The World (Card No. 21)


The World (Card No. 21)
collage, ink and colored pencil on paper
8.5″ x 11″

You May Be Asking Yourself, “What Am I Looking At?”

This is the 21st* and final card of the Major Arcana of the tarot called The World.

Arcana: a secret; mystery.

The lady in the center, surrounded by the aureola, or radiant cloud, is often referred to as the fifth element – the Quintessence. You see her in this drawing positioned before the Tree of Life. The red trees to either side of her are the Trees of Decision.

Quintessence: (in ancient and medieval philosophy) the fifth essence or element, ether, supposed to be the constituent matter of the heavenly bodies, the others being air, fire, earth, and water.

Surrounding the Quintessence and the world trees is a green wreath of success and achievement; the green wreath is wrapped in a red ribbon at the top and bottom representing eternity.

Around the outside of the wreath, you see four hands reaching out of the clouds presenting various objects – a sword, a cup, a wand and a coin with a pentagram – this is called a pentacle. These objects represent the four suits of the Minor Arcana.

Each of these suits (represented on standard playing card decks as spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds) are packed with meaning, allowing for a multitude of interpretations. On the classic Rider Waite Tarot Card these four elements are represented by the symbols of the fixed zodiac signs – The Man, The Eagle, The Lions and The Bull.


Above: Rider-Waite Tarot Card No.21 – The World

In the symbolism of the tarot, The Man symbolizes the same thing as the suit of swords,  which is the element Air. The Eagle symbolizes the cups which symbolizes the element Water. The Lion symbolizes the wands which symbolizes the element Fire. The Bull symbolizes the pentacles which symbolizes the element Earth.

As Above, So Below

Because of the Hermetic ideal of “As Above, So Below”, all of the drawings from this series (so far) have a round circle above a rectangle base – the circle representing the “Above” ideal and the rectangle representing “Below”.

In this drawing, at the base of the Tree of Life is a field of mushrooms, representing the impact certain plants have had on the development of humanity. Our worldwide myths are full of stories of gods advancing our civilization through gifts of knowledge. In my opinion, many of these gifts of knowledge have come from the numerous consciousness-enhancing plants (often called psychedelic plants) that share this planet with us. They might not look like little mushrooms, but I assure you, those are liberty caps the mushrooms are wearing.

The landscape in the rectangle below, where the roots of the Tree of Life stand astride the river – this is the Nile River flood plain. In one possible interpretation of this drawing reflecting on this thought, the Tree of Life becomes Osiris, and the Quintessence becomes Isis in one of the oldest sacred myths of Ancient Egypt.

You May Be Asking Yourself, “What Does It Mean?”

All that said, the subject of this drawing is the symbols of esoterica – it’s meaning is open to your subjective interpretation.

The subtle and multiple meanings of the various elements in this drawing encourages the viewer to allow their subconscious mind to surface and have a dialog with their conscious mind.

My Simple, One Paragraph Interpretation…

In the process of a human’s consciousness growing and developing, The World provides all the elements necessary for the journey – Air, Water, Fire and Earth (and mushrooms). Where real development takes place is in us, in the moment, standing as the Quintessence between the Trees of Decision – our ability to make decisions being the quintessence of our existence.

Click here to see a larger version of the image.

* This is technically the 22nd card of the Major Arcana because the deck starts with the zero card – The Fool – and goes up to 21 – The World.