Runner up traditions of the British Navy?
If one thing has become clear over writing this blog so far, it’s that there are a million and two Tarot deck variants, so I would be deeply unsurprised to find that both Sodomy and The Lash are cards somewhere. Which would then make the Admiral from Penzance the Emperor, probably, and…okay, I’m going to stop this line of thought now.
So here we are at the last two cards in the Major Arcana. Twenty-one seems like a lot at the beginning, not so much when you get there, insert sex and/or drinking joke here.
Judgment! (The musical! No.) Not Judgement in the parallel-to-Justice, having-opinions-on-people’s-choice-of-footwear-and-boyfriends sense; this is Judgment like before Day. New Heaven, New Earth, we shall all be made perfect and spiritual and ascend to join our brethren on a spaceship following the Hale-Bopp comet, depending on the eschatology you prefer.
Tradition depicts this as an angel (Wikipedia helpfully notes that this is “possibly Metatron” but said angel also has a trumpet so it could be Gabriel? Fucked if I know; angels are weird) blowing aforeparentheticallymentioned trumpet and thus RAISING AN ARMY OF WALKING CORPSES or maybe just resurrecting everyone so Jesus can look at them and either give the thumbs up or say “naaaaah,” and cast them into the outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth and maybe releasing an album in Norway. Less Christian-influenced decks have phoenixes and similar. The Thoth deck renames it Aeon and the image is two Egyptian gods, one superimposed on the other, plus a Greek letter and general trippy fuckery.
Like I said, this is generally about the end of things. Obviously not all things; like, this card has come up in readings and the seventh seal has not yet been opened, as far as I know. But, to steal liberally from Terry Pratchett: worlds end all the time. Someone dies, that’s the end of the world with them in it. You graduate from college, or get a new job, or have a kid? End of one world, because “world” (to steal liberally from John Michael Greer) comes from “weoruld,” or “age of man,” and basically means “a way that things were.” And it’s not that there’s nothing after this, or that the end of that world is always welcome–hey, if you believe Revelation-y Christianity, the post-Apocalypse world will be kinda great for people on the right side–but Judgment means you’ve got to leave that world behind to go do what’s waiting. To steal liberally from a song I heard a bunch (hey fuck you when did I ever claim to be original), every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
(Small sentimental aside: when my folks retired, I went to the farewell dinner the school threw for them up in Maine, and I had to leave early the next morning to get to a game. I remember getting in the car at 6 AM and driving out of the small town where I’d spent bits of vacations–and some bits of unemployment–for twelve years, where I can still remember the layout in my mind and picture the house. It was a summer morning, and the sun was just coming up over whatever mountains they have up near Bethel, and, indeed, “Closing Time” started playing on the radio. You can say a lot about the impartial majesty and/or cruelty of the universe, but…sometimes it gives you a good soundtrack.)
And I guess that takes us to The World, as I’ve already touched on the etymology and one possible meaning of the word. (The Thoth deck calls this The Universe, and…shut up, Crowley.) Naked woman, surrounded by a wreath and various evangelical/astrological/elemental/generally cool symbols.
The World means completion–and if you’re surprised, please log off, because you’re probably overdue at the barn raising–of one sort or another. “Having it all,” is the simple meaning I learned, and it’s true as far as that goes: if this card shows up as your future, you’ll probably get what you asked about and it will be as good as you think and life will be awesome.
But nobody has it all for long, right? This isn’t a movie: you don’t get the one final kiss and the swelling music and the end credits. Life keeps going, and the Wheel of Fortune is going to keep turning (it’s reasonably symbolic that the Wheel, Strength, and the Hanged Man, all of which are about endurance and patience and fate, are halfway between the Fool and the World, depending on how you’re dividing the deck) and “all” evolves, right? Your ideal life when you’re sixteen isn’t what you want when you’re twenty-six, which in turn isn’t what suits you at thirty-six, and so on.
Besides, everyone knows: when you reach the highest score, the counter flips over and you start at zero.
So The World is both “completion” and “new beginnings” and the pause between them, where you can reflect on where you’ve gotten to and be content there, before finding your next goal and starting again as The Fool. New Game Plus, if you will; sexy nurse outfit and/or lightsaber optional.
* * *
If you enjoy my ramblings here, you may enjoy my books! They exist on Amazon, at B&N, at the Sourcebooks website, or wherever fine smutty literature is sold.