Basic Card Symbols
A tower on a rocky outcrop, a powerful bolt of lightning, one or two figures falling from the tower, sometimes waves crashing below.
Basic Tarot Story
As the Fool leaves the throne of the Goat God, he comes upon a Tower, fantastic, magnificent, and familiar. In fact, The Fool, himself, helped build this Tower back when the most important thing to him was making his mark on the world and proving himself better than other men. Inside the Tower, at the top, arrogant men still live, convinced of their rightness.
Seeing the Tower again, the Fool feels as if lightning has just flashed across his mind; he thought he'd left that old self behind when he started on this spiritual journey. But he realizes now that he hasn't. He's been seeing himself, like the Tower, like the men inside, as alone and singular and superior, when in fact, he is no such thing.
So captured is he by the shock of this insight, that he opens his mouth and releases a SHOUT! And to his astonishment and terror, a bolt of actual lightning slashes down from the heavens striking the Tower and sending its residents leaping out into the waters below.
In a moment, it is over. The Tower is rubble, only rocks remaining. Stunned and shaken to the core, the Fool experiences profound fear and disbelief. But also, a strange clarity of vision, as if his inner eye has finally opened. He tore down his resistance to change and sacrifice (Hanged man), then came to terms with Death (Death); he learned about moderation and synthesis (Temperance) and about power (The Devil). But here and now, he has done what was hardest: he destroyed the lies of his life. What's left are the foundations of truth. On this he can rebuild himself.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Mars as its ruling planet, the Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. This is a card about anything we believe to be true, but later learn is false. This realization usually comes as a shock, hence, the violent image. It is, quite simply, that moment in any story where someone finds out a shocking truth, one that shatters their perceptions and makes them reassess their beliefs.
When the Querent gets this card, they can expect to be shaken up, blinded by a revelation. It sometimes takes a very bright flash of light to reveal a truth that was so well hidden. And it sometimes takes an earthquake to bring down beliefs that were so cleverly constructed. What's most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, allows us to find out what is true and reliable. What will stand rather than fall apart.
The Tower is one of the clearest cards when it comes to meaning. False structures, false institutions, false beliefs are going to come (or have already come) tumbling down, suddenly, violently and all at once. This sort of prediction can scare anyone, especially as the one you're reading for likely does not know that something is false. Not yet. To the contrary, they probably believe that their lover is being faithful, that their religious beliefs are true and right, that there are no problems in their family structure, that everything is fine at work...oh, and that they're fine. Just fine, really.
Alas, they're about to get a very rude awakening. Shaken up, torn down, blown asunder. And all a reader can really do to soften the blow is assure the querent that it is for the best. Nothing built on a lie, on falsehoods, can remain standing for long. Better for it to come down so that it can be rebuilt on truth-or not rebuilt at all, if that's what seems best. This rude awakening is not going to be pleasant or painless or easy, but it will be for the best in the end.
Onto the next Tarot card, the Star...
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See examples of different Tower cards here.