Basic Card Symbols
Woman or hermaphrodite dancing, a wreath in the shape of a Yoni (almond shaped circle), two wands, a cherub, an eagle, a lion, a bull.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool turns to take that final step along his final path, and finds, to his bemusement, that he is right back where he started, at the edge of that very same cliff he almost stepped over when he was young and too foolish to look where he was going. But now he sees his position very differently. He thought he could separate body and mind, learn all about one, then leave it to learn about the other. But in the end, it is all about the self: mind and body, past and future, the individual, and the world. All one, including the Fool and the Mystic who are both doorways to the secrets of the universe.
With a knowing smile, the Fool takes that final step right off the cliff...and soars. Higher and higher, until the whole of the world is his to see. And there he dances, surrounded by a yoni of stars, at one with the universe. Ending, in a sense, where he began, beginning again at the end. The world turns, and the Fool's journey is complete.
Basic Tarot Meaning
The World (or Universe) card pictures a dancer in a Yoni (sometimes made of laurel leaves). The Yoni symbolizes the great Mother, the cervix through which everything is born, and also the doorway to the next life after death. It is indicative of a complete circle. The Dancer has one leg crossed over the other, just like the Hanged man. She is, in a sense, his opposite, the Hanged Man right-side-up. As the Hanged Man saw infinitely inward, the Dancer sees infinitely outward.
The Dancer is also the opposite of the Wheel. The Wheel goes up and down like a Ferris Wheel, which means those on it feel like they get moved to higher or lower positions, are lucky or unlucky. The World, by compare, goes round and round like a carousel. This means that whatever corner of the universe a person gets sent to, it seems equally wonderful and interesting, not like a promotion or demotion. With the World there are no Zeniths or Nadirs; each corner is different, but all are similarly important.
Which brings us to the Lion, Bull, Cherub and Eagle standing for Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio, the fixed signs of the Zodiac (also sometimes found on The Wheel of Fortune card). These are symbolic of the four elements (four suits of the tarot), four compass points, four seasons, and the four corners of the universe. All within the Dancer's sight and power.
Thus, the World card is about, first, completion and competency. The querent may have come to the end of a long-term project or graduated from a field of study. There is the feeling that they have hit all the points of the circle. There will be well-earned praise, celebration and success.
Saturn, the card's ruling planet, reinforces this. Saturn is the "scholar" card, and indicates that the querent is now an expert in their subject. Thus, this is not, like Death, the end of something, but rather a change in frequency. From student to teacher, from apprentice to master. The querent has finished their first go-around and goes right into another spin as a professional.
And, finally, on a more mundane level, the World card indicates travel, not short business trips, but long, fantastic trips. Maybe a lecture tour, book signing, or just a trip around the world. This can be a wonderful card of wholeness, satisfaction and independence.
There are three possible things I usually see in this card when it comes up, sometimes combined, sometimes not:
(1) Everything finally coming together, successfully and at last. The querent will graduate, marry after a long engagement, finish that huge project, or get their ph.d. This is a card about completing things, and getting well earned cheers and pats on the back when you do.
(2) The querent is or will become a teacher, a Sensei, a scholar or master of their profession. Meaning they've shifted from being seen as a common worker to being seen as an expert. They may stop working for others and start up their own business. Or it may be that someone will retire and they'll take over.
(3) They are either traveling now or will be traveling. Luckily for them, the World card indicates that they'll feel comfortable and welcome no matter where they go, provided for by those who sent or invited them on this trip. The World card indicates a person who owns little. The whole world is their home and gives them what they need.
Onto the Suits...
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See examples of different World cards here.