The last card of the Major Arcana, The World, is the opposite of the last Rune, ᛞ (Dagaz): rather than a beginning, it is an ending. It is a card of reflection and memory, connecting it to ᛟ (Othala). The primary image on the Waite-Smith card is that of a victory wreath wrapped around a woman holding two wands in the shapes of candles burning at both ends.
One thing to note: her legs are crossed in the exact same way as The Hanged Man. While she is flying in a cloudless blue sky, he hangs upside down from an Irminsul-like tree in front of a sky of uniform gray clouds. While The Hanged Man has a halo, marking him as innocent, The World is the only card in the Major Arcana after Judgment and therefore beyond good and evil. Unlike The Hanged Man, the woman depicted in The World did not choose her place, at least not in a single choice. She became the woman she is by fighting through all the hardships thrown at her and surviving all of them.
The Fool’s Journey
The World represents the time of peace which is to come after Ragnarok. The king of the gods is no longer the trickster and sorcerer, Odin, but his kind son, Baldur. Asgard is still protected by four strong gods: Magni, Modi, Vidar, and Vali. On Midgard, there are stirrings of life, especially of the humans Lif and Lifthrasir (“life” and “the will to live”) who will rebuild the human race. When all the prophecies have been fulfilled, the new sun will shine and a new day will dawn. In this sense, The World is not the opposite of ᛞ (Dagaz), but exactly the same.
The most important and powerful symbol of The World is that of the great circle. It is almost never completely round, usually tall enough and wide enough to fill the card because it represents everything. There is no beginning and there is no ending. Most decks show it as a wreath, though the Kalevala Tarot (Top Right) shows it as a ring of runes.
Many decks augment the great circle with symbols of the four elements. In The Everyday Tarot (Top Left), along with many other decks, the symbols are Human, Bull, Lion, and Eagle. The Pagan Tarot (Bottom Left) uses the four elementals: Undine, Gnome, Sylph, and Salamander, and the Modern Witch Tarot (Bottom Right) uses the astrological symbols for Aquarius, Scorpio, Leo, and Taurus.
In the center of almost every image for The World is Lifthrasir, the woman whose will to live will save all of humanity at the end of Ragnarok. She is usually naked with the exception of a ribbon, perhaps the ribbon which bound Fenris before he broke his bonds. She holds two wands, and is generally shown with a neutral expression on her face: neither happy nor sad. This last woman dances in the sky, celebrating the rebirth of the world.
Norse Mythology is not set in one world, but in nine. Those nine worlds are held together by The World Tree, as shown in The Wildwood Tarot above. This tree maintains its balance, continuing to stand upright, throughout all of Norse mythology, even after Ragnarok. This is the true victory and balance of the card: that of surviving all the worst that The Nine Worlds can throw at you.