The card of synthesis, achievement, and dynamic balance, The World marks the completion of the 22 Major Arcana which began with the Fool and which will now, once again, return to him for yet another cycle. Traditionally represented by Saturn (Kronos), this card heralds a new, holistic structure and the harmony that occurs therein.
The eternal return which the The World card announces is generally symbolized by either a garland or an Ouroboros, within which a feminine figure dances. The Dali version is thus a wild departure from just about any classical representation of the card. It is red in lieu of blue, shows three nude women (in lieu of one) leashed to a black void bearing stark facial features, and this void appears within a square in lieu of a circle. What could Dali be thinking?
Before jumping into the imagery, it might help to take a step back and remember that while The World is undoubtedly a positive card, it’s astrological signifier is Saturn, one of the most troubling planets in the Zodiac. Saturn was traditionally considered “the Great Malefic,” and although he’s been given a rosy, little makeover in modern astrology as a “taskmaster” and necessary teacher, he’s also the deity whose policy it was to eat his children lest they dethrone them. He rules limits, restrictions, melancholy, and has overt similarities to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. Indeed, the similarities are so overt that the holy day of rest is celebrated on Saturday (named after Saturn) by those who observe the mitzvot (Jewish commandments). Saturn, to put it mildly, is a jerk. See two famous paintings of him here.
The black square, for this reason, is actually a much more appropriate fit, as is the gory, melancholic face. Further, the square echoes traditional representations insofar as the four corners are meant to represent the four fixed Zodiac signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) who are all characterized by inflexibility and stubbornness, and thus might be considered Saturnian in their own right. Representations of these four signs generally appear in the corners of more traditional World cards. Signifying them as four corners, within the frame of the card itself, is an interesting choice that draws attention to their nature.
So how is all this meant to be positive? Well, The World is the penultimate crescendo within the deck. It is meant to signify the Source which, according to both Greek and Islamo-Judeo-Christian myth is a pretty nasty one! Saturn really does rule the world according to traditional religious texts, so it’s only fitting to see this tradition reflected in the Tarot.
The three nude women who are leashed to this void are a direct reference to the 3 of Cups, as both images are differing versions of the three Graces. For The World card, Dali has chosen to rearrange the Graces of Lucas Cranach the Elder, whose original painting can be seen here. The three Graces rule over all that is lovely — beauty, mirth, creativity, fertility, etc.
From all this, the meaning of the card should be clear. When you pull The World, you have reached a climax during which time you command the gifts of the three Graces. You are at one with the Source, operating within a well-structured, harmonious program, and blessed with influence and reach. Your situation is replete and whole. Enjoy it! From this new plateau, you will yet again commence a fresh journey to that same old source once again.
**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged. I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card. If you know something, please share it!
Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth. My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card. That’s a ways off. ;)
Astrological Affiliations: XV. The Devil
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