Friday, April 01, 2011

The World

I did a post about this card a couple of years ago as part of the Theme Thursday meme, but because I'm starting an actual series on my home made deck I decided it was worth doing an entirely new post.

Speaking of order... The Major Trump cards of the Tarot are traditionally numbered 1 (The Magician) through 21 (The World), with The Fool, the traveler on the path, as 0. But Micheline Stuart, one of Gurdjieff's students, proposed a reversal of that order in her book The Tarot Path to Self-Development; she shows how the flow of the symbolism actually starts with The World as birth through to The Magician as the end result, a fully developed being. That argument made a lot of sense to me, and I've followed that ordering ever since I first read the book back in the 1980s.

With that caveat attended to, onward!

The World is all about birth; the traditional versions of this card involve very womb-like symbolism. My own version incorporates my memory of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photos as fitting into that symbolism set, showing Earth emerging from behind the Moon in a very dramatic way. To quote my earlier post on this card:
I also added the Apollo 8 Earthrise shot to my symbolism because to me this emphasized even more the notion of beginnings and birth. For the first time in our history, humanity was able to view the Earth from an entirely new perspective; we had literally gotten outside ourselves and were able to see us from a distance. And what we learned was that as beautiful as our Earth was living in the midst of it, it was just as beautiful seen from a distance - a jewel suspended in the black of space.

In any event, The World card is all about beginnings, birth, and even rebirth (although that notion of rebirth is more rightly the territory of #13 Death - which in my deck is renamed Rebirth). It's about starting up, or getting things started. It's also about getting back to basics - the nature motif is also very strong in all versions of the card, and the female figure in the traditional decks has often been interpreted as Mother Nature. And that makes sense, too; we always start with what Mama Gaiea gave us, and we build on that.
The music I chose for this card fits well with that symbolism, too. Although the song "Morning Has Broken" is most associated with Cat Stevens these days, after his making a hit of it in 1971 on his Teaser and the Firecat album, the song is actually a hymn in many Christian denominations. The words are a poem written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1922, and they were set to a traditional Scottish hymn originally used as a Christmas carol. The words are certainly in sync with the symbolism of The World card.

Photo, artwork, and text © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. A cool idea for a series! You may well know this, but Gurdjieff was a composer as well, & some of his work is recorded, with him playing (harmonium, I believe). Eberle has a whole slew of this on mp3. Morning is Broken is such a lovely tune--& I still feel that way after hearing the chord progression played frequently & quite haltingly by beginning guitar students! Seems Cat Stevens is big with the local high school crowd.

  2. That #21 card fits in with my current project ( or interpretation, thereof ). Haven't been by in some time but enjoyable as always :)

  3. Nice pairing. I like beginnings.

  4. Great series, I am learning something and that is always an enjoyable experience.

  5. ...loved this post, Roy. Before I read your text, I thought it was cool that you gave the view of earth from the moon. I'm going to enjoy reading about the meaning of each card as your series progresses! (I had "Morning Has Broken" played at our wedding! :-)