The Tower Tarot (XVI)

Key Meanings

Destruction. Disaster. Sudden change. Seeing from a different perspective.

The Tower Tarot—Original RWSThe Tower Tarot—Original Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot.

Meaning of the Tower Tarot

The Tower tarot is the card that few people want to see in a reading, but, despite its usual negative meanings, it can sometimes be positive, too.

The Tower can be a warning, indicating sudden changes, catastrophes, sudden reversals in fortune, an unexpected disaster, and a forced change of perspective (as the falling figures would see as they fell, and after they hit rock bottom). The destruction of something that no longer benefits us is often indicated.

The aftermath of the Tower might be painful, but often it’s a necessary corrective.

The Tower tarot card comes after the Devil (where you’re often chained to ideas) and before the peaceful Star (which shows you finding strength inside of yourself).

It’s about being forced out of your comfort zone.

Sometimes it’s showing choice of reverting to the Devil or reaching upward for the hope and inspiration of the Star.

Taking a new perspective, can sometimes be a very positive change, and lead to great personal growth.

Traditional meanings are misery, distress, ruin, adversity, and calamity. 

In a daily reading, the Tower tarot can simply mean the destruction or upheaval to your daily goals, plans, and hopes.

As always, it’s important to pay attention to the surrounding cards.

Meaning of the Reversed Tower Tarot

Reversed, the Tower can take on the opposite meanings to above: avoidance of disaster or a fear of change, for example. It can also mean the same as the upright meanings, but to a lesser degree. 

Use the other cards, and your intuition, to help you decide on which meanings to choose.

The Flammarion engraving. Colour version.Breaking through the Veil

The Flammarion engraving first appeared in Camille Flammarion's book in 1888 (the original was by an unknown artist). It represents a Tower moment, a change of perspective where the world is viewed from a completely different point of view.

Images, Symbols, and More

The Tower tarot shows lightning striking a tower, and figures being thrown to the rocks below. 

The lightning (some early decks were named The Lightning) comes from heaven, and it destroys anything that has outgrown itself. Often, there’s a sudden realization or awareness of something new. The figures on the ground will be forced to see things from a different perspective.

It is related to the story of the Tower of Babel, where the people of Babel wanted to reach up to and conquer the heavens.

The bleak and desolate mountain top gives a feeling of isolation.

In some tarot decks (the Marseille deck of Jacques Vieville, some early Belgian tarot decks, and more modern decks, such as the Steampunk, Shadowscapes, and the Wild Unknown) a tree is used as well as, or instead of, the tower.

The Tower tarot is related to Mars, who is not only the god of war, but also a guardian of soldiers, and farmers and their crops.

The Tower Tarot—Marseille Tarot by Jean DodalThe Tower Tarot—Marseille Tarot by Jean Dodal.

The Tower Tarot in Readings

I once had a dramatic and shocking reading involving the Tower tarot. Something was wrong with my eye, and worried, I did a short reading. The Tower appeared, and I decided I needed to go immediately to the hospital (instead of waiting a few days for a more convenient time).

Hours later I was waiting for a major operation (which saved my sight). 

This certainly brought upheaval, sudden change, and the taking of a very different perspective on my life and work as I recovered. 

The Ten of Cups happily and accurately showed a successful operation.

I’ve also often drawn this card when a change of perspective is needed for some aspect of personal growth.

Major Arcana


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