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The Tarot's Tower Card: Not So Scary

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

The Tower card, the 16th major arcana of the Tarot is the card I find the most interesting. It's the card where the images can look scary the to the first time Tarot reader and for clients. For me there is a powerful energy to read from this card.

Why is this card a little scary for some? It's probably card's image of the tower structure struck by lightening, flames shooting out of the tower's windows and people falling to ground. The background of the card is bleak and/or barren and there are objects falling from the sky that look like rocks. It looks like destruction and disaster. But is this really the message that the card is trying to give us?

The Tarot consists of 78 cards: 56 minor arcana cards and 22 major arcana. The Tower is the sixteenth card of the 22 major arcana cards. Arcana, which means secrets or mysteries, contain information that use to examine our situation, issue or path.

Left: The Tower Card from the Conver Ben Dov deck

Right: The Tower Card from the Rider Waite deck

How do we figure out what information is in the Tarot cards? We have to learn that the Tarot is a language. Just as we use our English language as our method of communication that consists of words in a structured way; so is Tarot a language. When Tarot cards are chosen for a reading, the cards with its numbers, symbols, and energy give a message to the Tarot reader who then passes the message to the querent. To understand what the message is in the Tower card, we have to take into account the other cards chosen in the reading; but if we just look at the tower card itself we can see the following:

The Letters

  • The letters XVI mean 16. Numerology is important in the Tarot. In the Marseilles Tarot, we look at 16 as a 1 and a 6. 1 is a beginning, a start or a single point in time. 6 is a number of harmony where things are naturally balanced. Think of a hexagon shaped honeycomb or a snowflake that has six sides. 16 is also divisible by 2. So, we have 2 options or 2 choices. These 2 choices or options can attract each other or repel. There is a balancing that is occurring and maybe one aspect of the situation is dominating over the other. We need to look at our choices and decide how we can bring things into balance. (Reading and Understanding the Marseilles Tarot by Anna Maria Morsucci and Antonella Aloi)

The Tower is believed to represent the Fall of the Knights Templar

  • There are Tarot scholars that believe that the Tower Card represents the the fall of the Knight Templar in medieval times. The Knights Templar was a Holy Order where the members vowed poverty, chasity and a devotion to protect the Holy Land as Christian. The men of the Templar Knights guarded routes to the Holy Land throughout Europe and in their battles acquired treasures as well as honour. These treasures allowed them to build castles and become lenders to European leaders. The Knights Templar eventually became a wealthy order. This led to them to be feared and hated amongst the European leaders, including the Pope. When King Philip IV of France was not allowed to join the order, the King was angry and concocted a plan to have the members of the orders charged with heresy. The date of this was Friday, October 13, 1307. The value of this date is 1+0+1+3+1+3+0+7=16. So, the 16th Major arcana can describe the beginning of the fall of an order. (The Grail Tarot by John Matthews)

The Tower Image

  • The image of the Tower. The tower is a manmade structure and there are no doors that are visible to enter or exit. The windows are high up on the structure. This may have someone think that the tower is like a prison and the only way out is jump out of the windows. What does this image of a prison like structure mean? Some Tarot scholars feel that tower is a House of God and that we are constrained by our own beliefs and superstitions. So are our beliefs now holding us back from moving forward and are we held captive by superstitions or pride? Are the people in the card jumping out of the windows letting go of old superstitions, fears, phobias and taking a leap of faith? Or are these people taking risks?

The Top of the Tower is shaped like a Crown

  • To many of us a crown means royalty or a head of a kingdom. We can look at this as leaders in our situation. Maybe we are the leader or maybe the crown can mean the the hierarchy of individuals. Perhaps an order of some sort. The crown being blown off the tower is a message that the hierarchy and order of things maybe collapsing. The toppling of the crown may indicate that the divine is reminding us that human beings are not greater than nor equal to the divine. This could also indicate a situation where someone has been foolishly acting too proud or arrogant and a comeuppance is about to occur for that individual.

Are the People in the Card Falling or are they Released?

  • Depending on the deck that is used, the people in the the Tower Card may not appear frightened. If they don't look frightened, what does this tell us? This may suggest that the people in the card are being released from constraints. This can be a situation where the querent is blocked by someone, or fears/phobias, or some old beliefs that are no longer working for them.

The Card Can represent Disillusions

  • Perhaps the querent is coming to terms with a belief system, relationship, career, or friendship that no longer serves them because the querent has changed. Is this change the natural growth of the querent or is the querent having to change against their will?

The Tower Card Can Make Us Take Notice of Our Health and Well Being

  • Sometimes we don't pay attention to the little things that happen in our daily lives until something big happens. When something big happens it can shake us to our core. A health scare or accident that has happened can be represented by the Tower card. The Tower card can be a reminder that we need to start paying attention to both our physical and emotional well being before a crisis forces us to change.

The above suggestions for reading the Tower card are not the only meanings that the Tower Card can have. You must look at the surrounding cards chosen by the querent in the reading. Whatever meaning you get from the Tarot card will be dependent on the deck you use, other cards in the spread and the question (the reason why the querent is having a Tarot reading)

The following is a sample three card reading

A querent asks the Tarot card reader a question regarding her finances. Her spending is not out of control but she is worried about having enough.

A three card spread includes the Six of Cups, The Tower and Temperance.

The querent must have had a shock after receiving a bill. Perhaps unexpectant extra expenses incurred. It takes a lot of effort and time to earn money, but less to spend. If we are not careful, it will upset the ones we love and we don't want to disappoint them. We have to be honest and give a "heads up" to the state of the finances. If we pay attention to how this affect those around us, we can have a good conversation about finances. In this case, the querent's closest relationship is her wife. It is important that she initiates the conversation regarding upcoming expenses and together she and her wife can put together a budget. A discussion regarding what is expected from each spouse will strengthen their teamwork in regards to Finances. This is not a one time discussion. The six of cups indicates that this discussion will be an on going work in progress to keep the relationship in harmony. The querent will have to balance the needs and wants when it comes to purchasing, but she will also need to pay attention to the other things that are important such as the health of her home life as well as her physical self. Temperance reminds us that life is a constant balance and for the querent it's balancing the pleasure of having the finer things in life to her needs. If we are honest with other and truly care about one another, communication will flow effortlessly. The Six of Cups is upright so it does suggest there is a loving and stable relationship. Temperance in this layout is looking towards the Tower and this indicates that the querent requires patience and time to put things in order.


The Marseille Tarot Revealed, A Complete Guide to Symbolism Meanings and Method by Yoav Ben-Doav 2017 Llewellyn Publications

The Grail Tarot A Templar Vision by John Mathews 2007 St. Martins Press

Reading and Understanding the Marseilles Tarot by Anna Maria Morsucci and Antonella Aloi 2018 Lo Scarabeo


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