The Tower (XVI) (most common modern name) is the 16th trump or Major Arcana card in most cartomancy Tarot decks. It is not used as part of any game.
The Belgian Tarot depicts a tree struck by lightning.
This card follows immediately after The Devil in all Tarots that contain it, and is considered an ill omen by some. Some early, painted decks, such as the Visconti-Sforza tarot, do not contain it. Also, some Tarot variants used for game playing omit it.
Early printed decks that preserve all their cards do feature The Tower. In these decks the card bears a number of different names and designs. In the Minchiate deck, the image usually shown is of two nude or scantily clad people fleeing the open door of what appears to be a burning building. In some Belgian tarots and the 17th century tarot of Jacques Viéville, the card is called La Foudre or La Fouldre, ("The Lightning") and depicts a tree being struck by lightning. In the Tarot of Paris (17th century), the image shown is of the Devil beating his drums, before what appears to be the mouth of Hell; the card still is called La Fouldre. The Tarot of Marseilles merges these two concepts, and depicts a burning tower being struck by lightning or fire from the sky, its top section dislodged and crumbling. Two men are depicted in mid-fall, against a field of multicolored balls. A. E. Waite's version is based on the Marseilles image, with small tongues of fire in the shape of Hebrew yod letters replacing the balls. (see Tower #1, above right)
A variety of explanations for the images on the card have been attempted. For example, it may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. Alternatively, the Harrowing of Hell was a frequent subject in late medieval liturgical drama, and Hell could be depicted as a great gate knocked asunder by Jesus Christ, with accompanying pyrotechnics. The Minchiate version of the deck may represent Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Some frequent keywords used by card readers are: (by Joan Bunning in Learning the Tarot)
- Chaos ----- Sudden change ----- Impact ----- Hard times
- Crisis ----- Revelation ----- Disruption ----- Realizing the truth
- Disillusion ----- Crash ----- Burst ----- Uncomfortable experience
- Downfall ----- Ruin ----- Ego blow ----- Explosive transformation
Upside down :
- To be currently in a harsh and chaotic situation but exiting in a good manner. Indeed you are falling but landing with your feet over the soil.
- The same of the normal position but less negative because their incorrect position can block some powers of the card.
Many differing meanings are attributed to the card:
- To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe.
- To others, the Tower represents the paradigms constructed by the ego, the sum total of all schema that the mind constructs to understand the universe. The Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation.
- Epiphanies, transcendental states of consciousness, and Kundalini experiences may result. In the Triple Goddess Tarot, the card is named "Kundalini Rising".
- The Tower further symbolizes that moment in trance in which the mind actually changes the direction of the force of attention from alpha condition (pointed mindward) to theta condition (pointed imaginal stageward). A Theta condition (especially in waking versions of theta states) is that moment when information coming into the ego-mind overwhelms external or sensory stimuli, resulting in what might otherwise be called a "vision" or "hallucination."
- Each card in the Major Arcana is a related to the previous ones. After the self bondage of The Devil, life is self-correcting. Either the querents must make changes in their own lives, or the changes will be made for them.
- The querent may be holding on to false ideas or pretenses; a new approach to thinking about the problem is needed. The querent is advised to think outside the box. The querent is warned that truth may not oblige schema. It may be time for the querent to re-examine belief structures, ideologies, and paradigms they hold to. The card may also point toward seeking education or higher knowledge.
- Others believe that the Tower represents dualism, and the smashing of dualism into its component parts, in preparation for renewal that does not come from reified, entrenched concepts. The Ivory Tower as a parallel image comes to mind, with all its good parts and its bad parts.
- It is also called Le Maison Dieu ("The House of God").
- The Flemish Deck by Vandenborre (c.1750 – 1760) renames it Le Foudre ("The Thunderbolt"). It shows a frightened shepherd cowering under a burning tree split by a bolt of lightning while sheep graze at its base.
- In Anne Rice Tarot deck the Tower card depicts Armand in the Vampire Chronicles.
- In X/1999, the Tower is Tokiko Magami & Tooru Shirou.
- In the Mythic Tarot deck, the Tower is depicted with Poseidon.
In pop culture
- In the SNES video game Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, the Tower is depicted as an ominous-looking tower as lightning bolts strike it during a thunderstorm, yet there are no people jumping out of the tower. On drawing the Tarot card after liberation of one of the towns, it lowers the characters' alignment by 1 or 2 points, and summons an earthquake to damage enemy units when used in battle.
- In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the 27th chapter is called The Lightning-Struck Tower, a reference to the Tower card. In the chapter, catastrophic events take place, reflecting the disruptive and negative significance the card holds in occult circles. In an earlier chapter, Professor Trelawney, the Divination teacher, informs Harry that the Lightning-Struck Tower constantly comes up in her card readings.
- In the game The Binding of Isaac, all of the Major Arcana/Minor Arcana Tarot cards can be found and used during gameplay. The Tower, when used, spawns six bombs.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a minor antagonist of the third arc of the series called Gray Fly has a Stand called Tower of Gray, who can travel at the speed of light. It was named after this tarot card.
- ^ Bill Butler, Dictionary of the Tarot. (Schocken, 1975; ISBN 0-8052-0559-4)
- ^ Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage (Destiny, 2004. ISBN 978-0-89281-190-8)
- ^ Robert Place. "The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination" ISBN (Jeremy Tarcher, 2005 1-58542-349-1) p.207
- ^ Huson, op. cit.
- ^ The dictionary of the esoteric: 3000 entries on the mystical and occult traditions, Nevill Drury, 2004, p309
- ^ "Ogre Battle - Tarot Cards". Fantasyanime.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03.