The Full Wiki

The Tower (Tarot card): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Tower (XVI)

The Tower (XVI) (most common modern name) is the sixteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.



In the Minchiate deck, nude people flee a burning building.

This card follows immediately after The Devil in all Tarots that contain it, and is considered an ill omen. Some early painted decks such as the Visconti-Sforza tarot do not contain it. [1] 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 seventeenth century tarot of Jacques Vieville, 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.[2]

It is interesting that this card, in French decks, is often called Le Maison Dieu ("The Hospital"). Many people[3][4] think this may be a corruption of another term, perhaps from Old French.

The Belgian Tarot depicts a tree struck by lightning.

A variety of explanations for the images depicted 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.[5]

Description and symbolism

In this manuscript picture of the Harrowing of Hell, Jesus forces open the fiery tower gate of Hell to free the virtuous dead from Limbo. The enactment of this scene in liturgical drama may be one source of the image of the Tower.

A tower has just been hit by lightning and is aflame. The top of the tower is crumbling and falling to the ground beneath. In some decks, two figures fall from the top of the tower; in others, the people themselves are on the ground in flames or are themselves hit by the lightning. Sometimes they are simply onlookers to the fire.

Divination usage

Some frequent keywords used by card readers are:

  • 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.
  • 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.
The destruction of the tower of Babel is depicted in this Bulgarian manuscript.

In popular culture

  • Near the end of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, the protagonist, Roland, draws The Tower in a tarot session. His goal is to reach the Dark Tower, from which the series takes its name.
  • Chapter 27 of the 2005 novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is entitled "The Lightning-Struck Tower". Appropriately to the card's meaning, events in this chapter - which takes place within a tower - force Harry to abandon many of the pretenses he has clung to throughout the book. In quite a literal reference to the card, a character falls from the tower after being hit by a curse. (Earlier in the book, Professor Trelawney tells Harry this card keeps coming back in her readings, though she misses the significance of it.)
  • In Vision of Escaflowne, Millerna draws the Tower, meaning that her wedding with the prince would bring disaster, but Hitomi places The Emperor over the Tower to deceive her, telling her that it was going to have a happy ending. Later on, the true effect of altering this divination is shown when Dornkirk destroys the palace (An Emperor tearing down a Tower).
  • In Kaori Yuki's manga Godchild, Riffael Raffit's rank in DELILAH is the Tower. Remaining true to the card's meaning, the sixth volume of the series features Riff's startling betrayal and the revelation that his loyalty to the story's protagonist, Cain, was nothing but a lie. Riffael's character is arrogant and feels that he alone is worthy of being king. Furthermore, the final volume takes place in a tower that is struck by lightning.
  • Atmospheric sludge metal band Isis has an album titled Celestial that is themed on the Tower, as is the album's follow-up, [[SGNL>05]].
  • The opening sequence of the HBO produced TV series Carnivale contains a shot zooming into a Tower tarot card to reveal the White House.
  • The Tower is a boss monster in The House of the Dead 2, where it is represented by a five-headed hydra. All of the bosses in the House of the Dead series are named after cards from the Major Arcana.
  • In the Persona video game series, the Tower Arcana features various mythological figures associated with doom and destruction, such as Shiva. In Persona 3, this arcana is linked to Mutatsu, a less than virtuous monk. In Persona 4, the Tower arcana is associated with Shu, a boy you can tutor. His mother is obsessed with him being the best and everything, and this obsession comes to consume himself as well, with disastrous results.
  • In the Japanese anime and manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, there is a minor character called Gray Fly who uses the Stand called "Tower Of Gray"
  • In episode 4 of Harper's Island, Madison asks the psychic if the card means death.
  • In episode 3 of the Doctor Who story Image of the Fendahl, Granny Tyler turns over this card during her reading of the Tarot. It would seem to predict (physically) the approaching destruction of Fetch Priory in the next episode as well as the more symbolic meaning of false structures, false institutions, and false beliefs which are going to come tumbling down, suddenly, violently and all at once - which is exactly what happens to the schemes of Stael and the experiments of Fendleman - all are proven to be based on false premises and all are suddenly and irrevocably destroyed.
  • Also in Anne Rice Tarot deck the Tower card depicts Armand
  • In the Batman graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, a recovering Harvey Dent is seen using tarot cards to make decisions. The Tower is the focal point of several panels discussing Dent's fractured psyche.


  1. ^ Bill Butler, Dictionary of the Tarot. (Schocken, 1975; ISBN 0-8052-0559-4)
  2. ^ Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage (Destiny, 2004. ISBN 978-0892811908)
  3. ^ Talia Felix, The Cartomancer's Key (CreateSpace, 2008. ISBN 978-1441441447)
  4. ^ "Tarocchi Cards – An Undescribed Pack" The Gentleman's Magazine. May, 1849: 491
  5. ^ Huson, op. cit.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address