As The World Turns

Getting familiar with The World tarot card and interpreting it in a reading

Image courtesy of LoveToKnow Horoscopes.

The world turns on its axis, and life goes on. But for one brief, shining moment, we are on top of it-- happy and victorious. The World tarot card may seem similar to the The Wheel of Fortune at first, but a deeper look reveals the truth:

  • The World’s true meaning
  • Build a relationship with The World
  • Interpreting The World in action

It won’t take eighty days to go around this world…

She has the whole wide world in her hands, for she is part of the world and creates her own world at the same time. Image courtesy of Dark Days Tarot.

What The World card means and key phrases

Traditional World card art depicts a naked woman holding two wands, dancing in victory, surrounded by symbols of the four elements in each corner of the card. She is wrapped in a sash that is red and blue, encircled by a laurel wreath bound by red cloth bands at top and bottom.

The World card is full of symbolism that depicts its meaning-- let’s start from the outer edges and work our way in.

First, at each of the four corners lies a symbol of the Zodiac, each also representing an element. Top left is a man, who is Aquarius the Water-Bearer. Top right is an eagle, Scorpio’s highest status symbol. Bottom right is Leo the Lion, and bottom left is Taurus the Bull. Each of these Zodiac signs represents an element-- Aquarius is Air, Scorpio is Water, Leo is Fire and Taurus is Earth.

Second, the laurel wreath and infinity symbols represent victory. And while in modern ways of thinking a blue ribbon is equated with First Place, in ancient times, red was the color of victory and was favored by royalty and rulers. It’s also worth noting that the red cloth bindings form a kind of infinity symbol-- victory eternal, it would seem.

Thirdly, the woman in the center is dancing in victory, with a wand or baton in each hand. She is naked, symbolizing truth and divine connection, and the wand in each hand symbolizes that she is balanced.

But where is the world in The World card?

She’s on top of it, of course. Also, consider the laurel wreath-- it forms a circle around her, much like the world’s shape. She has reached complete fulfilment in her success-- everything has come full circle, and a new cycle can begin. Additionally, she is in her own world at the same time she is part of it.

When The World card appears, it means that you have reached that same place of fulfillment, completion and victory. It also means that a new cycle-- new opportunities-- are about to appear, so keep your eyes open! A sense of harmony with yourself and your surroundings-- perhaps even other people who “are” your world-- prevails, and a deep sense of “this is where I belong” exists.

Keywords and phrases for The World: harmony, belonging, cycles, completion, fulfillment, victory; “winning at life,” “I am home,” and “a place for everything and everything in its place”

Artwork affects your whole perception of a tarot card’s meaning. How do you see your deck’s World card? Image courtesy of Uncaged Tarot

Getting to know The World better

It’s important to become familiar with the meanings of tarot cards, but it’s also important to build a working relationship with each card. Each type of tarot card-- major arcana, minor arcana, court cards-- all present their own unique set of challenges in this way.

The World major arcana card requires us to recognize and feel a sense of completion and belonging and victory-- when was the last time you felt that? Do you know what that feels like at all, or have you been feeling beaten down and depressed? To build a relationship with The World, we must first have a relationship with these states of being. Journal about them, meditate on them, and journal some more. Talk about it with your therapist and write that down. Dig in deep with these feelings, especially if you have a hard time connecting to them. What do they feel like? What does belonging and victory and fulfillment look like to you? Is this an idealized vision, or a goal, or a true representation? Is it on a larger or smaller scale? Discuss it with trusted friends, family, or other practitioners-- just be careful to craft your own sense of this, and not theirs.

You can also explore the art further. We discussed the artwork in the previous section-- did you understand the symbolism? If not, explore that further with research and take careful notes in your tarot journal. (By the way, if you’ve read more of this interpreting major arcana cards series, you know we’re big on having a tarot journal for recording development, readings, and research.) Read up on the Zodiac signs pictured and their corresponding myths. Read the history of laurel crowns and sumptuary laws regarding the color red. All of these played a role in the artwork.

If you have a different tarot deck than the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith, take some time to journal about the illustration differences and what they might mean. Did your deck’s illustrator take any inspiration from the traditional artwork? If so, what was it and how does that work? How do the changes affect your understanding of the card-- does the artwork truly represent its meaning? Some modern decks actually incorporate the planet earth as seen from above into their art-- is this too literal, or does it work better for you than the traditional artwork? Why?

You can also try a tarot meditation. Even if you struggle to connect to feelings of contentment and belonging, try a World Card meditation-- slipping into a meditative state may help to open you to those feelings without judgement. You could also just try a visualization exercise, and use your imagination to “enter” The World card and explore it in your mind.

For a really unique exercise, try the abstracts method. Some actors use it to connect to their characters in a different way. It goes something like this: “If your character was a (object, place, color, etc.), what would they be and what about their personality suggests this?” For a tarot card, this exercise would sound like: “If The World (or other tarot card) was a (object, place, color, ect.), what would they be and what about their meaning/message suggests that to you?”

Try a few different methods to build a relationship with The World. Some will work and some won’t, but your understanding of and connection to The World card will deepen no matter what.

The trick to interpreting The World in a tarot card reading is to think about how the meaning relates to aspects of the problem, and what part of the story does it play? Image courtesy of Clairvoyant.co.

A worked example of a reading, plus practice

Let’s examine The World card in action, and then we’ll give you a practice reading to try on your own.

For our example, imagine that you’ve been feeling a sense of wanderlust or restlessness, and you’re not sure why. You decide to do a tarot reading and ask “What do I need to know right now for my highest good?” The rhythmic sound of the tarot cards shuffling relaxes you-- you know they’ll help you tap into the answers. You pull three cards: the 10 of Cups, The World, and the Page of Wands.

Here’s how we’d break it down:

  • 10 of Cups-- a happy home, completion of emotional cycle, bliss, divinely blessed harmony, alignment
  • The World-- completion, cycles, victory, new opportunities, belonging
  • Page of Wands-- messages about creative endeavors, fire energy, eager to learn and start getting hands dirty

If we start with the problem and look at the cards, we can put together a story. You’ve been happy and in a good place (10 of Wands), but this restless feeling means that you recognize this part is over and it’s time to set off on a new path-- to find where you next belong (The World). You’ll find this in the next creative opportunity (Page of Wands) that stirs your passion, or it might be time to tap into your passions and give one of them free reign-- you might need to belong to a different job. Who knows? It might even involve travel (The World turns you know)...

Now let’s try a reading for you to interpret. Remember that the key to this reading will lie in The World card, as that’s the card we’re studying today.

Let’s stick with the same situation and three-card layout to keep it simple. But this time, the cards come out different:

  • Death-- change, transformation, rebirth
  • The World Rx-- disharmony, exile (possibly self-imposed), seeking closure, short-cuts, delays
  • 6 of Cups-- nostalgia, a return to simpler times, a blast from the past

How could the Death card relate to the feelings of restlessness? Could they be the root of it? What about The World Rx-- what part of the story does that fit? Is the 6 of Cups the answer or advice?

Let’s complicate it further by adding a clarification card. Let’s say that you draw The Magician, which means that you have all of the tools and knowledge that you need to manifest. How does that alter your perception of the reading?

Change it up even further. Take away The Magician and replace it with any card of your choosing. What does it mean now?

Journal your answers, or comment them below-- we’d love to hear from you!

This artistic interpretation of The World card reminds us of Andy Warhol. Image courtesy of Neil V. Fernando on Dribbble.

The next time The World turns (up), you’ve got the knowledge and connection built to interpret it like a pro. Be sure to check out the other articles in this series, and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions below!

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Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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