The World Tarot Card

Introduction to ‘The World’ Tarot Card

The World is the final card of the Major Arcana. It has been renamed by various deck creators as ‘The Universe’ or ‘Coming Home’. It is the culmination of the Fool’s (mankind) journey; the point at which the whole cycle begins again – hopefully, because of the lessons learned, on a whole new level.Rider-Waite World

What does The World tell us when it appears in a reading? Is it a ‘good’ card? What do those symbols mean? Why is the woman dancing? Is there a deeper meaning to The World?

This card is often described as a bridge between human existence and spirituality, but what does that actually mean in real life? This article attempts to answer your questions about this intriguing card.

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Description

The World of the Rider-Waite deck shows a dancing woman framed by a laurel wreath. She holds a wand in each hand and her legs are crossed. At the top and bottom of the wreath there are red ribbons, both tied like a figure 8 on its side. In the corners of the card are the heads of a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle. Right at the top of the card is the number 21 in Roman numerals.

The World looks a lot like the Wheel of Fortune in its coloring and symbolism.
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The Fool’s Journey – The Culmination

The Fool has now encountered all the archetypes and situations contained in the 21 Major Arcana cards. He has struggled to understand the lessons he needed to learn. He is complete, yes? Well, no, not really. He can enjoy this temporary feeling of fulfilment but he must know that the end of this journey is the beginning of the next. This current cycle has raised his understanding and he has reached a higher level of spirituality. Now he begins again, facing the same challenges dressed up as new situations. He must readjust, reassess and, in one sense, throw away all he has learned because he is about to ride the next wave towards an even higher level.
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Symbolism of ‘The World’ Tarot Card

The World looks a lot like the Wheel of Fortune, although there is a lot less going on here, image-wise. The same symbols of the Zodiac appear in the corners but the card centre is oval, rather than round. This oval shape is very important – it represents the shape that is formed when two circles are placed side-by-side, intersecting each other, as happens at two stages during a solar eclipse. This shape, in its simplest form, is called a ‘vesica piscis’. If you want to investigate the mathematical significance of this shape, then you’ll find it fascinating.

The mystical significance is also very interesting… the ancient Egyptians developed their sacred geometry around it and the Freemasons also used it a lot. It is thought that one circle represents heaven or God and the other represents the Earth and man. The ellipse in the centre is where the two meet, hence the idea of The World symbolizing a bridge between heaven and earth.

The woman (sometimes she is a hermaphrodite) is dancing. In a way she looks like an upright version of The Hanged Man – if you have a deck at hand, have a look. Notice that her legs are crossed in the opposite way to his. See how she is active, whereas he is very still. Also, The Hanged Man is numbered 12 – an reverted 21. I love how the cards are so interconnected – it really is the most brilliant and elegant ‘system’.

See the table below for the meaning of the other symbols in the card.

Symbol
Meaning
21
2+1=3 meeting point between the individual and spirituality. 3X7=21 harmony of creation.
Dancing woman
The Hanged Man’s counterpart, his opposite in every way.
Crossed legs
Turning point.
Oval
Vesica Piscis, the bridge between heaven and earth
Wreath
Victory, favor of the Gods.
Lemniscate
Infinity.
Wands
Power, action.
Lion, bull, cherub, eagle
Fixed signs of Zodiac: Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio.

Understanding ‘The World’ Card

I must point out that this is my personal view of The World card; you may develop your own, as you should with all the cards, and you may come across more ideas from other readers and authors.

If you are in the habit of drawing a daily card and meditating or journaling about it, then this one is very important. I look upon The World card as being the destination reached through all the cards, but in particular, The Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel symbolizes many things but one aspect that fascinates is the idea that the centre of the Wheel is very still. The outer rim of the wheel, seems to represent time rushing round, events taking place and fate inserting her influence. However, the still centre is where you gain control, where you connect with your inner being. In this sacred space is the concept illustrated by The World. In The Wheel, you get a tiny glimpse, a momentary feeling of connection – in The World, you know exactly how to reach that place.

This is the bridge. This is existence. Being without thinking. This is the present moment where life happens. There is no past and no future – neither of them exist. In this moment, if you are aware, you can feel that you are part of the Universe and part of the Oneness. For me, this is the true meaning of The World. Eckharte Tolle explains it well and teaches it perfectly in his “Power of Now Teaching Series.”

Of course, if you are reading for someone else, you have to judge whether imparting this information is the right thing to do or whether your client will look at you with suspicion and start edging away. For a more down to earth (no pun intended) interpretation of The World, read on.

Interpreting ‘The World’

When The World shows up in a reading, it is always positive. If it appears in a future position in a spread, then you can enthuse about all the great stuff that is going to happen. The querent is going to experience success, achievement, fulfilment, the end of a difficult time, celebration, rebirth, an actual birth, being in the right place at the right time, deep satisfaction, a sense of homecoming, the attainment of a goal or dream – all those things and more.

Perhaps the querent looks a little baffled when you tell them the meaning of the card – get them to look back and see if the card means that they have reached a succession of smaller goals or have overcome a number of smaller problems. They might suddenly realize how far they have come during the last year (or five).

If the card is in the past position, point out to them that at one time they had it all and that they can have it again with bells on. Hopefully the rest of the reading will help them along the path to that sought-after destination. Talk about the Fool’s journey a little, and its spiral-like progression to higher levels of knowledge and understanding.

Should the card be reversed (upside down) then the general meaning is still there but to a lesser degree. The achievement may be minor, the life-cycle not so momentous but still, it means the querent is headed in the right direction.

One thing I have notice a lot with this card is that it often represents a transition phase – the period of notice given when changing jobs, for example. It is often the case that when someone reaches an important goal, that, for a while afterwards, they feel a bit flat. This is perfectly normal and is merely the stepping-off point for the next stage of the journey.

If you got this far, thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “The World Tarot Card

  1. Essie

    I was trying to find out when world card appears with the hieophrant ( as opposing card), 8 of cups as outcome. Your comment Made me think “leaving traditional approach behind and gaining new perspective”.

    Reply
    1. theraggededge Post author

      Hi Essie, very interesting combination. I am reminded of the Heirophant equivalent of Songs for the Journey Home – the Luminary where a guide or mentor is pointing out the way to the young Fool. They are standing on a hilltop overlooking ‘the world’. It seems to encapsulate your three cards. Yes I sort of agree with your interpretation although I would add that although there is a lot of value in striking out with a fresh new perspective, it also makes sense to use the knowledge gained by those who have gone before. Does that make sense? In other words to build on and expand what’s already there.

      Thanks for your comment. x

      Reply
  2. Sag

    When the world is combined with the High Priestess, would that mean a completion spiritually and/or psychically?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. theraggededge Post author

      Hi there Sag,

      Great cards! Depends on what the reading was about or what the question is. Giving a meaning without the extra dimension; the human input, if you like, is like seeing a beautiful view in monochrome. I see the World card as representing a staging post. Completion yes, but only temporarily before embarking on the cycle all over again. So the High Priestess is at the beginning of the cycle, so perhaps in a spiritual reading it shows that the seeker has moved on and skipped the Magician phase this time round. S/he needs to recognise all they have achieved and get ready to delve into their subconscious in a deeper way than ever before. Of course, if the question involves love or a job then the cards would offer a different perspective. HTH.

      Reply
      1. Sag

        Thank you for your input! Actually, your thoughts on the cards pretty much are right in tune with my life at this time. I read them to be more spiritually based. My question was ‘general’ but not about work or love so it makes lots of sense to me. The only slightly disappointing aspect is the fact that just around the ‘world’ is yet another challenge up ahead lol. And I know this next challenge will be brutal but yet I know I will be ‘ready’ . The anticipation is the hardest part!! 😬.
        Thanks Again!
        Sag

        Reply
  3. di

    New to this, did a celtic cross spread about a newly starting relationship soon after an old one has ended. I got the hierophant in position 1 crossed with the world, and I’m at a total loss as to how to interpret that based on the question. Any quick insight?

    Reply
    1. theraggededge Post author

      Without knowing the circumstances, or the rest of the spread, it’s difficult. Celtic Cross is not an easy spread for beginner readers. You can get all you need from two or three cards. Ask a question, draw a card, ask the next question…

      For me, the Hierophant is a guide, a sort of ‘others have taken this path’. It’s confirmation that you are doing okay and that there is guidance available should you need it. The World is another card of confirmation that you are in the right place for you at this time. It’s the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Two positive cards. How do they fit in with the other cards? Can you pick up a thread?

      Hope it all works out for you, Di.

      Reply
    1. theraggededge Post author

      Lexine, I am unfamiliar with the spread you mention, so without knowing the question, or the other cards, I can’t really help you. If you mean that the World card appears in a negative position in relation to the seeker, then I would guess it means that they are being held in a holding position. A little similar to the Hanged Man in that they are stuck and unable to move forward. The World card is almost always positive, therefore, they should know that it is to their benefit to wait and allow things to unfold as they will.

      Reply

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