The Tower (XVI) is not just the most unfortunate card in the major arcana, but the most unfortunate one in the entire tarot. Here, a narrow tower is built on the top of a mountain. Thus, it manages to attract lightning, sending the people in it tumbling and fleeing for their lives.
Its like the allegorical Tower of Babel: this tower reaches high into the heavens like a needle piercing the sky, but on supernatural act sends the whole thing to the furnace and the people inside it descending long and hard to Earth. What was once the crown-topped jewel of human invention becomes rubble in a matter of minutes.
The people falling are a commoner and a king, telling that no human has the power to stop the supernatural or to stop the powers of God. Thus, when this card is drawn, the querent knows that something they have built is going to be destroyed.
It’s a natural reaction to fear destruction and living with the rubble. However, like the Tower in the card, the querent’s towers are built on faulty land where it’s vulnerable to falling down. Thus, it was simple a matter of time before the tower would be struck and it would all come falling down.
It won’t seem that way. For the querent, it feels as if the destruction comes out of the blue, like a random act of hatred from the universe. The querent may be left wondering why this had to happen to them, even though, deep down, they know the answer.
The lightening bolt is like a warning from God, divine retribution, or as John Lennon coined “instant karma.” The people in the tower aren’t just awoken at night, but thrown out of bed, just like the querent. They’re going to experience a major upheaval and break down of whom they think they are.
No matter what happens, the Tower card tells the querent to embrace the change and to not cry over spilled milk. The ones who fall gracefully land the lightest, and the sooner they accept the damage, the sooner they can start to build again, wisely this time.
It also means accepting our reactions to grief. The querent must give themselves time and space to mourn loss. The Tower card tells us that the real destruction is within, as shown by the fire. One can withstand tragedy, but being eaten up inside is what really destroys us.
When the Tower card is Reversed:
The Tower reversed doesn’t mean disaster averted. Disaster is still there. It just means that the querent isn’t facing the problem head-on and is probably making it worse. The querent isn’t letting things go and getting ready to rebuild again.
This card reversed means not taking bitter medicine because of the taste, and ignoring the possibility of being wiser and learning through experience. By refusing to face facts, the querent is making something more painful and difficult than it needs to be. There’s no sense in going down with the tower.
In a three-card reading, this card means…
Past: Sometimes heartbreaking and life altering happened to the querent that they have come out of wiser and more mature. They may be more cautious about entering into something similar in the future, however.
Present: Right now, the querent is going through a serious personal upheaval that must happen. They’ll be better for it, but it will hurt, and it will mean making some serious, if unpleasant, changes.
Future: The querent is going to go through a major personal upheaval in the near future. They’re being warned of it now so they can embrace the change, learn, and grow.