You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.
This week’s card has only visited us four times before, in all the fifteen plus years I’ve been blogging the Card of the Week. It last came calling in the Spring of 2016. I wish it was better news, especially coming on this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.
It’s not rocket science to see that this is not a particularly easy or enjoyable influence. Especially at risk are the “sacred cows” that we hold dear — the ones that we expect to protect us, to keep us from having to deal with life’s more challenging aspects, or which we hope will insulate us from difficulty.
The Tower, probably the least congenial of all the Tarot cards, is as necessary to our liberation and growth as pleasurable experiences. Sometimes, even more so.
In a reading, it is traditionally about misfortune, violence, betrayal, and loss. A more modern approach still sees The Tower as explosive, sudden, radical change, in which the status quo is about to take a tumble.
This rich, disturbing image has many layers of meaning, including the overthrow of someone in power. Note that a large, domed crown similar to the one The Emperor wears is toppling from the top of the tower. And the woman in the blue dress falling towards the rocks is also crowned.
Arthur Waite (author of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot) writes at length of what The Tower is not, but is somewhat obtuse (even for him!) as to his direct interpretation. He does say, however, “…it is the ruin of the House of Life, when evil has prevailed therein, and above all that it is the rending of a House of Doctrine.”
The black sky and the falling man and woman link this card to the previous one in the Majors, The Devil. It is as if the stagnation in the XV Trump has been abruptly overturned.
The lightning zig-zags from the heavens to The Tower, and culminates as an arrow pointing into its uncrowned center, implying intention and perhaps even a judgment.
This is reinforced by the presence of yods — those little yellow fire sparks in the air. Yod is the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and symbolizes a direct command from the Divine. It is interesting that in this card, and no other, there are 22 yods, the same as the number of Major Arcana cards.
The Tower card may remind us of the story of the Tower of Babel in the Judeo-Christian traditions. This tower was struck down by the God when He was angered by humanity’s arrogance. The result left mankind in a chaos of foreign languages.
It may also be like the lightning bolt of insight that struck Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, as he sat beneath the bodhi tree.
Challenges from the Heavens
The Tower is also a perfect snapshot of the ongoing revolution of our generation — Pluto in Capricorn — which is breaking down many of our most stable, trusted institutions, as we’ve known them. Like the church. Or the government. Or banking, money, and the associated financial watchdogs, like, say, Equifax.
Also, while considering the astrological influences, don’t forget that the spectacular “American eclipse” of Aug. 21 is still in play. As the wonderful Diotima Matineia notes, quoting Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The effects of an eclipse can continue to be felt for at least six months. But this one is still very fresh in its process of unfolding, because we are still in the same lunation that brought it about.
Thus, it is worth a reminder that traditionally, when there would be an eclipse like this aligned with Regulus (the star at the heart of the constellation Leo), it would portend a significant change regarding a leader or ‘king’ — often a downfall or symbolic death. Just like our card portrays.
In addition, this week, my friend Elisabeth Grace notes —
.. A challenging square between Saturn and the Virgo Sun (leaders, ego recognition; life force), exact on WEDNESDAY…This can be seriously sobering — particularly if you are a head of state or some other fearless leader. For some it is an opportunity for advance. For others, it may be an encounter with a brick wall.
A sweet cooperation between Venus and Jupiter helps smooth ruffled feathers in the wake of the Saturn-Sun cuts. Remember that sweetness on SATURDAY at 3:01 PM ET, when Mercury and Mars meet up for the third time in recent weeks. Mercury and Mars together in Virgo may forcefully separate the wheat from the chaff.
The Tower warns that forceful changes may be necessary for a higher purpose, as it often comes calling when Mystery is about to rudely and necessarily shatter our consensual reality.
It is the revolution that, while perhaps quietly, invisibly building for ages, suddenly explodes all around us.
Hubris Spells Our Doom
My own experiences with The Tower over the years have been complex, even contradictory. I was one of many Tarot readers who got a very dramatic Tower warning just before the 9/11 events in 2001.
And I agree with many of my colleagues that we are now living in “Tower Times.” Pluto in Capricorn is only one facet of this, in my opinion, although a massively important one.
But almost without exception, I have seen it speaking to how we must let go of the fortresses we have built to shield ourselves from some disagreeable part of reality.
Brick by brick, we insulate ourselves: our gated communities; our obsessions with celebrity, acquisition, and socioeconomic class; the exclusive cliques and clubs which so easily morph into Us vs. Them.
The Tower visits when we become toxic with the myth of our superior separateness — our wealth; our privilege; our country; our religion. All wrapped up in our inflated, distorted pride.
We tell ourselves we and only we are the chosen ones. We create myths about how our nation is especially favored by God(s). We rationalize exploitation of others, of the Earth’s resources, and turn a blind eye to our personal and cultural addictions. We even begin to believe that our Gods are the only true ones.
It is so easy for humans, as needful as we are for security, to close our eyes to the blinding truth of All That Is. But hubris invites the lightning strike.
If we refuse to let go of the fears, attitudes, habits, and relationships that thwart our growth (again, The Devil card), the Universe will make us do so. If we will not get ourselves unstuck, we will get pushed. Perhaps pushed very hard indeed.
Clean Your House of Life
This week, look carefully at your life and your priorities. What needs to go? What have you been holding onto for too long? What in your world has become so rancid that it is now dangerous to perpetuate its presence? What wounds need to be lanced before they can be healed?
Be prepared for an important, fond illusion to be suddenly shattered. Be ready, at the very least, for sudden, important change.
Literal upheavals, such as last week’s historic earthquake in Mexico, the vast fires across North America, and the unprecedented landfall of two major U.S. hurricanes in one season, can be other unpleasant signals of Tower times.
Yet, perhaps some of the six million people who fled the state of Florida, or the 30,000 displaced during Hurricane Harvey will recognize that the desperate refugees of Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, northern Africa, Kosovo, and other crumbling nations around the world are their brothers and sisters.
Because the bottom line message of The Tower is that if we refuse to open our hearts, the Divine will break them open for us.
For as you can see, even as the lightning strikes the Tower’s crown of worldly power, and the fires burn, the yods indicate that this downfall comes by the command of Divine Love. This act of destruction is also an act of creation.
Change is coming. If we are not willing to change willingly and gently, we will change painfully or dramatically. Yet we can trust that these changes are exactly what the Universal Giver of Good knows we need.
They offer liberation, and, potentially, our saving Grace.