The Meaning of
"The World" Tarot Card
Tarot Quick Info
What is the inverted meaning of
"The World" card?
The Meaning of
The Symbolism of the World Card:
The deeply mystical World card is the final card in the Major Arcana. It is the last 'chapter' of the story which began with the Magician card, some 21 cards earlier. (See note below)
The card consists of a central dancing figure who almost seems to float in space. The figure represents a higher consciousness — one who has ascended past the scene in the prior Judgement card, and has become one with the entirety of the universe.
The circular wreath symbolizes the concept of cycles, indicating that the tarot story repeats infinitely.
Draped in purple fabric, the dancer holds a white wand in each hand. Each wand is identical to the single wand the Magician held at the start of the tarot journey — but this is not the Magician. The Magician held his wand aloft to channel the heavens. These wands — held neither high nor low — indicate that the heavens are all around the dancer. A state of perfect balance with the universe has been achieved.
The dancer is framed inside a tightly woven, natural wreath. The circular wreath symbolizes the concept of cycles, indicating that the tarot story repeats infinitely. This final chapter verges on the beginning of another cycle, ad infinitum.
In the corners of the card are the four figures that appeared in the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card. They symbolize the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water; The four tarot suits: Cups, Pentacles, Wands and Swords; The four evangelists; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the four zodiac signs representing the elements: Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius and Taurus.
At the top and bottom of the wreath, two red ribbons are tied in an X symbol. The Roman numeral at the top of the card — XXI — is mirrored by red X's and the central figure — the I. They combine to form a second XXI, indicating that the dancer herself is one with the totality of the cycle of the tarot.
NOTE: A common question asked by students of tarot is: Is the next card in the cycle after The World card The Fool or the Magician? The true start of the Major Arcana is a subject of debate. The Fool, which is numbered zero is often said to exist outside of the cycle of the Major Arcana — and the Magician, which is numbered I is often said to be the true start of the Major Arcana cycle.
How to Interpret The World Card
As the final card in the Major Arcana, The World is one of the most important and most profound.
The simplest and most basic interpretation of the World is that it symbolizes fulfillment.
The simplest and most basic interpretation of The World is that it symbolizes fulfillment. This can be any type of fulfillment: personal, spiritual, professional, physical, intellectual and emotional.
The sense of fulfillment represented by The World might come from a marriage, or the birth of a child. It might come from earning a degree, or being promoted to a high position. It also might come from something less tangible: Like the satisfaction that comes when someone realizes he or she is content and has stopped wanting.
On a more literal level, The World references an ultimate englightenment or what Hinduism would call Nirvana.
In other words: The World speaks to a state of complete spiritual fullness and completion, more than it does a single specific type of fulfillment.
Needless to say, attaining complete spiritual Nirvana isn't something that happens every day — or even every time The World appears in a tarot reading, which is why the card usually applies to a simpler type of fulfillment in the average reading.
The card may also point to someone being close to completion. Perhaps a task or a project is almost complete. Perhaps a degree has almost been attained. Perhaps a long sought-after goal is close to being attained.
If the card references a past event, it may point to a time when a grander cycle of completion was attained, and when the cycle began anew.
Generally speaking, The World is an extremely positive card. While its true meaning points to the pinnacle of spiritual achievement and advancement, it's usually read as a great achievement — and more importantly, the sense of wholeness and completion that comes with a final achievement.
The World Card Inverted
No one likes to be told they're not finished with something when they thought everything was complete. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the reversed World card suggests.
... a recently achieved success is not the end of the road. Perhaps a game has been won, but a greater contest continues.
In most cases, the inverted World indicates a false sense of completion, or someone stopping to rest before a grander task has been completed.
Perhaps paperwork that has been filed, is about to come back to someone. Perhaps a payment which is as good as paid is not going to be paid in full. Perhaps a scheduled completion date is going to be pushed back a week or two.
When the reversed World card appears in a tarot reading it's usually an reminder to focus on the greater goals and not on things like calendar dates, filing dates or promises.
It's also a reminder that our minds can deceive us into thinking we're done when we're really not. In this sense, the card reminds us to be extremely diligent about loose ends, quality and polish.
Another possible interpretation is that a recently achieved success is not the end of the road. Perhaps a game has been won, but a greater contest continues. The reversed World card asks us to set our sights higher, and remember that individual victories add up to a much greater victory still to come.
If the inverted World card references a past event, it may point to a relatively good time in the past, when someone thought they had achieved success — only to find out later that it was merely a stopping point on a longer road.
Common Symbols Found On the World Card
Tarot cards often use a a common symbology to convey hints about how the card should be interpreted. The World contains at least two well-known, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these common symbols can add additional dimensions of interpretation to the card.
The symbols which appear on the World card are:
Lions symbolism appears on the World card:
Lions in general symbolize strength and courage, however the way lions are depicted in the Tarot is varied and their meaning depends upon the specific card where each lion appears. In addition to being the primary theme of the iconic Strength Tarot card, lions are a recurring symbol on several other cards across the Tarot deck.
NOTE: The lion in the corner of the Wheel of Fortune card is part of a 4-part tetramorph which represents St. Mark — who is seen as a model of strength and determination. This lion may also reference the astrological sign, Leo.
Birds symbolism appears on the World card:
Birds depicted in Tarot cards typically fall into two distinct groups: Identifiable birds (like eagles, ibis birds, etc.) and flocks of small, unidentifiable birds shown flying far away in the distance. All the court cards in the Suit of Swords depict the latter. These small birds remind us that the Suit of Swords is bound to the primary element of Air. Although each of the identifiable birds, has its own specific interpretation, birds in a simplistic sense all represent freedom — both a psychological freedom, and freedom from physical restraint.
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