Tav is the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet (or aleph-beth) and is associated with The World, the final card in the major arcana. It means signature or mark. The earliest representation of this letter was an equal armed cross, which is the astrological glyph for Earth and has come to symbolize the four quarters of the earth and the four elements. The four figures at the corners of the card also stand for the four elements and, of course, the four quarters of The World. See “The World, Part I.” It also symbolizes the union of masculine, conscious mind (vertical line) and feminine, not conscious mind (horizontal line) into a perfect whole. This is essentially what The World key is all about. The cross evolved to an “x” in middle Semitic script. On a treasure map, “x” marks the spot where, after a long and arduous journey, the seeker will find the treasure. The World is, indeed, the treasure at the end of the hero’s journey.
The World’s planet is Saturn.
This makes absolutely no sense at first glance.
The World is the most favorable card in the Major Arcana and Saturn is the most malefic of the planets. In fact Saturn is so malefic that medieval astrologers referred to it as the “major malefic.” Today, however, astrologers describe Saturn as boundaries and limitations, the inner teacher. Saturn is portrayed as an old man with a scythe and one of his nicknames is Father Time. His Greek equivalents are the Titan Cronus, father of Zeus, and/or Chronus, the Greek personification of time. Old age and time are certainly relentless teachers of boundaries and limitations. But this is still a far cry from the meaning of The World, which implies removal of boundaries and limitations.
To understand this correspondence we must take a closer look at Saturn. He is probably the most ancient and least understood of the Roman deities. His temple at the base of the Capitoline Hill, which was originally called Saturnius Mons, was consecrated in 497 BCE–just 12 years after 509 BCE, the accepted starting date for the Roman republic–and housed the state treasury throughout Roman history. However, the roots of his worship reach back to before recorded history. One Roman writer connects Saturn with the ancient Etruscan god Satres.* The original Saturn was a chthonic diety of fertility, agriculture and wealth. His first wife was Lua, whose name derives from the Latin verb luo, meaning compensate, atone, or clense. Roman soldiers burned battle spoils taken from the corpses of their fallen enemies in her honor. She was her husband’s shadow side. His second wife was Ops, a goddess of fecundity and fertility–his mirror image. Saturn was once the ruler of the gods and his reign was known as the Golden Age. Humans lived in harmony and abundance and there was no pain or suffering. This reminds me of the Jewish myth of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps these were times when the human psyche was whole and not divided between conscious and not-conscious. This state of being is precisely what The World key is about.
When The World appears in a tarot spread it is time to rejoice. The querent has successfully completed a long and arduous journey. If there are lots of pentacles in the spread it could signify the end of a long and successful career, a lucrative business accomplishment, or complete recovery from a long, debilitating illness and the wsdom gained from the experience. Swords and cards that suggest study and work, such as the eight of pentacles and The Hermit could indicate a graduation with honors from some field of training or university. Lots of wands and transformation cards such as The Hanged Man, ten of cups, and even The Tower might indicate spiritual awakening and new engagement with the universe on a less selfish and personal level. The querent now sees herself as part of the web of life, intimately connected with all of creation. She understands that each of her actions affects the entire universe and the successes and failures of each member of the universe are also her successes and failures. If it appears with travel cards like The Chariot, six of swords, or eight of wands the querent may be about to set off on a trip that will transform her. Wands and pentacles in the spread might indicate a successful move or a victory of some sort.
A good friend of mine pulled The World as this year’s card during our last Samhain ritual. She had just moved to a place that was perfect for her and her husband and she was about to retire from a long and successful career. I also have no doubt that her retirement will be a time of spiritual awakening and rejuvenation.
If The World is reversed it could mean the same things only not quite so good. It could also mean that the querent hasn’t been recognized for her achievements. Or she may be resisting a much-needed transformation or has somehow lost focus on achieving an important goal.
The World is the final card in the major arcana and signifies the last, triumphant stage in the hero’s journey. The hero has overcome impossible odds and returned to the ordinary world with the prize he sought.
In The Lord of the Rings, the whole reason Frodo reluctantly left on his harrowing adventure was to protect The Shire from the destruction of Mordor. The trilogy ends with Frodo returning to the peace and unspoiled beauty of his beloved home.
And this is also the end of our hero’s journey through the wisdom of the major arcana. But the final lesson of The World is that the Multiverse moves in circles. There are no final endings, only new beginnings. The Empire isn’t defeated, Luke and his friends will continue to fight for the Federation. Dorothy and Frodo are home, but their new lives are just beginning, and this blog will continue with more tarot insights and tales about writing and living magically.
*Marcus Terentius Varro, De lingua latina libri XXV (or On the Latin Language in 25 Books, of which six books (V–X) survive, partly mutilated)