those who have been in Hel when the goddess of the same name throws the gates open at the start of Ragnarok. The most important of those who are in Hel and will return after Ragnarok is Baldur. In the absence of the mightiest gods, all of whom will fall at Ragnarok, Baldur will return to Asgard and reign as king of the gods.