A wreath of laurel surrounds a naked female who holds a wand in each hand. Winding around her is a purple piece of cloth. In each corner of the card, emerging out of clouds are various figures such as a lion, eagle, human and bull. She seems suspended in mid air.
In the 21st card of the major arcana and having traveled through the symbolism of all the previous cards, it is little surprise that so much in this card should hark back to the first cards of the tarot.
In the Magician (2nd card of the Tarot) a young male stood on the ground with his arms outstretched, one pointing down and one pointing up. In one hand was a wand. In The World, nearly everything has been reversed. It is a female, she holds a wand in each hand, she is naked, she does not need the many tools that we saw laid out before the magician.
At the start of our journey, we needed many things to help us – but having come full circle we should realise that none of these material things either matter or are needed. We are part of the greater cosmos, we always were and always will be. The naked female, naked because it is natural as opposed to the clothing of the Fool and the Magician, seems to float in mid air. She is above the earth, but not in heaven/nirvana/the next life. She is the space we take before we take the next big step on our journey.
The four corners are occupied by a Lion (Leo ~ fire sign), a Bull (Taurus ~ earth sign), a Man (Aquarius ~ air sign) and the Eagle (Scorpio ~ water sign). These signs also represent the classical four elements of fire, earth, air and water. They have also been credited to the four gospels of the bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). In either case, they represent the make up of the cosmos and the truth that lies at its base. Thus in The World, the female figure depicted holds all of these things within her. These figures are also depicted in the Wheel of Fortune.
The wands point in both directions – up and down – bringing us back to the old saying “As above, so below”. With a wand in each hand, it symbolises the balance each of us must seek (“As within, so without”).
With one leg crossed over the other, she also brings to mind The Hanged Man, whose feet were in a similar position. The Hanged man was card 12 (1+2=3) of the Tarot which equates to The World (21 = 2+1=3). The Hanged man was a symbol of new sight and we can see that now brought to fruition in The World. We have travelled the journey.
This card is very much a card of completion, of achievement. The thick laurel wreath is a symbol of success and the red ribbons form the symbol of infinity – again, a hark back to The Magician. In business, our endeavors have been successful, we have achieved a milestone or we have come full circle. That is not to say that our journey is finished – this card is not the end, the lady suspended between heaven and earth. But it is a turning point in our lives, one where we have reached a point and it is time to look to the next phase and say, ‘what do we do next?’.
There is a sense that this is not a card of simple achievement. The journey of the Tarot has been long with many challenges and obstacles to overcome. But it was a journey worth traveling or we may forever have stayed The Fool. As we look back now, we can see the whole journey that we have taken, how everything led from one thing to the next and there may be a feeling that it was meant to be. Even so, as we look to the future, we should bear this lesson in mind that our journey is ours and even when we don’t understand it or feel defeated by it, it is our journey and one we can travel if we persist in our efforts.
Reversed: The World reversed suggests that we can visualise our end goal but we are being frustrated. It is more likely that we are the source of our obstacles rather than any external factors. It may be a case that we are trying to rush or force our journey to completion. All cards of the Tarot must be traveled before we reach the card of The World. It may be worth considering if the current path is the best or are we just taking the easy route.
It is not the time to stop when The World appears reversed – but a simple pause to cast our thoughts over the journey thus far and see what we can learn is worthwhile. There is an element of ‘stuckness’ about this card with the female figure hovering over earth but not yet having moved on to the next phase in her journey. Reversed, that may be the case with us that we haven’t been able to move on yet and so we should look for issues that need to be resolved.