I have entered The Tower year, rather reluctantly, may I add, meaning that the numbers of my day and month of birth, together with the current year, add up to the Major Arcana 16, the Tower. So welcome to my visual journey through The Tower, a card that conjures much fear and anxiety when it turns up, yet the energy that unfolds when we meet the Tower scenario is one we need to experience so we can be free and no longer imprisoned by our own fears or desires.
Let’s start by having a good look at the more undesirable effects of this card.
The historical imagery of the Tower, starting with the earliest Marseille decks (above, from 1650 and 1713, France), shows two people falling from a tower. The structure is usually shown being struck by lightning, or some other intervention that is now outside of their control. Modern renditions of this card more or less stick with this imagery. The underlying atmosphere is one of sudden, unexpected changes.
How scary must it be, to fall from the safety and security of a man-made Tower? To have your rock solid structure, the foundation of your life, crumbling, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to let go. For you are in free fall.
Our protagonists in the Tower card are facing a situation that, sooner or later, most people are faced with in life. Some go through this experience a few times, until the lessons are finally learned. What might these lessons be?
My experiences, and those of my clients when faced with this card, essentially describe a situation of our own making, yet one that, once created, imprisons us. We are no longer free, when we are living in the Tower. The lovely house that we so eagerly bought, now chains us down with a big mortgage and all the responsibilities that come with maintaining
it. The career that we so badly wanted when young, with its allure of power and money, is now one big vortex of long hours, stress, and a lack of free time to pursue that which truly
makes our heart sing, rather than that which our ego desires.
And let’s not even start on relationships…
Actually, let's have a talk about relationships and the Tower - for it comes up rather regularly where a relationship question is asked, and particularly where the two people in the card have found themselves in an oppressive, restricting relationship - and then the Tower situation comes along, and the structure breaks. This could be a sudden realisation - such as that they are, after all free to break up and pursue a different path, or perhaps one discovers an affair, or maybe, simply, they have changed. They have changed to a point where they can no longer deny that they are a different person, and they have different needs and wants, and the other half no longer meets these.
My experience is that people who value the longevity of their relationship, or its financial trappings, above their own core needs, really struggle to break free – for a while. Ultimately, and unexpectedly, a situation, or someone, comes along, and they can no longer deny that
which becomes all too obvious. To be fulfilled we need to be honest – not just with others, but be honest with ourselves.
You might think after all of the above, that this is the card of doom. Far from it. It’s only an unpleasant experience because we’ve created this Tower, and for far too long, have refused to acknowledge that we have become trapped and oppressed.
Thus, the experience of the Tower is one that ultimately, for all its pain, sets us free.
Some artists have chosen to show the more positive aspects of this card, such as in the Fey Tarot below, where the Tower disintegrates to allow its occupant to fly free. Of course, our little fey has wings and is already able to escape the Tower – again, this conveys the message that ultimately we are free to break away from that which no longer serves us.
Or the sexually charged Eruption card from the Sensual Wicca Tarot, where the energy is concentrated and channelled towards the ultimate act of release, the orgasm. In a healthy relationship, the Tower experience enables two people to let go of control, and enjoy each other without shame, guilt, or the need to manipulate each other.
I should also note that this is the ultimate card for the passionate start of a new relationship – is there a more apt image to show two people falling for each other and falling in love? Particularly when you see it next to the Lovers card, or other positive relationship cards such as Ace of Cups, 2 of Cups etc. I think there is an almost fated quality when this card comes up next to the Lovers card – someone can’t really ignore, or walk away from, what they feel for someone else. It’s a bit like the astrological transit of Pluto over natal Venus, for the astro fans out there: there’s no denying it, no matter how hard one tries. It only grows bigger with time, and fighting what one feels is a futile exercise.
A number of artists have chosen a tree to be the focal image in the Tower card, such as the Wooden Tarot and the Wild Unknown Tarot, below. A tree may have strong roots, but it is no match for the forces of nature outside its control. We may not want to acknowledge it, but us humans are also subject to these forces, despite our best technological pursuits to dominate the natural world around us. It is a humbling, yet necessary, insight to recognise our place in the wider cosmos.
I recall one day when nice and early I drew my morning card, and shock horror, it was the Tower. Immediately I started running through every conceivable scenario of doom that could possibly befall me – until I came across the day’s news of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand (I was living in Auckland at that time). Talk about natural forces beyond our control!
In a positive way, the Tower allows us to gain sudden insights and breakthroughs for situations where we could not perceive these before.
“One of the more positive portents of the Tower is the possibility that you’ll be cut loose from a situation that you really aren’t happy with (for example, being laid off from a job that you really hate.) Although this can leave you disoriented and confused, it can open your life to new opportunities. Many Tarot readers feel that when the Tarot card appears, something in your life is not as it should be, and that the disruptions are therefore needed to put you back on your rightful life path.” Janina Renee, Tarot for a New Generation
Well, I’m all for new opportunities and walking the right path, so I shall aim to embrace rather than dread the Tower.
Until next time,