A semi-nude woman, who seems almost to be dancing, is in the center of the card. She holds a wand in each hand and is partially draped with a blue cloth. She is surrounded by an oval laurel wreath bound with red and purple cloth. In the corners of the card are an angel, an eagle, a bull and a lion, representing Aquarius, Scorpio, Taurus, and Leo, the four fixed signs of the zodiac.
This is a card about balance, completion, honor, and rebirth. A project is coming to a very satisfactory ending. The questioner has worked hard, overcome many obstacles, and is now being rewarded with great success.
The woman holds a wand in each hand, indicating that she has integrated the feminine and the masculine and is in control of all of the elements in her life. She is balanced and in harmony. Moreover, she is surrounded by the fixed signs of the zodiac indicating that she is stable and grounded.
The laurel wreath indicates that the questioner will receive honors of some kind for his or her efforts. Perhaps a promotion or a bonus. Perhaps public recognition.
There is also the element of rebirth. The laurel wreath is very much in the shape of the birth canal and this indicates that the questioner is emerging into a new world or about to start a new project, strengthened and reinforced by his or her past experiences.
On a mundane level, this may indicate the completion of a successful pregnancy or extended travel.
REVERSED: The questioner is this close to finishing a project but has run off of the tracks for some reason. Shows a lack of focus on the final goal and perhaps someone who has lost herself in the minutiae of a project and is not seeing the overall picture.
A Little More About The World:
There are people who believe that the Major Arcana of the Tarot contain some sort of a secret doctrine, a hidden path to wisdom that can be discerned by those who have the occult knowledge necessary to understand it. I see very little evidence for that.
I think of the Tarot as less of a path and more of a mirror. The Major Arcana show us the large, archetypal forces that are operating in our lives at any given moment. All of us experience those forces at one time or another. We all feel the child-like joy of The Fool, the sense of mastery and control of The Magician, the luxuriant contentment of The Empress. We all experience the mourning and loss of Death, the sudden reversals of luck that are signified by The Wheel of Fortune. Certainly since 911 The Tower is seared into our psyches.
These are forces that move through our lives, that shape us, help us to grow and evolve and sometimes defeat us. To say that there is a path in the cards is somewhat simplistic, I think. Rather, the path is in ourselves, in our own individual dharma, and the events and forces that the cards portray help us to define that path.
I’m in the third act of my life now and so I have the luxury of hindsight. Not to disparage the Wisdom of Forrest Gump, but life really isn’t like a box of chocolates. Unless some of the chocolates are laced with arsenic.
Life is a lot more like a mountain river, sometimes wild and out of control and then spreading into a serene meadow before plunging into the next set of rapids. As we go along we sometimes get dumped into the chilly water and have to fight our way back into the raft. And sometimes we can just sit there and float, enjoying the scenery and grooving on the serenity.
One way or another, though, we are always moving forward, from beginning to end of each incarnation. And one way or another we learn a lot about how to navigate the river, how to get through the rough waters and how to savor the calm.
The World is the last card in the Tarot deck but it isn’t about the end of the journey. It’s a pause in the journey, like pulling into a peaceful, quiet cove to rest and assess what we’ve been through. It’s the full realization of all of the skills that we’ve gained in following our paths and the confidence we can feel in using those skills in the future. We’ve been through the mill and we’ve come out the other side stronger, wiser, and more capable. We’ve integrated the lessons that The World teaches and they’re a part of us now. No one can ever take that away.
To quote the Beatles: “Life goes on within you and without you.”