The World (XXI) also called The Universe is the final card of the Major Arcana in the Tarot deck.
A naked woman hovers or dances above the Earth holding a staff in each hand, surrounded by a green wreath, being watched by various creatures. In older decks, these are usually a human face or head, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, the symbols of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It also holds reference to the vision of Ezekiel in the Old Testament Book of Revelation, 4:7, “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” . In some decks the wreath is a basilisk (crowned reptile) biting its own tail; this basilisk is also sometimes called an Ouroborous.
This card represents the continuance and never-ending cycle of life. The four beings representing the gospel writers of the New Testament reminds us of the Wheel of Fortune. The World card is very much associated with the Wheel, the cyclical progression of time and our human experience. According to astrological tradition (for example, see Nicholas DeVore, Encyclopedia of Astrology, p. 355), the Lion is Leo, a fire sign; the Bull or calf is Taurus, an earth sign; the Man is Aquarius, an air sign; and the Eagle is Scorpio, a water sign.
According to Robert M. Place in his book The Tarot, the symbolic fourfold structure of the physical world is used to define the sacred center of the world. The World card is thus a symbol of this sacred center, the goal of mystical seekers. In some older decks, this central figure is Christ, in others it is Hermes. The dancing woman in the center is Sophia, meaning Prudence or Wisdom, the sacred center, the 5th element. It is the fourth of the Cardinal virtues in the Tarot.
The wands are the powers of involution and evolution. The head of the figure and the hands form a triangle. The legs form a cross. This is the triangle above the cross, the opposite of the symbol on the Hanged Man. As the Hanged Man saw infinitely inward, the Dancer sees infinitely outward. This represents Spirit surmounting the Material. This card completes the process started in the Lovers: The merging of the self-conscious with the subconscious and the blending of these two with the superconscious, representing the final state of Cosmic Consciousness.
The card of the World signifies fulfilment, the end of the journey, the final completion of the cycle of time. This is the confirmation of success and the reward for all your trials and ordeals. With the coming of the World comes assured success and material well-being, as well as emotional fulfillment, and growth in the spiritual sense. In terms of external experiences this means that we have found our place, the place where we simply belong. On the level of inner experiences, this card shows that we have taken a significant, perhaps even decisive step towards becoming who we are, towards true authenticity and wholeness. On the plane of events it stands for the world of happy times in which we enjoy our existence with openness and vitality. The World represents an ending to a cycle of life, a pause in life before the next big cycle beginning with the fool. The figure is at once male and female, above and below, suspended between the heavens and the earth. It is completeness.
The World tells that the end of the journey is in sight, and that it will be accompanied by well-earned praise, celebration and success. With Saturn as its ruling planet, this card can also indicate that the querent, now an expert in their subject, is likely to become a teacher or sought-after lecturer. And, finally, on a more mundane level, the World card indicates travel, not short business trips, but long, fantastic trips. Maybe a lecture tour, book signing, or just a trip around the world. This is a wonderful card of wholeness, perfection, satisfaction and happiness.
Reversed it suggests that you are trying to achieve completion in your life but you may not be taking all the steps necessary to achieve your goals. Without much thought into your goals, you are likely to fall victim to a person involved in trickery or someone who wants to take advantage of you. The World reversed advises you to plan carefully and take the necessary steps towards your goal.
Hermit – isolation
Four of Cups – lack of involvement, apathy, withdrawal
Five of Wands – working at cross-purposes, lack of integration
Temperance – integration, synthesis, combination
Sun – accomplishment, achievements
Nine of Cups – achieving your heart’s desire
Ten of Cups – happiness, emotional fulfillment
Ten of Pentacles – affluence, material fulfillment
An unexpected vision appeared to me. A circle not unlike a wreath woven from rainbow and lightnings, whirled from heaven to earth with a stupendous, velocity, blinding me by its brilliance. And amidst this light and fire I heard music and soft singing, thunderclaps and the roar of a tempest, the rumble of falling mountains and earthquakes.
The circle whirled with a terrifying noise, touching the sun and the earth, and, in the centre of it I saw the naked, dancing figure of a beautiful young woman, enveloped by a light, transparent scarf, in her hand she held a magic wand.
Presently the four apocalyptical beasts began to appear on the edges of the circle; one with the face of a lion, another with the face of a man, the third, of an eagle and the fourth, of a bull.
The vision disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. A weird silence fell on me. “What does it mean?” I asked in wonder.
“It is the image of the world,” the voice said, “but it can be understood only after the Temple has been
entered. This is a vision of the world in the circle of Time, amidst the four principles. But thou seest differently because thou seest the world outside thyself. Learn to see it in thyself and thou wilt understand the infinite essence, hidden in all illusory forms. Understand that the world which thou knowest is only one of the aspects of the infinite world, and things and phenomena are merely hierolgyphics of deeper ideas.” – The Symbolism of the Tarot by P D. Ouspensky (1913)