Understand Tarot Artwork: The Tower

The Tower Tarot Cards

One of the first and immediate ways that we read a tarot card is through the artwork. To understand tarot artwork is to go beyond the simple keyword meanings; this is a major aid to the intuitive process and it can vary greatly across decks as artists put their own interpretations on the archetypal meanings and the readers then interpret those images.

As 2017 winds down to a close, I was thinking back and considering the year in terms of the tarot. This was a year of larger and unexpected changes for me and my family, and I was drawn to The Tower card. Across most decks, this card tends to be thematically very similar: lightning or flames strike a tower and as it collapses human figures are falling to the ground. It can signify rapid and unexpected change, often leading to calamity. However, my year, as I look back on it, was probably much less calamitous than it may have felt at times. Still, I’m sticking with The Tower as a theme for 2017, mostly because of one particular artwork interpretation.

Slow Holler’s The Storm

The Storm Slow HollerIn the Slow Holler tarot deck, The Tower has been renamed The Storm and this is a perfect variation of this card. You get a sense of the fire, action, and turmoil. And you get a sense of, maybe, some sort of structure underneath. I don’t feel like this card is about the moment of change, though. This card is focusing on one of two things (or both?): the storm that caused the change, or the eruption of tower into a new state.

If we want to understand tarot artwork as a path towards understanding the cards themselves, this is a perfect case. In a time of dramatic change, is it the fact of change or the cause and result of change that really matters?

If you’re spending time with the tarot as a tool for mindfulness, you can argue that the cause and result of change is the most important aspect of The Tower. The art here shows both. The wide red swaths of color show the the storm itself and therefore The Tower has collapsed. Because the storm is abstract the reader can interpret the cause in the way the card relates to others in the spread. More importantly, however, is the structure of black shapes behind the storm. The interior of The Tower cracks open in the storm and its contents, once hidden, are on display.

Isn’t that the greatest fear of sudden and unexpected change? The unprepared internal life lays bare and open to the world. Those unstructured shapes that weren’t ready for presentation are now exposed.

Understand Tarot Artwork

Thinking of The Tower in these terms can be very beneficial to a reading. Don’t focus on the fact that change happens, focus on why it happens and what the result is. Read the other cards for context and understand (and work with) The Tower to create positive change.

Once I grasped this card, I started to understand that this entire deck seemed to circle around it. To me, the Slow Holler tarot deck is a deck of stormy change, awakening, and display of the interior self. So, there doesn’t need to be a fear of one of the supposedly “bad” tarot cards, like The Tower. If you understand it, you can harness its reading.

The cards used in this post are, in the top image from left to right, from the Linestrider, Deviant Moon, Slow Holler, Tarot Art Nouveau, and Tarot of the Silicon Dawn tarot decks. Also, The Storm in the second image is from the Slow Holler tarot deck.