The Tower Tarot card meaning

The Tower


La Maison Diev

Keywords: change, disruption, failure, something new in your life, suddenly seeing the truth, radical transformation


In the Rider-Waite-Smith we see lightning striking a tower, causing the crown on top of the tower to fall off.

We also see two people leaping from the tower and falling to their deaths, surrounded by yellows leaves or “Yods,” which are symbols of Yahweh, from the Hebrew letter “Yod,” the first letter of the Hebrew name for God, YHWH.

The crown represents Kether and the lightning is a symbol for the “lightning path” through the Qabalistic Tree of Life, which represents the process of reality emanating from The One, which is a concept familiar to Neoplatonism.

It is important to realize that although the inventors of Tarot likely knew nothing about Qabalah other than that “22” is a sacred number in Jewish mysticism, the creators of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, were both members of the influence esoteric order the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which is responsible for much of the esoteric correspondence we have now which synthesizes together different occult bodies of knowledge into the Tarot, including astrology and Hermetic Qabalah.

So although from a historical perspective, the creators of the Tarot likely had little if any knowledge of Qabalah, subsequent iterations in occult circles emphasized it heavily. Accordingly, to fully understand the symbolism of decks like the Rider-Waite-Smith and the Thoth Tarot, it is important to have some familiarity with Qabalistic concepts. You can read my guide to Tarot and the Qabalah here.

On a more basic level, most Tarot newbies are scared to get the Tower in a Tarot reading because of how frightening the symbolism appears.

However, most experienced Tarot readers will tell you there is nothing to be afraid of, for the Tower has come to symbolize the simple process of sudden change or transformation. 

Some changes can be scary simply because it is a break from our habits, which makes us uncomfortable.

But with that break also comes opportunities for growth. And if the change is of a spiritual nature, like the lightning path of Kether, the emanation of The One, then this sudden change in perspective can be an opportunity for gnosis, or spiritual knowledge.


The Tower Thoth

Refers to the planet Mars. For Crowley, The Tower “refers to the manifestation of cosmic energy in its grossest form.”

Showing the destruction of material by Fire, the card represents the coming of the new Aeon, where Fire burns up the old and ushers in a new spiritual epoch, in this case, representing Horus, the new Lord of the Aeon.

In the card we see the destruction of the previous Aeon by flames and lightning and war. In the bottom right we see the Roman Lord of the Underworld, Dis, spitting the flames of hell from his mouth. The Hebrew letter for this card means “Mouth.” Falling from the Tower are humans who have lost their form and devolved into geometric expression, which represents the Divine Will transforming organized matter back into the Pure Perfection of Nothingness. As Crowley says, “To obtain perfection, all existing things must be annihilated.”

This interpretation speaks to a double meaning shown in the card with the symbol of the Dove and the Snake. The Lord of the New Aeon brings both illumination and destruction. The flames burn away the old, making room for new spiritual growth but at the same time the destruction itself serves a spiritual purpose.

The Dove and the Serpent refer to the dualism of feminine and masculine impulses, the Will to Live and the Will to Die, which to my ears sounds like Freud’s distinction between the Pleasure Principle and the Death Drive. However, these are not competing impulses but rather complementary and necessary for the manifestation of energy, as seen in the Death Card. 

The central symbol of the card is the Eye of Horus or the Eye of Shiva. According to legend, the opening of this eye destroys the whole Universe.

In the Tree of Life the Tower represents a horizontal Path between the masculine node Netzach and the feminine node Hod. It is thus a transmutation of energy – before the construction of the final Aeon in Trump 20 it is necessary for there to be purifying flames.


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