What You Don't See Coming: The Tower

I am unapologetically disappointed every time this card pops up in readings I do for myself (and I find myself blameless here!). One of the most "feared" cards of the Major Arcana, The Tower is the inferno of unexpected sh*ttiness that comes to surprise us and smack us in the head every now and again. It's not all bad though (… she tells herself). While it can be a struggle to find the silver lining from this shadowy card, I assure you, it's there.

Deck used: Divina Tarot (Mary Elizabeth Evans, Spirit Speak)

Deck used: Divina Tarot (Mary Elizabeth Evans, Spirit Speak)

"It's when you feel the rug pulled out from under you and you can't do anything about it." This is typically what I tell my clients whenever this card pops up in their readings. It's not unusual for them to feel put off when they see the Tower card, even when they know nothing about the tarot in general. Nobody wants to see something going up in flames, after all. The Tower talks about life being spun completely off that axis you've come to love and be familiar with, much like the Hanged Man. What makes it different from Card #12 is the residue of ashes and destruction it leaves in its trail. Not very pleasant.

The Divina Tarot shows a person burning; it substitutes the structure and edifice of the tower with an actual person. I like how the star symbol is present—amidst all that fire is, at the very least, a semblance of hope for what comes after. And I think that's what we should always remember when the tower's flames confronts us. That there is a calm that comes after the storm.

In yoga, we have the concept of "tapas" which means "fiery discipline." Tower situations force us to submit to external forces we have absolutely no control over. It's the Wheel of Fortune taking us for a spin over to the negative / disruptive / destructive side of things.  

Decks used: Wooden Tarot (Skullgarden), Centennial Smith-Waite (Pamela Colman Smith, US Games), Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot (Nicoletta Ceccoli, Lo Scarabeo), Metro Tarot Cards (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Decks used: Wooden Tarot (Skullgarden), Centennial Smith-Waite (Pamela Colman Smith, US Games), Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot (Nicoletta Ceccoli, Lo Scarabeo), Metro Tarot Cards (Aya Rosen, Gamecrafter)

Pretty Standard Stuff About the Tower: (Check out the Centennial Smith-Waite and the Wooden Tarot cards in the photo above.)

  • The crown coming off the top of the Tower can symbolize a total collapse of the structure we've been relying on for so long. It can be a reference to our own personal, internal structure or even a a fall from grace of institutions that are supposed to show us support (but have completely failed).
  • The flash of lightning may represent how quickly these Tower moments in life come. We never anticipate them and (thankfully) they're over before we even realize it.
  • The two people falling out of the tower and into the sea below just shows our complete loss of control when something like this happens. There are certain instances in life where we just have to surrender to gravity and hope for the best.
  • The flames and everything going up in smoke can symbolize disappearance, transformation and unforeseen change.

But what about cards that go off the beaten path? (Look at the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot and Metro Tarot Card depiction of the Tower.)

  • The girl in the tower of blocks in the Nicoletta Ceccoli tarot is in a precarious situation. This is the calm before the storm, where everything is still structured and intact. A little off-centered movement here and there, however, and everything can come tumbling down in an instant. She may be instigating this collapse, in fact, because you see her tossing the blocks themselves all the way down. (We may be surprised by Tower moments in our lives, but if we inspect the long chain of events, it may pain us to realize that it's possible for us to have had a hand in our own destruction.)
  • Nowhere is the Tower energy more strongly felt than New York City and 9/11. Many years after the tragedy, we still feel the residual pain and horror such a terrifying experience has brought.

When something drastic and dramatic happens to us, the last thing we want to do is just sit alone and ponder it. When you have enough time and distance from whatever Tower moment you've experienced though, it can be helpful to pull out your journal and get introspective. Some tragedies may have absolutely no rhyme or reason… we can't say "everything happens for a reason" all the time. But just getting your thoughts out on paper can be an affirming activity that acknowledges the difficulty and the pain. It helps us blow off steam and take the first few steps in discovering the new world that disaster oftentimes us leaves us.

PS: Sometimes, falling isn't such a bad thing. (Falling in love, maybe?)

Phew! We're done with the Major Arcana's Big Three (finally) and are off to greener pastures next week with The Star. Hang in there, tarot folks, we're quickly approaching the completion of our tarot studies. See you next week… onward and upward! :)