The World Tarot

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The World is the 21st and final card in the Tarot’s Major Arcana, completing the journey that began with the Fool.

When the World Tarot card appears, there is often a sense of relief as things you have been striving for and moving towards for a long time – perhaps all of your life – finally burst into bloom and come to completion.

The atmosphere of the World Tarot card is celebratory: The World card is the ultimate card of empowerment, fulfilment, transcendence and even enlightenment as you cross some inner threshold and step into a wider, brighter world.

What is the most powerful tarot card?

All of the 21 Major Arcana Tarot cards are equally powerful in and of themselves. Which one carries the greatest impact always depends on its context within a Tarot reading.

Having said that, the World Tarot card has a special significance as the twenty-first and last card of the Major Arcana. After all, no journey is complete without its final step. It doesn’t matter how close we come to achieving our goals or reaching enlightenment – if we don’t take the final step across the finish line, we won’t get there.

The final step in the Hero’s Journey

The Tarot’s Major Arcana tells the story of the Hero’s Journey, which is synonymous with the spiritual journey, and with the alchemical process of transforming a baser substance into gold.

The World is the last piece of the puzzle; in it, everything comes to completion. It is the final step in the Hero’s Journey, taking you all the way up to enlightenment and completion. After all the ups and downs, the dangers and discoveries of the adventure, the World is the homecoming celebration.

What are the most important Tarot cards in relation to the World?

The World is just the final chapter in the story told by the Major Arcana. In order to better understand the meaning of the World card, it makes sense to look at it in relation to other relevant Tarot cards.

The Fool

The Fool is the very first card in the Tarot trump sequence and symbolises the beginning of the spiritual journey – the first few steps and the thrill of discovery.

The World card contains a similar thrill, but this time the protagonist in the card, standing within the wreath of victory, is no novice. Her exuberance comes not from sheer youth and the thrill of adventure, but from what she has achieved, learned and become as a result of her journey.

The Magician

The Magician is the second trump card of the Tarot. More experienced than the Fool, he is discovering his command of the elements by working with them in a hands-on manner.

The figure in the World card also commands the elements, but her dominance is complete. She is an accomplished sorceress and needn’t touch the elements with her hands in order to tell them what to do. They sit at her feet, awaiting her command.

The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune is the tenth Major Arcana card. Visually, it carries a strong resemblance to the World, and both speak of powerful universal forces. In both cards, the four elements are present, and one of the central symbols is a circle; in the World, the circle is a laurel wreath and in the Wheel of Fortune it is wheel. Both symbolise the cyclical nature of all things.

The primary difference between the two cards is the card’s protagonist. In the Wheel of Fortune the protagonist – if one is even depicted in the card – is a passive and receptive bystander. In the World, the protagonist is the central element in the card, the active force, the hero(ine).

World Tarot card symbology

Depictions of the World Tarot card can differ wildly between different decks. Most Tarot decks contain the elements and symbols found in the Rider-Waite Tarot, and these are the ones we will be looking at here.

The protagonist

The central feature of the World Tarot card is the protagonist, usually depicted as a woman, sometimes depicted as a man or a mermaid, dancing inside an oval laurel wreath inn the middle of the card. This character represents the querent in the reading.

The woman floats inside the wreath, naked except a purple sash casually draped around her. She looks like she is mid-step, moving forward, but her face is turned to look over her shoulder, signifying that she is looking back at her path while still moving ahead in life. Her gazing back could suggest that she is emotionally attached to something or someone in the past, and that this presence exerts a pull on her even now.

Nevertheless, she is the central, active force in the card. In this moment, as she moves from one phase to another, from one state of being to another, there is a sense that she is in complete control of her world and of her life.

The laurel wreath or ouroboros

A large green wreath encircles the woman in the card. In some depictions, the wreath is replaced by an ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail), symbolising the cyclical nature of the universe.

The laurel wreath is tied together by red ribbons at the top and at the bottom, so that there are no loose ends. The circle is a symbol of continuity and eternity.

The wands or batons

The protagonist carries wands, one in each hand.

Wands are a very central symbol throughout the Tarot, representing power and the will of the individual self. The wands also give name to one of the Tarot’s four suits and appear in multiple trump cards, as well.

The fact that the figure in the World Tarot card is holding two wands signifies that she is powerful and has learned how to command the various forces of the universe to do her bidding and manifest her wishes.

The lion, the bull, the cherub and the eagle

The World card shows four figures sat at each of the card’s four corners. One is a lion, one is a bull, one is a cherub (or a man) and one is an eagle.

These four guardians represent the four corners of the earth, the four elements, the four evangelicals of Christian mysticism, the four seasons, and the four fixed signs of the zodiac (The lion is Leo, the bull is Taurus, the person is Aquarius and the eagle is Scorpio).

The four figures are all turned towards and attentively watching the central figure of the woman, seemingly awaiting her command. This suggests her dominion over the natural world and its elements, seasons and creatures.

World Tarot card meanings

Although depictions of the World Tarot card differ from deck to deck, its meanings are universal. Consider the following list of meanings a cheat sheet to help you immediately brush up on or deepen your understanding of the World Tarot card.

Completion, full circle

The World signifies completion. This could be of a long term project, of a contract, of a life chapter.

When we look at the card, the sense of completion is literally tied up neatly with red ribbons (at the top and at the bottom of the wreath).

Manifestation

Closely tied in with the meaning of completion is manifestation. The World Tarot card often appears when something we have been striving for and moving towards is finally comes to completion and crosses over from potentiality to reality.

The manifestation hinted at in the World Tarot card could be child birth or some other major event in life where something new and significant comes into your life.

Achievement and empowerment

Achievement and success are often implied when the World appears.

Achievement could come from recognition achieved in your career, taking a significant relationship to a new level, or it could be in the form of a resolution to a personal issue you have been struggling with.

Either way, the achievement is attended by a sense of deep fulfilment, of something important having been finally accomplished. Naturally, achievement and successful completion in the external world carries over into your sense of self worth and personal empowerment.

Healing and integration

Often, the wholeness of the World Tarot card suggests the reintegration and healing of disowned or suppressed parts of ourselves.

The World Tarot card meanings include the moment of integration, when the broken or disowned shadow self is healed though the light of acceptance and we become whole.

Good fortune, luck

Sometimes, the World represents luck and good fortune.

We are not talking the kind of blind good luck that envelopes the innocent Fool as he makes his first few stumbling steps on the path, but rather the kind of luck that is self-generated through careful preparation and the skilful direction of willpower.

Travel and adventure

Yet another aspect of the World Tarot card meaning is travel, adventure and change of place and pace.

The appearance of the World Tarot card can suggest moving to a new home, or even a different country. It can signify travel. In a career context, it can imply a new and invigorating work environment.

Transcendence, enlightenment

The scene depicted in the World Tarot card signifies transcendence and enlightenment.

It is the moment where everything suddenly comes together, and a deep universal understanding sets in. Suddenly, you see yourself and your life from a new and more holistic point of view.

In a way this moment brings your spiritual awakening to its destination; in another, it is only the beginning of your spiritual voyage. The wreath in the World Tarot card is as much a new beginning as it is an ending.

The World card reversed meanings

When the World Tarot card is reversed, its positive energies are flipped on their head or become blocked and inverted. Here are the most prominent meanings of the reversed World card.

Struggling to find closure, inability to let go

In the World reversed, the female figure stops mid-motion and turns around. The one glance over her shoulder in the upright World turns into hesitation.

The reversed World often hits at an inability to let go of the past, an inability to heal from a past relationship, situation or trauma. When you are fixating on past mistakes (or past glory), you are not present in the moment and you are not creating your future.

Shortcuts, getting there fast instead of getting there right

The upright World Tarot card speaks of the natural cycles of nature, and of projects and goals coming to fruition.

In the World reversed we are looking for shortcuts to success and accomplishment – often to our own detriment. Every project takes time to grow and flower, and if we pump it full of steroids to rush it, we may simultaneously poison it.

The reversed World Tarot card can be a warning that we are rushing towards the finish line and are in danger of stumbling over our own legs.

Delays

When the World Tarot card appears reversed in Tarot readings, it often means delays.

When the card is upright, the energies are flowing and the elements and circumstances of your life are under your influence and control – when the card is reversed, the flow of energy is blocked or even going against the grain of your plans.

Inertia, stagnation

The reversed World Tarot card can be a sign of inertia and stagnation.

the World reversed suggests that the querent may be afraid of their own potential,

Past conditioning keeping you from moving ahead and moving on

The World reversed can sometimes point to an inability to shake off limiting beliefs and restrictive patterns.

When the longing for the past, or simply the pain of the past, becomes overwhelming, our ability to evolve and create a fulfilling future becomes stunted. This is often what is happening when the World is reversed.

What the World means in a Tarot reading about personal development

Upright

You have reached a pinnacle – if not the pinnacle – in your personal voyage. The universe has opened a door, and you are boldly stepping through it into the unknown. Although you cannot know what the future holds, you trust that you have grown metaphysical wings on your life journey so far.

Reversed

The universe has opened its doors to you, but you are unable to go through them. You don’t fully trust in yourself, or in the positive powers of the universe. You are keeping close to the ground.

What the World card means in a Tarot reading about love and romance

Upright

In the context of love life, there is a feeling of excitement and discovery to the World Tarot card. You and your partner(s) enter into a new chapter together. Revelation awaits.

Reversed

You are feeling inhibited and unfulfilled and perhaps overlooked. It is time to change things up -express yourself, communicate your needs, expand your horizons.

What the World card means in a Tarot reading about career ambition

Upright

Things are going well. A promotion, a thrilling new opportunity, or accolades await you. At this point, you have honed your skills and are being recognised for your efforts and expertise.

Reversed

You are not embodying your full potential, you have got so much more to offer than what you are currently expressing. Hone your skills, bring more of yourself to your work situation.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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