Working With the Scary Tarot Cards: The Tower


It’s an intense image: flames shooting out of a crumbling tower, people leaping from the top and sides, tormented faces in the foreground. In my traditional deck, the Tower card certainly doesn’t inspire feelings of ease or equanimity. And traditional meanings of this card—destruction, chaos, suffering—terrify my clients when this card shows up in a reading.

Sometimes the Tower will show us that a big change is coming, and it is likely to have some challenging components. A proactive, positive approach is key to working successfully with this card.

The Tower as a Card of Personal Power

Though we often think of disaster happening to us, in fact, many of our worst life experiences are at least somewhat of our own making. Drawing the Tower in a reading can often indicate we are going to get the opportunity to make empowered changes.

Lilith came to me in the midst of some turbulent mid-life transitions. She was separated from her husband and dating a man who was also in a relationship transition. At the same time she was trying to help him raise his young children, she was also dealing with her aging mother. Her whole life was chaos. Her real question for the cards, however, was whether or not she should take a job offer that would create even more change by requiring her to move.

The Tower showed up when we looked at the energy of the new job.

“Oh no! I can’t have more chaos. I won’t take the job. I was silly to even think of it.”

“Let’s wait a minute,” I said. “I think, in this case, the card is inviting you to create your own exit strategy before your life completely implodes.”

We were doing the Life Transition spread, and the Tower had appeared in the position of what she needed to let go of. As we worked through the layout together, it became clear that she needed to let go of the chaos in her life. Taking the new job would allow her some space, more money, and give her a boost of confidence. She went for it and reported back a few months later.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Lilith said. “I have more money to assist my mom, yet I’m not right there where she can call me every five minutes. I realized I didn’t want to help my boyfriend raise his kids, and I needed space from everything to determine the course of my marriage. Making that choice helped me feel that I got my power back from all those people.”

The Tower as a Card of Cleansing

As much as we hate change, it’s the only sure thing in life. The more we resist it, the worse it is. Drawing the Tower often gives us the heads up that big change is coming. Yet, we don’t have to choose to fall into resistance and chaos. In my abstract deck, the Tower is shown as a vibrant, powerful swirl of energy. A figure is emerging from the top of the spiral like a phoenix from the flames. It’s a lovely image—with reds and yellows at the bottom and blue and silver at the top—and shows there is great beauty in transition.

Janey had a reading about her general life direction. She was 30 and had made it through her Saturn return uneventfully.

“I feel kind of gypped,” she said. “I thought I was supposed to have all these challenges and breakthroughs!”

The Tower showed up in the Celtic Cross spread in the “near future” position. Though she seemed to want change, the card made her nervous. I related it back to the card that represented her energy as the core of the situation. This was the Eight of Swords.

“I think your Saturn return didn’t “happen” because you didn’t let it,” I told her. “I think you’ve had some blinders on, but if you are ready after all, then in the next few weeks you will have the opportunity to make big changes.”

She went away promising to let me know what happened. Sure enough, a month later, she called, excited.

“It’s been rough, for sure,” she said. “I got laid off my job, my roommate is kicking me out, and I’ve realized that I want a completely different life! It’s like the Universe just sent a cleansing wave through my life and took out everything that wasn’t working. I’ve applied to join the Peace Corps! I’m so excited!”

Janey had the right attitude toward the events in her life. The Tower had indeed represented a cleansing wave, one that, subconsciously, Janey had been afraid of. When it didn’t happen during her Saturn return, she found that her desire for change was greater than the fear. She’s currently halfway through her Peace Corps stint in Africa and loving it.

The Tower is a powerful card, and it is one we must pay attention to when it shows up in a reading. But don’t let fear throw you into resistance.  This card can be a signal that it’s time to change, and if you leave the building on time, you won’t have to jump from the top once it’s on fire.

Have you been drawing the Tower in your readings? Do you want more clarity on how to accept and navigate change gracefully? Advisors on Keen are standing by to help you through even the most complex of transitions.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top