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The Tower Card in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

In a single instance, everything can be changed. The Tower is a sign that pain and suffering are right around the corner.

In a single instance, everything can be changed. The Tower is a sign that pain and suffering are right around the corner.

The Tower in Tarot

The Tower card has troubling imagery—a dark sky, lightning bolts, a tower on fire, people jumping out of a building, and a dizzying mountain cliff. This card means something drastic is about to take place. You're already in a tragic state or about to enter one.

The Tower is the 16th trump of the Major Arcana and is an unfavorable card for the most part. You know trouble is coming if this card appears with both the Death and Devil cards.

The Tower comes after the Devil card and before the Star. The Devil, in his rebellious ways, sets up the conditions for the Tower. I like to think of the Tower as the card of Job. He was one of the prophets of the Gentiles. He was a good and prosperous family man.

But things took a turn for the worse when God gave Satan permission to unleash a series of disasters on Job and his family. God allowed this to happen to prove that Job would still love him.

Job ended up losing everything: his health, his children, and his property. He struggled to understand his situation and searched for answers to his difficulties.

In the end, Job was restored to an even better condition than his former wealthy state. He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The Tower card is associated with sudden, disruptive revelation.
  • It is the card of tragedies, role reversals, and anguish.
  • This is the stuff of Shakespearean drama.
  • Reckoning cannot be avoided forever.

The Tower Card in Different Decks

Some early painted decks do not contain the Tower card, such as the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. In decks that do feature it, there are a number of different designs.

  • In the Minchiate deck, two scantily clad people run out of a burning building.
  • In Jacques Viéville's deck, the card is called La Foudre or La Fouldre, "The Lighting." A tree is struck by lightning. The tree could represent the physical body or the cross that was used to crucify Jesus.
  • In the Tarot of Paris, the Devil beats drums in front of the mouth of Hell.
  • In the Tarot of Marseilles, there is a burning tower that was struck by lightning and the top of the building is crumbling. Two men fall into a field of colorful balls.

Stories Connected to the Tower Card

One possible explanation for the card is that it tells the story of the Tower of Babel. In the Bible, God destroyed a tower reaching toward Heaven. He scattered the people involved in the construction of it, and he forced them to speak different languages to slow them down from advancing so quickly.

"The Harrowing of Hell" was a popular subject during the Late Middle Ages. In Christian theology, the Harrowing of Hell was the descent of Christ into Hell. This was the period of time between his crucifixion and his resurrection. Christ granted salvation to the righteous who had previously died.

The Tower card could also represent Adam and Eve's exile after getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

Card Alignments

Upright

Accident, damage, catastrophe, tragedy, failure, crisis, destruction, renovation, liberation, unexpected change, role reversal, sickness, property loss, poverty, misery.

Reversed

Illness, losses, obstacles, volatile situation, convulsions, impassable, insurmountable situation, pandemic, endemic, mental depletion, hysteria, paranoia, festering wound.

Element: Fire

Ruling Planet: Mars

Make Plans for Yourself and Protect Your Dreams

This isn't one of my favorite cards because it's rough. It speaks to the worst moments of your life. We can all look back at our lives and point to what were our biggest monsters. There are unfair things that happen, and the only thing you can do is to approach it with grace and understanding. If you try to rile up the beast even more, the consequences could be more drastic.

There are some chapters in your life that end and bridge to the next chapter seamlessly. There are some chapters that begin abruptly and define you. The Tower card speaks to grief, something that lives with you and you have to manage for the rest of your life. I'm talking about people suddenly dying, your home catching on fire, horrific natural disasters, pandemics, and financial collapse.

I wouldn't live your life fearing when you'll run into these things. I would instead prepare your resources and mind so that when these things do happen you'll have the space and ability to get through it. If you have the right mental skills, you'll accept disaster and suffering, and one day, you might find providence again.

No chapter in our lives lasts forever. You don't get to stay a baby in diapers, and that's a good thing. Each section of your life will play out differently. You will enjoy certain sections more than others.

Why does the Universe play the Tower card? Not everything is well in this Universe. It's a growing and shifting place that's attempting to replicate infinity: this causes things to be unstable. You should expect setbacks, failures, and catastrophes to occur in your life. Don't take a woe-is-me attitude to it; just accept that as the Universe shifts and as people grow, you'll sometimes be given the short straw.

Good news: you can prepare yourself for impending heart break. You can do things to minimize damage.

  • Setup an emergency fund. You should put aside some of your money each month into this account.
  • Don't spend beyond your means. Learn to budget, especially for larger tickets items.
  • Add secure passwords to your data.
  • Put locks on doors.
  • Put valuables in safes.
  • Take self-defense classes.
  • Take First Aid training.
  • Keep a surplus of supplies.
  • Get insurance for your property.
  • Get enough sleep each night and eat well. Food is your body's insurance, so purchase the right kind.
  • Build up a social support system.
  • Always have a plan b in your pocket for when things go south.
Tragedies are inevitable in life. If you resist change, the Universe will work harder to get you to change, and it'll be more disruptive.

Tragedies are inevitable in life. If you resist change, the Universe will work harder to get you to change, and it'll be more disruptive.

A Closer Look at the Symbols

The Tower itself is a sturdy structure, but because it was built on shaky foundation, it will eventually fall. That's why with one bolt of lightning everything is coming down.

The Tower represents ambitions, goals, and dreams built on false premises. The lightning represents a sudden surge of energy or insight.

The Lightning enters the building at the top of the crown, symbolizing energy flowing down from the Universe, through the crown chakra, and into the ground. A complete shift is happening from top to bottom.

When a revelation this powerful takes place, people will want to run and find shelter. It's how a dog feels when he hears loud fireworks.

There are 22 flames on the card. The flames represent the 12 signs of the zodiac and the 10 points of the Tree of Life. The Universe is teaching you that even during times of reckoning, divine intervention is still at play to bring about greater good.

What Does the Fire Element Have to Do With This Card?

Fire represents free-will. The Tower card is about knowing how to use your free-will wisely. Obviously, you have made some decisions that were based on false premises and you've built up your dreams on shaky ground.

The card is about learning how to better support your dreams and to prepare for inevitable setbacks. You need to have better emergency management, so to speak.

Fire should be supported by two other elements in this case: earth and water. Earth will give you the physical management you need to support fire. Water will give you the emotional management you need to support fire.

Free-will is also important in navigating difficult times. You get to decide how you'll respond to your circumstances. The more grace you can give, the better. Stay open minded. Remember: things fall apart.

If we believe that we are invincible, indestructible, and infallible then we are duping ourselves. These kind of notions are what leads to our downfall. Instead you need to temper your dreams. Dilute your goals somewhat and manage them with appropriate means.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I take too big a risk by moving to this area?
  • Did I buy a bad property and not investigate it properly?
  • Did I jump into a relationship too quickly?
  • Did I spend too much time on developing my education but not developing a sound financial strategy?
The Tower is an indication that big things are about to change and most likely not in a great way. The Tower is coming down because of a lightning bolt and poor foundation.

The Tower is an indication that big things are about to change and most likely not in a great way. The Tower is coming down because of a lightning bolt and poor foundation.

Upright Tower

In the words of John Ray Arnold in Jurassic Park, "Hold onto your butts!" When the Upright Tower appears, you should expect that big, drastic changes are about to take place. Maybe velociraptors are about to descend from the sky.

The Tower represents divorce, job loss, death, and anything that will shake you up to your core. There's no escaping it; there's only preparation. Chaos needs to paint herself into the landscape, and unfortunately, you're in that landscape.

The Tower cuts through lies and offers you clarity. If there is a positive side to this card, it helps you to mature and become a more empathetic person. Your world is going to come down on you in ways you never could have predicted.

All this change may liberate you. You may realize which people around you are toxic. Now could be the right time for you to let go of your old property and move to somewhere else.

The Tower is in response to the Devil card. It forces you to let go of unhealthy attachments. Letting go of addictions is never easy.

You'll have to confront your belief system and recognize what thoughts and actions no longer serve you. You will have to decide what doesn't work and what actually supports you. You might be surprised by what conclusions you make.

Let the faulty structures self-destruct. Be liberated from them. Holding onto them longer than necessary will result in more pain and suffering. You have the choice to get out. You don't need to needlessly suffer.

If you survive all that is thrown at you, your soul will evolve. You'll have gained a better understanding of yourself, your surroundings, and your social network.

Tragic moments will take place in your life. Seek therapy to help with your thoughts and to dilute your anxieties.

Other Indications

The Tower can associate with spiritual awakening or revelation. This comes when you are already highly aware and in tune with your thoughts. You might see the cracks forming and have the chance to do something about it.

The Tower is about breaking free from your old ways. Let go of the things holding you back.

The Tower will force you to end unhealthy attachments. Letting go of addictions is hard.

The Tower will force you to end unhealthy attachments. Letting go of addictions is hard.

Reversed Tower

You are undergoing a significant personal transformation. This differs from the experience of the Upright Tower where the change is related to external matters.

You're dealing with internal troubles. You're questioning your belief system, values, purpose, and meaning.

This is a time to go on a spiritual quest. Change your habits and try meeting new people. It's better to address your questioning than to ignore it and have a full blown existential crisis.

Trust in the process to let go of yourself and learn new spiritual truths. Resist the urge to prevent your spiritual growth. You need to turn into a new person.

The Reversed Tower could suggest you're resistant to change and delaying necessary upheaval. You may be in denial about your marriage, you might be driving your car beyond what it can handle, and you may be spending way beyond your means, which will end in ruin.

Go through the difficult times and learn from them so that you can make progress in your life. Change is inevitable and trying to block it will make it more disruptive.

If you're getting the hunch that change is on the way, you should plan for it ASAP. This way you can minimize the damage.

My suggestion would be to add in more coping mechanisms to protect yourself. Work with a therapist who can teach you about coping mechanisms.

References

  • McCann, David (March 1998). Houlding, Deborah (ed.). "Mercury in Myth & Occult Philosophy". The Traditional Astrologer. Nottingham, UK: Ascella (16).
  • Metzger, Bruce Manning; Coogan, Michael D (2004). The Oxford Guide To People And Places of the Bible. Oxford University Press.
  • Paul Huson (2004). Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Destiny.
  • Waite, Arthur Edward, 1857-1942. (2005). The pictorial key to the tarot. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

Comments

Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on July 16, 2021:

Thank you for the comments! I've learned a lot by studying the mythology behind the Tarot cards. It's good to break them down, so they don't seem so mysterious.

KonaGirl from New York on July 16, 2021:

I love your wise advice in the "Make Plans for Yourself and Protect Your Dreams" section. I think young people should pay close attention to this advice along with the advice given in receiving this card in the reversal. Well done.

ISHIKA MEHERE from NAGPUR on July 16, 2021:

Serenity halo I had a really great time reading it. Hope you have a nice day ahead.

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