Friday, July 18, 2014

What is the Meaning of the World?

The World or Universe Tarot card, various
The World Tarot cards, various.


On Pondering the World and its Meaning...


By Viv Dulac


This is one of those big questions that asks many things and draws as many answers. In the context of Tarot, however, it refers solely to the twenty-first major arcana. Even though we've now clarified the rank, or status of the card; having done so provides nothing to support comprehension of the World Tarot card, nor does it provide inkling as to what this post’s title might be referring to... after all, it doesn't specifically say the word "card" anywhere in it...

 As the King of Hearts memorably said to Alice - "let’s begin at the beginning." The World is exactly that, Trump 21. As the final major arcana card, it is the end of one cycle or level of evolution; and thus it is also the beginning of another. It is called The Universe in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck; and in some other Tarot decks like the Quantum it is subdivided, so to speak, into two different cards, The World and The Universe. The Greenwood and its cousin the Wildwood call it The World Tree.

The World or Universe Tarot card, various
More examples, The World and The Universe Tarot cards.


The World card may show an orb; more frequently, it shows an apparently female figure (although tradition suggests it might be a hermaphrodite) surrounded by a more or less oval frame or aureole called a mandorla, and flanked by the figures of a bull, a lion, an eagle, and a man or angel, suggesting the four fixed signs of the Zodiac – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio (yes, the Eagle is a symbol of Scorpio) and Aquarius - which in turn imply the four seasons of the year and the four elements of Western tradition. Additionally, not to mention as it applies to Christians, this includes the four Evangelists. This card, of course may show many other things, as we have already seen; I will only make mention here of the Tyldwick’s, which depicts the Dancing Shiva or Shiva Nataraja, whose dance destroys the universe in order to create a new one.

The World is, speaking as broadly as we can, a card of wholeness. It’s about reaching our destination, or perhaps discovering that we’re already there, as it often happens. The world is verily your oyster, but only when you are a pearl. And this has nothing to do with being selfish or conceited, since true wisdom comes only when you realize that you are as precious as everyone else: no more, but certainly no less. That is why this card is so often connected with enlightenment. 

The world is all around us, as well as within us; we are in the world, but also, we are the world. The rose that my hand holds; the hand that picks and holds the rose; the senses that see its scarlet petals, feel the thorns on its stem and inhale its delicate aroma; the mind that perceives and identifies those sensations and moves the hand - all are one, rose and senses and mind, the garden that the rose and I are in, the planet that the garden is on, the Sun around which that planet revolves, the galaxy to which it belongs…

The World or Universe Tarot card, various
More yet examples, The World Tarot card.


And all of that (the power and the glory, some infinitesimal stuff, the galaxy, the woman and the rose) is contained in, or alluded to by, a few symbols printed on a piece of (probably) plastic coated paper. As above, so below; as within, so without - or, to follow Isaac Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet: “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.” That the father of modern physics was an alchemist is an irony that’s lost on most people.

The World dances in us and all around us, destroying itself in order to recreate itself. Indubitably, these concepts apply not only to the major arcana card named The World (or the Universe), but also to the world we live in, and to the universe as a whole.


The card image copyrights belong to their respective holder, which is most often the publisherThe images used in this piece cannot be reproduced without written permission. 


Related Article: The World or Universe Tarot Card Meaning.

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