The World represents fullness, fulfillment, wholeness, and freedom. Success.
In the RWS depiction, the wreath around the dancer is round (it is diamond shaped here in the Efflorescent). The round wreath echos the 0 (zero) of the Fool. Rachel Pollack in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom states, “The oval wreath suggests the number 0, with all its symbolism. It implies as well the cosmic egg, the archetype of emergence; all things exist in potential and all potentials are realized. The self is everywhere in all things” (139). Likewise, the sash around the dancer’s waist mimics the infinity symbol which reminds us both “as above, so below” and “as within, so without.” But the World tells us there is no division between above and below, within and without. All is one.
The Fool and the World each represent a kind of wholeness and confidence, though the World seems to symbolize a more “wise” whole. Reaching the World card takes one through each card on the Fool’s Journey, many experiences will shape who we will ultimately become. We may have stumbled along the way, or even fallen backwards at certain points. When we reach the World, there is a dissolution of petty separateness. We clearly see the the universe as a whole and ourselves as a whole within the greater unity. It symbolizes the oneness of our super-conscious, conscious, and unconscious. At the end of the Fool’s Journey, the World is enlightenment or nirvana.
I really enjoy this observation from Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life, “The inclusiveness of World consciousness naturally extends to those outside the human family. The spirituality of Native Americans is rooted in a profound connectedness to animals, plants, and the earth itself. … People of these tribes would refer not to a mountain or the mountain, but simply ‘mountain,’ as in ‘we went to Mountain, followed Sun, saw Fox and Bear.’ … Directly addressing the object … further enhances the sense of connection and engenders almost instant feelings of intimacy. We start to see the soul of the thing” (140).
These are pretty heavy concepts, so the World can also symbolize success, union, or resolution in a reading.
I absolutely love the Animal Wisdom Tarot depiction and name of card twenty-one. The whale as “The All-Encompassing.” The name seems more fitting than “The World” to me.
A shadow of the World could be being too far up in the clouds and not dealing with necessary details. An opposite or reverse meaning of the World could be failing to see the whole by paying too much attention to the small things.
If I were to assign an element to the World, it would be all four: air, earth, fire, and water. The World is perfect unity and balance!
I feel most connected to the universe when I am out in nature. I particularly love going on walks with my sweetheart. We took a super long walk today and saw some ducks and a woodpecker and sat and watched the wind blow across a pond. All the little things seem to dissolve on these special outings together. There’s just us in the moment, a part of the world around us.
As I’ve discussed at length, I don’t always feel at home in the world around me. I’m making great strides, but I have a long way to go. This is a big card to live up to though, so I don’t feel bad about not having acheived that which is embodied in the World. It’s a good goal, but I don’t know how many people will ever reach it! At least not in one lifetime. I still value it as a reminder of the connection of all things and all people.