―William Butler Yeats
I love metaphors to a fault. I know when I've traveled too far into metaphor land when my children snap back, "OK, Mom, ok, I get it, I get it." It's like when you've walked along a beach for so long that because the scenery still looks the same you have no idea how far you've gone. Enough with the metaphors. I can never get enough. Tarot, like metaphor, is illustrative language that tells a story and paints a literal picture in order to communicate a vital truth. I love tarot and I love metaphor, so yeah, not going to stop with the metaphors.
I have often heard the metaphor of an onion used to describe an internal process, be it of healing, maturity, or self-discovery. The idea of the onion metaphor is that we continually peel away layers of self to get to the core. The onion metaphor, however, did not line up with what I actually experienced on my personal trek through life. I found that when I overcame a particular personal obstacle or had a breakthrough that allowed me to move on, at some point later I would revisit the same issue. I thought that layer of the onion had been removed. Then a friend of mine shared that she thinks the path is more of a spiral. As we travel the spiral we certainly do revisit the same issues time and again but at a different level. Now that's a picture I can relate to because it mirrors what I have experienced in a more precise way than the onion metaphor.
From the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, the spiral is a constant pattern in the universe. This is a widely observed phenomenon, though scientists have not figured out the "why." Maybe that's better left to philosophers, but the pattern is evident in everything in nature, art, biology, and The Universe itself.
The World card is about those times on our journey when we overcome obstacles, complete an objective successfully and feel joy, freedom and a sense of accomplishment. The wreath that encircles the dancer reminds us of these cycles and that we are never really finished. If you've ever played a video game with "levels" you'll know what I mean when I say this is the "Leveled Up" card. Completing a level is an accomplishment worthy of dancing in celebration, but as any gamer knows the next level will undoubtedly be more challenging and many of the same obstacles you met in the previous level will be presented again but will be more difficult to overcome. However, all along your journey through the levels of the game you have picked up tools and skills and armor to help you in the succeeding levels. In some games, you've also picked up allies who will help you as well.
Wait, these cycles, aren't they what The Wheel of Fortune is about? Yes, but different cycles. The Wheel is most definitely about cycles but they are the typical rotations of life's whims and follies. In other words, fate. While our actions do certainly shape our destinies, we are never free from those events that occur outside of our control that impact our lives. The World, on the other hand, focuses more on how the individual has responded to those and other experiences in order to achieve the successful completion of a goal. The similarities between the two cards doesn't stop there. They each have heavenly beings in each of the four corners. They can be attributed to Christian symbolism of the four evangelists whose books are canonized in the reformed New Testament: Matthew -- a man; Mark -- a lion; Luke -- an ox, and John -- an eagle. These four Evangelists are also represented by the four fixed astrological signs: Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio. In The Wheel's imagery they are each busily writing in books whereas in The World they are celebrating the success of the figure in the center. This conveys the message that the Divine was in the seemingly arbitrary events and that heaven was rooting for you all along.
Yet another symbol in The World card can be found at the very beginning of the Major Arcana within The Magician. The Magician holds a wand. The figure in The World holds two. This wand is distinct from the suit of Wands in the Minor Arcana. On the table before the Magician, that wand is lying along with symbols of the other suits. So the wand in his right hand with his left hand pointing downward is to symbolize his connection to the Divine and the power to bring forth the adage, "As above, so below." He is, in Waite's tarot, an adept who, unlike the charlatans of previous tarot magicians, seeks to express the Divine within as direct manifestation in his life on earth. The wands in the hands of the woman in The World card are not directly engaged in a concerted effort. She's barely grasping them and they are balanced equally. She's mastered something in her Divine nature and the manifestation is complete. Bravo!
Resting on that laurel wreath is transitory because the next turn of the spiral is right after her last spin on the dance floor. She will find herself back at one, as a Magician, attempting to manifest yet another aspect of the Divine into her earthly existence. No doubt she will go over the same ground previously trod but with a new perspective gained from her last level.
In readings, some situations are readily seen as World events. Graduations, new parenthood, a promotion, an award, etc. I've seen The World show up when someone has been struggling to overcome a broken heart and is a very encouraging indication they are ready, finally, to move on. I've seen it say, "You're above this, don't stoop to their level." and "No need to go through that again, don't reinvent the wheel" (note reference to The Wheel). To a lesser extent this card can be associated with travel, not just a road trip, but more like the kind of travel that requires a passport or visa. However, more often it is a celebratory message that says "Go you!" The question remains, "What's next?"