This is the ninth post in a series on the creation of Divination’s setting and magical universe as defined by the tarot. The first post in the series is Making a tarot-defined setting, and you can find the entire series linked at the bottom of each entry.
The Road of Scale and Blade (Justice)
Direct Source: Judgement (Mediumship)
Upright: Righteous Anger
Artists who are called to engage with bizarre, dangerous, and unpredictable elements of the Esoteric in order to establish a just and fair world for everyone else.
The Way of Justice, which attracts Artists through a sense of duty. This Road rewards the conquering of evil, and the peace of a stable, well-defended world. The Knights of this Road think of themselves as the line between that which is right and that which is wrong, and hope in death to be rewarded with their version of infinite life as spiritual guardians in The Citadel. These Artists thrive on hunting the many beings that threaten peaceful folk—Apparent and Esoteric alike. These Artists are commanded to wield their power justly and fairly, including showing mercy toward Esoteric entities. Any entity conducting itself in peace can expect one of these Artists to defend its right to exist—even if would otherwise be considered monstrous.
So, it’s a weird world getting created. In Divination, I mean.
The Art is trickling into the Apparent world, and the trickle is starting to turn into a stream, and as it does, it opens the Third Eyes of more and more Artists.
It’s been entering the minds of Students on the Road of Two Lands; giving visions to the Seers on the Unwritten Road. It’s been making Artists on the Road of Death immortal, and has been offering power to Artists on the Garden and Crooked Roads so long as the Artist uses it in accordance with the philosophies of those paths.
These Artists would compete and compromise and strive, just as we do, but with far greater reach and more dangerous tools.
What laws would they impose on one another? What barriers would they break? What doors would they open that would change conditions for everyone?
For Artistic society to exist, Artists would have to impose order on themselves. They’d have to choose some Artists to exile and others to exalt, just as we do. Because some Artists would be threats to the greater good, while others would devote themselves to it.
Where does someone get the impulse to devote their lives to this form of service? It eludes me in this world, and I think it would elude most Artists in Divination’s world, too. Most of us are called to our callings for selfishness in one way or another, but that isn’t true for everyone.
In tarot, the Justice card seems to speak to those people’s existence. It depicts all the people in the machine of society who aspire to be wise enough to trust their scale, and strong enough to wield a blade.
These are people who know that society requires fair people to hold both of those tools in order to create an essential balance required for people to thrive.
Artists on this Road—the Road of Scale and Blade—would take that as a divine calling. These are soldiers, judges, defenders, guards, medics, even bureaucrats.
These would be Artists who would prevent the Artists of the Garden Road from controlling everyone in their quest for order; Artists who would keep everyone else safe from Artists on the Crooked Road.
Critically, these Artists would have to be bound by codes of honor and conduct that restricted their ability to use the Art. They would use it to punish only those deserving of punishment, and would only defend those worthy of guardianship.
But how would these Artists enforce any of this?
The Artists they would impose law on could channel the forces of life and death. These Artists can change matter, see through time. What law could bind them?
The Judgement card gave me my answer. It’s a portrait of spirit. Judgment Day.
That Justice leads to Judgement seems so pat it’s insane, but it makes a cosmic sense to me. Justice is the earthly manifestation of what is depicted as divine in the Judgement card.
I mean, why make laws? They’re so we can live together in peace and harmony. Law is a divine construct, whether its ten commandments, five pillars, whatever. People know that law separates us from pure chaos and rigid domination.
Artists would manifest this too. There would have to be a branch of the Art that dealt with the spirits of the imagination and the spirits of the dead. These entities are such huge features in stories of magic, and they were huge in the imagination of the occultists of the early 20th century.
What if those were the Artists who could keep the peace? Who practiced Justice as well as Judgement? Maybe they would be connected to the Gods of your ancestors, or even your ancestors themselves. These Artists are the ones who are connected to the entities that will characterize your afterlife, if you were to have one. They would know your secrets. They would know your family.
They would be the law, but perhaps a softer—or harder—sort of law than one might expect.
These could be Artists whose word would carry a kind of command; respect for sure—I mean, these are the Artistic equivalent of firefighters and paramedics. As Mediums, they’d able to drive out entities from other planes that other Artists would have a hard time dealing with.
But moreso, they would be able to connect to other cultures through their dreams, traditions, and dead. They would be able to commune with the spirits dear to everyone.
They would walk softly and carry big sticks.
Because everyone has spirits. Everyone has dreams. Any Artist that showed up and cautioned you on your behavior that knew your spirits and your dreams would be one you might listen to, even if you had newfound godly Artistic powers.
And, in the worst cases, these Artists might be able to construct prisons far worse than the other Roads. These might find ways of making you a subject of interest to the ghosts who haunt your area. Or they might contract with the spirit of a strong idea or concept to have you haunted by their surreal presence, maddening and confusing you. Interfering with your life from beyond.
Worst, they could employ your own dead loved ones to haunt you.
They could threaten to destroy the spirits of your dead loved ones, if they really didn’t like you. Now that’s a horrible thought.
Or they could forgive you. Relieve you of your burdens. Help you operate without disturbing others, within the boundaries of the law (more on the specific laws Artists abide by in a future post). They could send your loved ones on to happier places. These would be complex and subtle Artists, whose law was more about moral balance than the force of order required by the Garden Road, or the selfish pull of the Crooked one.
These would have to be brave Artists for a weird world, and they would have to maintain their cool and never allow their power to become terrible, wrathful, empty, cruel. These would be Artists whose Roads might show them an interloping spirit or a lawbreaking Artist, but not show them how to deal with it.
Figuring that out would take grace, the kind of grace of the Judgement card. Pure. Essential. These Artists would have to be careful, balancing their blades with their sense of right and wrong, lest they make themselves the type of enemy they’d be called upon to judge.
All the Roads offer a tightrope walk of some kind – I don’t think magic is fun without a steep price – but the question at the heart of the Road of Scale and Blade speaks to me loudly, not just because I’m a Libra, but because it seems like such a question of our time, relevant to our weird, chaotic world:
How do you remain fair in the face of unfairness?
There’s one last Road to discuss. I saved the weirdest for last: The Road of the Infinite Loop (Strength) and the Source of Astralism (The World). Then a few more posts about the world and what all this weird Road stuff adds up to!
>> Read the next post in this series: The Infinite Loop
Find the rest of the series here:
- Entry 1: Making a tarot-defined setting
- Entry 2: The Roads and Sources
- Entry 3: This game will teach you tarot
- Entry 4: The Road of Two Lands
- Entry 5: The Unwritten Road
- Entry 6: The Shivering Road
- Entry 7: The Crooked Road
- Entry 8: The Garden Road
- Entry 9: The Road of Scale and Blade (this post)
- Entry 10: The Road of the Infinite Loop
- Entry 11: Itinerant Artists
- Entry 12: The Esoteric Renaissance