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The World Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The World card is about self-actualization. Your choices are aligning to help make the world a better place. Your dreams are coming true. You are on the right path.

The World card is about self-actualization. Your choices are aligning to help make the world a better place. Your dreams are coming true. You are on the right path.

The World

With the exception of the Fool card, the World is the highest trump in the Major Arcana. The World is a utopian card, which represents full maturity, actualization of one's dreams, prosperity, balance, and paradise. This card comes after Judgement—the reckoning that takes place before the World reaches a point of harmony.

This card has to do with your highest conscious power. It relates to celestial understanding, the Divine, the grand purpose of the Universe, etc.

For the most part, this card is positive and is an ideal one to come up in a reading.

The Major Arcana Is About Enlightenment

The ultimate goal for our planet is to reach enlightenment and peace. Earth is meant to be a paradise. We're intended to connect with the positive aspects of the Universe to have our own slice of heaven.

The World card is about paradise actualized and it counters every single negative card. The World card also represents self-fulfillment. It signifies that you've completed your journey, your goals, and the like.

Card Description

In the traditional Tarot of Marseilles, a woman hovers above the Earth. She holds a staff in each hand and is surrounded by a wreath or laurel. The four living creatures, or hayyoth, of Jewish mythology watch over her: a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.

The four living creatures in Christianity are considered the symbols of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

In Western Astrology, the four creatures represent the fixed signs. The Lion is Leo, the Bull is Taurus, the Eagle is Scorpio, and the Man is Aquarius.

You might be scratching your head and asking yourself: why is Scorpio—the fixed sign of water—an eagle? Scorpio has three animal symbols: the snake, the scorpion, and the phoenix. The phoenix is sometimes referred to as the eagle. This creature is considered Scorpio's most mature form. Meanwhile, Aquarius is the man, otherwise known as the water bearer.

In some decks, the wreath is a snake or ouroboros biting its own tail.

The World card is sometimes called "The Universe."

Element: Earth

Ruling Planet: Saturn

Previous Card: Judgement

Card Alignments

Upright

Completion, utopia, paradise, integration, accomplishment, travel, wisdom, philosophy, mercy, heaven, peace, harmony, unity, balance, maturity, acceptance.

Reversed

Seeking personal closure, short-cuts, delays, frustration, attachments to the past, moving on, not taking the right steps, obstacles, avoiding trials and tribulations.

The World card relies on a significant number of myths. In this image, the wreath is an ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. It's a popular image in alchemy.

The World card relies on a significant number of myths. In this image, the wreath is an ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. It's a popular image in alchemy.

The Four Living Creatures

The World card is crammed with symbols and ancient myths. It is one of the hardest cards to unpack, and I've had to dig deep to write about it.

I thought it would be helpful for readers if I looked closer at the concept of the four living creatures.

The living creatures are a class of heavenly beings in Jewish mythology. They appear in the Book of Ezekiel. They appear in texts of Second Temple Judaism, in rabbinical merkabah literature, the Book of Revelation, and in the Zohar.

Ezekiel 1:5-10 "In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form. (6) Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. (7) Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze. (8) Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: (9) their wings touched one another; each of them moved straight ahead, without turning as they moved. (10) As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle."

In Christianity, the four living creatures morph into one being called the tetramorph. Matthew is the Man, Mark the Lion, Luke the Ox, and John the Eagle.

In Ezekiel's vision, the four living creatures are God's throne bearers. They're called cherubim, which were considered guardian deities of temples and palaces throughout the Ancient East.

The four living creatures in Ezekiel's vision have human appearances, which sets them apart from the griffin-like cherubs and lamassu of Babylon and Assyria.

In Isaiah's vision, the seraphim have an extra set of wings to better fly. Their movement differs from the cherubim.

  • Ezekiel described the four living creatures with four wings. John in Revelation describes them with six wings.
  • The Hebrew word for wheel was used in later Jewish literature to indicate a member of the angelic orders.
  • The four living creatures are called angels of fire that hold up the throne of God.
  • They call on every living creature to worship the Creator. The crux of the Universe.
The World is about self-actualization. You have matured in all areas that correspond to the four elements.

The World is about self-actualization. You have matured in all areas that correspond to the four elements.

A Love of Wisdom

Ending of a Cycle

The World card represents an end to a cycle, or a pause before the next big cycle that begins with the Fool. The World card represents completion, cosmic consciousness, and acceptance of the Universe.

  • The more times you go through quests and reach the World card, the stronger you will become and better equipped to prepare for peace.
  • There are small cycles within your own personal life. There are grand cycles for the Universe.

A Reminder to Share With Others and the World

The World card encourages you to give back to the planet. Share what you've learned. Sharing is the key to the future; competition for gain is a step backwards.

  • Withholding and hoarding prevent harmony. When we share our resources and knowledge, we become better people. We want the needs of others to be met.
  • We're in a constant war between materialism and spirituality. When we prioritize physical matter over our spirits then we have inverted what is actually important.

Symbol of Wisdom

The four beasts on the World card represent the physical world. They frame the sacred center, a place where the divine can manifest. Sophia, meaning Prudence or Wisdom, is the spirit of the sacred center. It is considered the fifth element outside of fire, earth, air, and water. It is frequently referred to as ether.

Sophia is the personification of wisdom. She is important in Hellenistic philosophy, Platonism, Gnosticism, and in Christianity. Plato considered philosophy a love of wisdom.

  • In Plato's Republic, the leaders of the utopia are lovers of wisdom.
  • Sophia is the name of one of the four cardinal virtues in Plato's Protagoras.
  • Constantine the Great dedicated a church to Christ as the personification of Divine Wisdom.
  • Under Justinian I, the Hagia Sophia ("Holy Wisdom") was rebuilt and consecrated in 538. It became a model for Byzantine churches. In 1453, the church was taken over by the Ottomans and converted into a mosque. In 1935, the secular Turkish Republic established it as a museum, respecting all religions that used the building for more than a millennium. In 2020, it reopened as a mosque.
  • Logos is considered a title of Christ. Logos means order and knowledge.
  • In Russian Orthodox mysticism, Sophia became the person of the Theotokos. The Theotokos is seen as a fourth person of the Trinity.
  • Sophia isn't a Greek goddess. Greek goddesses for wisdom are Metis and Athena. During the Roman Empire, cardinal virtues were expressed as feminine allegories. Wisdom was Sophia, knowledge Episteme, intelligence Ennoia, and valor Arete.
  • Sophia assumes aspects of a goddess or angelic power in Gnosticism.

The woman on the World card is the goal of spiritual seekers. They're searching for the spiritual center of the Universe. In some older decks, the center figure is Christ and in others it is Hermes.

The card represents our truest desires.

Other Connections

The woman on the card holds staffs like the ones the Magician holds. This reinforces the idea of a cycle. The Magician is the first card of the Major Arcana and the World is the last.

The Magician inspires the Fool. He hopes the Fool will bring about peace and unity. The Magician encourages the Fool to seek his highest self. If the Fool makes better decisions then others are more likely to benefit from his actions.

The wreath on the World card symbolizes a continual cycle of completion and new beginnings. As the woman steps through the wreath she ends one cycle and begins a new one.

The four living creatures are there to guide the Fool. They teach the Fool about harmony and balance. The Fool's journey can also be seen as the Hero's journey.

The World card is a positive one. It relates to the positive features of the Universe. It encourages a belief in heaven.

The World card is a positive one. It relates to the positive features of the Universe. It encourages a belief in heaven.

Upright World in a Reading

When the World card appears in a reading, you can for the most part sit back and relax. The World card has to do with a sense of wholeness, achievement, and fulfillment. You're literally glowing. You have enthusiasm, grace, charisma, and expertise.

This card comes after a long amount of studying, hard-work, and perseverance. You've matured in all aspects of the four elements: free-will (fire), managing physical resources and your body (earth), thoughts and integrity (air), and emotions (water).

The card could represent a graduation, a marriage, the birth of a child, or the mastery of a skill.

This card in the upright position indicates that you are making the right choices, and you're in the right place. You should feel a sense of connection to your surroundings. You have clarity. Think of a clear blue sky without a single cloud.

The World card invites you to reflect on your journey. Celebrate your successes. Express gratitude for what you have done and created. Make sure you don't rush into another big project before celebrating your journey. Reflecting on what you did in the last cycle will help you to make the next one more successful.

If you haven't completed your goals yet, you soon will. You may need something extra before you graduate to the next level. Reflection may be necessary for you to bring your project to the final stage.

If loose ends still remain, the World card asks you to bring them to completion. You must end one thing before you start something new. Don't flood your home with a thousand different unfinished projects.

The World card can also mean world travel. You may get to go on a six-month long overseas trip. Maybe you're going backpacking through Europe. This card pushes you to have a better appreciation of others. You need to meet new people and experience different cultures.

When you have a strong relationship with yourself, you'll make more room to better understand others around you.

Reversed World in a Reading

The Reversed World card suggests you're seeking closure. You still have attachments to things in the past. You're having trouble moving on.

You may dream of the day you'll achieve something in high school even though you've already graduated. You dream about winning the football championship, getting the perfect test score, or going on a date with someone you had a crush on from sophomore year.

We all have weird dreams like these.

But you have to accept that things have changed. You're not in high school anymore. You've moved on from it—just not emotionally or mentally. You need to cut the emotional ties.

Closure may come through journaling, visualization, meditation, or energy work. A therapist can help you cut the ties on your past.

The Reversed World suggests you're missing something to a big project. You're not taking all the right steps toward fulfillment. You need to allow yourself to go through the trials and tribulations in order to grow and learn.

Don't always avoid challenges and obstacles. You must skillfully confront them.

When you reach your goals correctly, you should feel a sense of achievement. Don't take short cuts. Don't cheat; karma will come back to get you.

The Reversed World is about delays. Your dreams may have to be put on hold. You may be withheld from what you want. It's important to not get bent out of shape when progress stalls.

Don't throw a fit if you don't get what you want. There is usually a reason why something is withheld. You should also consider what other goals you can accomplish.

Some doors will never open because they're not meant for you. Don't get caught up in one goal and think that is your identity. You are a multi-purpose creature; you weren't born into this world for one reason.

Get creative. Get in touch with your imagination. You may have the wrong end goal in mind.

The real goal for your life isn't buckets of money. You're on a path to self-actualization. You want to live a balanced life. You're looking for harmony, not ego.

Your ego is likely standing in your way and preventing you from achieving self-actualization.

Remember: where you end your journey might not be where you expect. You may have studied math in college, but you may end up taking a job in something completely different. Know what makes you feel passionate about the world and look for opportunities that spark your interest.

If you don't have respect for certain people around you, the Universe may try to put you in their shoes. Show gratitude to everyone. Do everything to lower your ego. Be a servant to others, and you'll inherit the Earth.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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