Tower Tarot Card Meaning

When you’re dealt the Tower in a tarot reading, it’s a sign to buckle your seatbelt because the road ahead will be bumpy. Massive changes are afoot, be they change to your finances, your work life, your love life or your health, and they’re not likely to be happy changes. If you’ve asked a “yes” or “no” question, then the answer is an emphatic “No” with several exclamation marks after it. The Tower is generally considered to be one of the most ominous tarot cards although its meaning will be modified by the position in which it appears in a tarot layout.

Appearance

In most tarot decks, the Tower is illustrated with a picture of a looming, vertical keep. The exact illustration differs from tarot deck to tarot deck. In the Rider-Waite Tarot, one of the most popular decks, the keep is on fire after having been struck by lightning, and two human bodies are toppling from the building’s narrow windows. The keep is balanced on a precipice, and the lightning has seemingly dislodged a crown from the building’s summit.

The English occultist Aleister Cowley devised his own deck called the Thoth Tarot. In the Thoth Tarot, the illustration of The Tower shows the keep viewed from below. It’s hard to count just how many human figures are falling from the building. A stylized eye glares from the top of the card. To the right of the eye is a dragon; to the left, is an eagle. The card is illustrated in fiery hues of red, vermillion and orange.

In the older Marseille Tarot, the keep is made of brick, colorful stones appear to be raining from the sky and the Tower has a name: La Maison Diu or “The House of God”. One of the most ancient tarot decks in existence is the 17th-century Tarot of Jacques Viéville; in this deck, the 16th Major Arcana card depicts a lightning-struck tree rather than a building and has the caption La Foudre (“The Lightning.”)

Significance

The Tower is the 16th card in the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana make up the first 22 cards in every tarot deck. While all Tarot cards are significant in a reading, Major Arcana cards generally denote significant life events whereas Minor Arcana cards represent more everyday happenings.

Most Major Arcana cards have zodiacal, elemental and Biblical correspondences. Thus, the Tower is often associated with the Biblical Tower of Babel, which—as described in the Old Testament—was a structure built by foolish humans attempting to ascend into Heaven. The card’s zodiacal associations are with the planet Mars and the sign Scorpio and its elemental associations are with fire and water, a disastrous combination in most instances.

Every card in the Major Arcana resonates symbolically with the cards that come before and after it. The Tower is preceded by the Devil and followed by The Star. The Devil, the 15th card in the Major Arcana, represents bondage, temptations, negative influences and bad habits. The symbolism of The Devil and The Tower sequence warns that if you give in to toxic temptations, you are setting yourself up for a fall. The 17th card in the Major Arcana offers hope, however, for it is The Star, which symbolizes insight, inspiration and the courage to go on.

When The Tower appears in a reading, the day of reckoning is nigh. There will be very little you can do to avoid disaster, so the most useful way to approach this card is to figure out the best way to cushion your fall and how to get up off the ground just as soon as you can after the fall. As noted above, the Major Arcana card that comes immediately after The Tower is The Star, which symbolizes renewed hope and faith. One way to deal with the hard lessons symbolized by The Tower might be to keep focusing on the fact that you would not have been able to come to this new place of strength had you first not fallen.

Specific Upright Meanings

Meaning: Crisis, chaos, sudden unforeseen change.

Finances Meaning – Upright

Meaning: The Tower is the tarot card most associated with bankruptcy. It often turns up in readings for people who’ve been victimized by swindlers and confidence men, particularly if other cards in that same reading are The Magician, the Seven of Swords, the Five of Swords or the Four of Pentacles. At the very least, The Tower indicates a sudden financial reversal that you would be wise to prepare for.

The Workplace – Upright

Meaning: If The Tower is dealt right side up when you’ve asked about your workplace in a reading, you may be looking at a termination of employment. Even when it doesn’t signify job loss, it often foreshadows dramatic changes in your job: Your company may be about to be purchased by another company, or your job description may be about to be rewritten. Such changes can be very, very stressful.

Love – Upright

Meaning: In a relationship reading, the appearance of The Tower right side up generally presages separation either through a break-up, a divorce or a physical move. The separation will not be an amicable one; it is unlikely you will be able to continue a friendship with the person you are asking about. In the presence of certain other tarot cards such as the Five of Swords or the Ten of Swords, The Tower may also be linked with sexual assault.

Health – Upright

Meaning: The Tower is more often linked with injuries than with illnesses, but it can be a significator of maladies with a sudden onset such as strokes, heart attacks or migraine headaches. If The Tower appears in a reading with other cards such as The Moon, The Star, The Empress, the Ace of Wands, the Ace of Pentacles or the Ten of Cups, it can signify difficulties with a pregnancy that can result in stillbirth or miscarriage. The Tower can also be a harbinger of mental distress, emotional turmoil and suicidal thoughts.

Specific Reversed Meanings

Meaning when reversed: A crisis narrowly avoided.

Finances Meaning – Reversed

When reversed, The Tower indicates that while you may be avoiding a financial disaster, you are doing so at great personal risk to yourself. The effort you’re investing in staying financially solvent may not be worth it in other words.

The Workplace – Reversed

Meaning when reversed: Upside down, The Tower indicates that you’ll be able to hang onto your job—but maybe this is not the best thing for you. Maybe you should consider quitting your job.

Love – Reversed

Meaning when reversed: When The Tower is upside down, your relationship is as good as over. You probably know you would be better off breaking things off, but for whatever reason, you are reluctant to do so.

Health – Reversed

Meaning when reversed: When the card is dealt upside down, it can be a warning that you are ignoring a health issue when you should be booking an appointment with your physician just as soon as you can.