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I’m celebrating a birthday tomorrow. This is exciting for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that I have an excuse to eat as many sweets as I want and take the day off work. Nice. But another, more weighty, reason I’m looking forward to turning the page into my next year of life is because I get to reflect on what I have accomplished in the past year, how I have grown, and what is next for me on my journey.

Tarot cards can be a great tool in this work. And while a traditional card reading on your birthday is always a beautiful practice and I certainly plan on having one, birthdays have another significance within the world of Tarot, because when we move into a new year, we move into a new numerological association with a given card.

Okay. What do I mean by this?

Tarot cards fit together and and narrate a story of experience and growth, that leads to more experience and growth, and so forth, and so forth. They describe human experiences that catalyze other human experiences, and for this and many other symbolic reasons, they are numbered. And, it just so happens that we can use these numbers and a very small amount of math to assign each passing year—for each individual person—a designated card or multiple cards.  This means that, in a macro sense, we are all moving through and working with these points of growth and experiential concepts as we transition from year to year.

That might be confusing. Bear with me. I’m going to use my own birthday, and my own yearly cards, as an example. It works like this:

I was born on August 9th. If you add the numbers in the month and day of my birth to the numbers in the current year…

8 + 9 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 9 = 29

And then further divide that number…

2 + 9 = 11

You get 11, the number of the Justice card. (In the most heavily popularized deck, anyways. This number is an odd one, because it can refer to two cards, but that’s another story. We are going to talk about Justice here because I’ve decided that Justice resonates with me as my next annual card. That’s one of the great things about the Tarot: you always, always get to decide which interpretation feels right to you and let that be the highest truth.)

So, when I hit my birthday this week, I will be transitioning into a year of working with the Justice card. (And out of a year of working with the Wheel of Fortune, card number 10.) Obviously there’s a lot of subjectivity here. I’m using the Gregorian calendar to calculate my cards because I live by the Gregorian calendar. If there is another calendar that runs your life or that you personally connect with, this same process can still be applied.

Anyways, let’s get to the point and talk about what my fast-approaching Justice year means to me and how I am going to let its wisdom move me into a new year of life.

When I first began working with the Tarot, the Justice card felt a little alienating. The illustration in the popular Smith-Waite tradition shows a crowned woman, sword upright, scales in her hands, unsmiling. The message was clear to me from the beginning: she’s not messing around. She’s not here for your flimsy excuses. She’s not about to make exceptions. In different stages of my own growth, that was not comforting. But that’s not the point of the card.

Justice has deep symbolic significance that can apply to both literal justice in the external world and personal justice that plays itself out in our own lives. In both senses, this card reigns supreme over the idea that life isn’t fair, but it is the way it is—and it’s up to us to accept our own power and agency in shaping it in the ways that we can. This card reminds us that the choices we make have consequences, and rather than attempting to avoid those consequences, we need to devote our attention and efforts to making different choices. (If we want to experience a different result, anyways.) This card invites us to look at what is with honest eyes, not rose-colored glasses, and let what we see inform our own motivation to create a better world.

If you’re not in the mood to cultivate change, if you really love avoidance, if you want to keep your eyes shut and continue moving through the same patterns that have carried you…  then Justice is going to feel like a bit of a call-out. But, if you’re ready to claim your own agency and move closer to the version of yourself—or the version of the world—you want to live with, Justice is a strong invitation and comforting reminder that you can do it. A reminder that even though life isn’t fair, and we all know it isn’t fair, you have more power than you are currently tapping into and you get to step into that the minute you’re ready. Or maybe even before you’re ready.

In my life right now, I’m sensing that it’s time to stop coddling myself. (And I don’t mean stop taking care of myself, or being kind to myself, because that will always be my jam.) What I’m referring to is my own dawning desire to move beyond some particular self-limitations that have been, honestly, pretty comfortable. Instead of continuing to loop through old thought and behavior patterns that may have served once and clearly do not anymore, I want to do something different. Instead of hiding from unpleasant feelings, I want to feel them fully, and see what’s on the other side. Instead of readily saying to myself, “Hey, tomorrow is a new day,” I want to see what happens when I really treasure each new day—and decide not to push off my most important priorities, my most powerful actions.

And so, as I welcome the energy of the Justice card into the next year of my life, I think of the word integrity and everything it means to me. It’s got a couple definitions, and the more obvious in this application speaks to morality and our ability to live by our values. That’s grand and certainly relevant. Here’s the one I like more:

      2. the state of being whole and undivided.

I want to feel that I am truly one with my desires, my goals, my values, my beliefs, my wishes for a world that is simply better than the one we are living in. I want to build trust in my own ability to act in a way that honors this oneness. And that’s not shallow work; it’s deep relearning; it’s breaking down structures in my life and building new foundations. I’m glad I’ll have a year. And I trust that the work I’ll do throughout the coming year will prepare me for the invitations of the following, when I step into my Hanged One year.

Therein lies the beauty of yearly cards, if you choose to bring them into your life. If you’re curious about what Tarot energies you are in right now, per the numbers, reach out—I’d be happy to help shed some light and, hopefully, bring some inspiration to your current phase of life.

Now, I’m going to go celebrate my birthday—because I’m ready for it.