[Note: Waite's deck places The Fool here (though this card is still numbered Twenty-one, and The Fool is still numbered Zero). In terms of correspondence to the Hebrew alphabet, inserting The Fool here is correct; Tav is the last letter of the alphabet, and Shin (the letter corresponding to The Fool) second to the last. However, most decks do not interrupt the progress of the Arcana; they place The Fool at either the beginning or the end.]
Perfection, attainment. Your goals have been reached, your development or learning (in this area) is completed.
In almost all decks, the central figure is a young, nude woman, draped modestly with a long flowing scarf. She is surrounded by a wreath, made of either leaves, or leaves and flowers. In some decks, she is holding wands or staffs in both hands. The position of her hands varies; but a few decks show her gesturing in the same manner as The Magician: one hand upward, the other pointing down.
At the four corners of the card there are four different figures: upper left, a winged human or angel; upper right a hawk or eagle; lower left a bull; lower right a lion. Some decks show only the faces of these four figures; others show enough of the figures so that you can see that all four have wings. Note that the positioning of these four figures is similar to those sometimes found in Arcanum Ten (The Wheel of Fortune).
This is the last numbered card of the Major Arcana. In this representation, you are the adept you have tried to become throughout your journey. Your transmutation (shown in the previous card, Judgment) is complete, and you have achieved the perfect synthesis of body (material), mind (intelligence), soul (self-awareness), and spirit (subconscious).
The World symbolizes complete mastery and understanding of your own inner nature and of the forces surrounding you. You know what is good and right in the universe and understand its intended order. And you can trust your judgment regarding what actions to take in the circumstances currently surrounding you. You have attained the status of a full adept.
This card is the reverse of the Falling Tower. In Arcanum Sixteen, destruction resulted from misuse of power; the failed adept assumed an authority that he or she did not in fact have, and reached for a goal to which he or she had no right.
But here, you attain an even greater goal than anything you could have wished for, or even imagined, at that earlier level.
There is no possibility of destruction, because it is no longer possible for you to make wrong choices. Everything you do is right. And you have a right to everything you have. You know who and what you are; you know why you are; and you know the reason for existence. And all of these answers serve to prove your own individual worth. This is the reward for your efforts.
In the Reading
Upright (or Positive): Completion, perfection, synthesis, ultimate change. Honesty and truth; assured success, harmony, attainment. Graduation; completion of a cycle. Recognition, reward, acclaim.
Reversed (or Negative): Negation, sacrifice of love or goals. Flight. Stagnation, inertia. Payback for evil deeds.
You have learned the lessons required for this incarnation (or situation, if the question involves mundane things). You are what you need to be; you know all you need to know; you have accomplished all you need to accomplish. You can now go on to other things, knowing that this task has been completed to perfection.
If this card represents the querent, you have achieved the ultimate success in your endeavor, and without any of the drawbacks that lesser successes so often bring. Everything you do, everything that happens, will only serve to prove your worth in this area.
But there is one caution. At this level of attainment, there is no place or need for further development in this area. But someone who has accomplished what you have accomplished cannot just sit back and do nothing with it. If you sit on your laurels, rather than finding another area to grow in, the result will be stagnation. As above, the job is done; it's time to move on.
Excerpted from Tarot for Beginners, by P. Scott Hollander