The Universe

Number 21 | Element: EARTH | Planet: SATURN

Upright: Wholeness, Achievement, Success
Reversed: Delays, Disappointment, Stagnation


Our personal journey through Major Arcana finds its highest and last point in The Universe.

For some tarot scholars, The Universe (commonly known as The World) could be considered the best card of the entire deck. It is seen as a major fortune because it represents our oneness with our greater calling – fulfilment, completion and triumph in all undertakings.

The Universe is, without any doubt, the final stage of Cosmic consciousness and supreme balance and realisation. It finds a complete reconciliation of the universal dichotomies and dualities.

In the card itself, the four elements are perfectly integrated and synchronised.

The previous card, The Judgement, suggested the apotheosis of a new being as a child. In The Universe, that child, now older, finds a place in the cosmic pantheon where matter is subdued to spirit and they complete each other like a harmonious yin-yang.

The central figure is Shiva-Nataraja, the deity of dance.

In esoteric tradition, the universal dancer is described as a hermaphrodite, a symbol of reconciliation of the conflicting opposites. Shiva as the masculine principle finds his half-side in Shakti, the feminine principle – conscious and unconscious minds working together to create the wholeness of a cosmic conscience.

Shiva-Nataraja generates energy with a continuous dance (Tandava) that excites the forces in the Universe and a great motivation out of life. It is said that Shiva-Nataraja danced out the creation of the entire Universe and turned the primordial chaos into an ordered cosmos. That is Shiva embodying a great creative power.

On the other hand, when Shiva-Nataraja grows tired of dancing, a relapse into inactivity happens and the Universe returns to chaos. When this happens, a necessary destruction is performed, so it can be rebuilt and the order reestablished.

Cosmic equilibrium depends on these two aspects: creation and destruction, in order to maintain its balance and renew old stagnated cycles.

The character’s hands hold different and contradictory elements and pertain to the four classical elements:

The sword (Air) is an active symbol of mental power; and the golden plants, symbol of our passive vegetal aspect (Earth). The hand with the eye is related to spirituality, emotion and intuition (Water), while the laurel crown is a symbol of victory and excellence in arts and science (Fire).

The dance itself could be seen as a manifestation of the spirit of life, a language beyond words. Body and Soul anneal timelessly in an unique ecstasy that proclaims and celebrates its identification with the imperishable.

Certain dances follow a rigorous and ordered sequence while others teach no patterns and regard the total freedom of movement. Either way, it is a language spoken without any words but with the motion and freedom of the human body.

The sword and the dance represent the cosmos and its continuous motion, because things that collapse against each other can be at the same time destructive and creators of life.

The oval shape that circles the figure is related to the myths of the origins. The self-contained cosmic Egg of creation (Brahmanda) contains the phenomenal world, for everything starts from it.

Upright Meaning and Interpretation

Wholeness, Achievement, Success.

The Universe is the great inspirational card that will make you feel whole and complete. It means that new opportunities are open to you: a successful conclusion of a big project, an university course or boarding a new relationship, etc.

The journey through the entire Major Arcana was turbulent, though The Universe states that you finally found equilibrium in your life. You learnt the hardest lessons and it is time to be rewarded. Your inner balance is in synchrony with the Universe and it allows you to achieve great things.

This is a good time to celebrate! After all, you got here thanks to all your hard work and your perseverance. Take time to enjoy this moment and relax, do not rush into new big projects for now.

Some other interpretations explore the idea of a big trip or adventure coming, or amazing experiences about to happen.

Reversed Meaning and Interpretation

Delays, Disappointment, Stagnation.

The inverted position of The Universe is related to the moment Shiva stops dancing and the energy gets stagnant. That means that your projects are not moving on or they reached an unsuccessful end. This undesirable development might explain your lethargic attitude. You probably took shortcuts instead of the necessary hardwork and dedication, so the results echo that sloppy behaviour.

You may have fragments of the past that you did not resolve, plus they are still preventing you from ascending. Try to resolve these pending issues to end your internal conflicts and attain a more balanced state of mind.

Sometimes the reversed Universe just wants to be sure whether you truly believe in your goals and have what it takes to succeed. Be tough and keep trying, you may not be prepared to grab the opportunities the Universe has for you.

On the other hand, it can indicate that your projects and dreams may not be very realistic or that you are probably fighting for a lost cause. The feeling of being stagnant and lost could represent exactly that, as if you are running in circles.

Try to reevaluate your goals, sometimes the environment is not the best for your personal development and you may need to find a more proper context to establish yourself.