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The World

the world tarot card vitoria deck

The picture below right shows a Vesica Piscis in an illuminated manuscript, giving status to the image of Christ. The laurel wreath creates a vesica for the tarot figure - originally known as The Angel  - and the card repesents the ability to reach a new status, to be recognised. So what is a vesica? Quite simply it is the pointed oval shape created when two circles intersect.
vesica piscis
In Italian it is also known as a mandorla (almond shape).

Look at it as showing what happens when two categories overlap. First, appreciate that our sense of self and the world about us is formed from our mental mapping of things into categories - why, for example, some animals we can eat with relish whilst others we cannot begin to conceive of us food is down to the mental categories in which we place them (see image right). Where categories overlap you have pollution, and therefore danger. This is an area that needs care and ideally the supervision of someone of special status - the overlap of sacred and profane is supervised by a priest - a celibate man in a dress.

 A 'liminal' state - a form of limbo - can exist when people are in transition from one status to another, something usually marked by a formal rite of passage ceremony to 'manage' this dangerous liminal stage. The Angel in this card marks a successful transition to a new status.

The vesica is a major part of this card's image. As a powerful symbol it has permeated most societies - Celtic art makes much use it (right) with later examples combined with a triangle to represent christian unity.

It is also used as a symbol representative of the yoni, the female pudenda.
the world tarot card marseilles deckWe go on, we go on.  Because this is the last card of the Major arcane it is seen as journey’s end and often taken to represent success and fulfillment.  The card shows a goddess holding two wands – energy rods. She is usually depicted within an encircling laurel wreath.  The symbolism is of integrity and attainment on the material plane.  Reward for success is assured, integrity is affirmed.  It is possible to view one major chapter of life as complete: for example, coming of age, youngest child leaves home, retirement and many milestones of less immediate significance.  Perhaps more significantly, it is a card that poses the question – What next?  Many questioners will agree that they are indeed seeking a new challenge. It is also a card that invariably carries the additional weight of an insurmountable external factor which poses a permanent obstacle in the questioner’s life, such as a handicap or other limiting factor or responsibility – the context in which it lies and the cards it links with enlarge on this, as they do on its associated sub themes of potential self pity, distraction and unexpected setback, all the things that can accompany 'going on'.

 vesicavenn diagram

Vesica Piscis from an illuminated manuscript (left), and a Venn diagram (right) showing overlaping categories.

triquetra celtic emblemCeltic Triquetra

The vesica piscis is named from it's resemblance the bladder shape of a fish. If you take the oval together with its 'tail' you get the fish symbol used by modern christians since 1965. This has developed a 'back story' to support its adoption which suggests its use since the time of the earliest christians.  Ichthus (greek - fish) has been suggested as an acronym for the essential principles of christianity. It does not convince.  Other societies and religions have similarly arrived at the vesica, not least the Sanskrit use of it as a yonic symbol - which is an interesting way to consider it the next time you see it on the bumper of the car in front.










© Jeremy Rogers 2007 Document made with Nvu return to top