The Tower: The Most Intimidating Tarot Card

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino  | 
tower tarot card
Some people hate to draw the Tower card as it seems to foretell danger. ekosuwandono/Shutterstock

So, you've got your first tarot deck in hand, and you've drawn your first card. It's (sharp inhale) the Tower.

The Tower tarot card — similar to the Death card — can strike fear into the hearts of many, but it's important to have the full context (and perspective) of the meaning behind these spiritual guideposts. The truth of it? You're not necessarily facing chaos, destruction, fire and brimstone, but there's still an important lesson to deal with.


What Is the Tower Card?

In most Italian decks (tarot cards were invented in Italy in the 1400s), the Tower card depicts a scene of disaster: a burning building struck by a lightning bolt against a dark night sky; or a person (or two people) falling from the building, with fire billowing from the windows. Some depictions include a flash of lightning striking a tree.

The Tower is part of the Major Arcana, sometimes called the "trump cards," which represent the largest archetypal themes in life. Of the 78 tarot cards, there are 22 in the Major Arcana, including the Tower, which is No. 16 in the deck.


The Tower Tarot Card Meanings

There are a few key themes for this particular card in your tarot deck:

  • sudden change
  • loss
  • endings
  • upheaval
  • transformation
  • obstacles
  • awakening

"The Tower [the building itself] represents our sense of safety, stability and goals, and the lightning bolt represents the catalyst of change — think new insight, a sudden firing, marriage or divorce," says Tirrell Cherry, tarot reader and expert at Smudge Wellness. "These are life-altering moments in time that create a new normal."


This card can appear when we least expect it and come as a bit of a shock — often indicating inevitable future loss. "Because this tends to happen without our consent, there can be a sense of fear and unpleasantness," says Cherry. "But similar to the Death card, the Tower is clearing away what no longer serves you so that you can rebuild something sturdier and more aligned. So, with some mindfulness, you may be able to get through this time without too much turmoil or inner conflict."

In this case, mindfulness may be your key to averting disaster and instead putting yourself on a transformative spiritual path.


What Happens If You Draw the Tower?

tower tarot card
Although the Tower card can spell danger, it can also be a warning as a catalyst for change. n_defender/Shutterstock

What can you expect if you draw the Tower card? The Tower experience isn't always a sign of disaster and stressful situations, but it can indicate that old ways — including things that aren't good for you in the long run — have come to an expiration. These old ways are coming to a point of closure and will soon be things of the past. This means job loss, changes to your love life, money changes, or upheaval to your living situation could all be on the table.

"The Tower card shows up in a reading as a preemptive warning that massive change or transformation is on the way," says Cherry. "You should expect the unexpected, it is inevitably going to happen and any attempts at trying to evade [this change] will only make the experience more chaotic than it needs to be." In other words, resisting change will probably backfire.


Some look at this as divine intervention. If you've been stuck in something that isn't serving you, the Tower is an indicator that a catalyst for change is here to shake things up. Change can be hard, scary, bittersweet and even painful, but it can also be for the best. Consider this: Birth is a painful process (a sudden change) in which all parties are screaming, but it also leads to a beautiful new life.

The Tower's Power of Transformation

"You'll hear people reference 'a tower moment,' which tends to explain the sudden reality shift they're going through," says Cherry.

And whether or not you've ever seen a tarot deck in your life, many of us have experienced this exact scenario. "Just when you think you're safe or finally get comfortable, suddenly you're thrust from the solid structure of the Tower and into a void of the unknown," he says.


Perhaps your belief system is up for review; something could happen that challenges your beliefs in order to help you make personal progress and set you on a path to move forward. "Ultimately, you will find yourself smarter, stronger and more self-aware after a tower moment," says Cherry. "Trust that you are being gifted with a new perspective from a life you didn't know was possible."

What a Reversed Tower Card Means

The Tower tarot card meanings change based on the position in which the card was drawn. The Tower reversed, for example, has a near opposite meaning from the Tower drawn upright.

Oracular astrologer and tarot reader Shannon Aganza, creator of MoonGathering Courses, says her interpretation when she sees the Tower in reverse is simple: "Crisis averted!"


Whereas the upright Tower's change is usually due to external changes, the Tower reversed typically points to an internal transformation. Think: stepping into your power, having a spiritual awakening, discovering your purpose after feeling lost for an extended period.

"This could indicate a coming dramatic change or shift that's in our environment; it's not directly happening to us, but within our environment or to someone close to us, and we're being called to hold space for someone else going through it!" says Aganza.

The reversed card position may also indicate that you've been avoiding necessary change. Have you been avoiding something uncomfortable despite knowing that uncomfortable thing will help you get to a better place?

Perhaps you have health problems and know you need to eat better and move your body, but you'd rather sit in the comfort of your living room, enjoying your favorite snacks. No judgment here, but the Tower could be an indication that you are in need of a fresh start, new habits and the ability to push through the discomfort of diet and exercise to experience true transformation.

Similarly, your love life could be up for review; you may know that you're in a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship, but the prospect of a breakup or divorce is too uncomfortable. In this case, the reversed Tower card could be a sign that you need to be brave and make a change.

It can also be an indication of healing. "We could be unpacking a destabilizing event that already happened," she says (think: tower moment). "It's also likely to show up after a series of traumatic events or one isolated event that really got into our nervous system. In a bit of a PTSD-like model, we respond to a change with fear; the memory of the old wound is still living in our nervous system. However, with a reversed Tower, it's repair time! You now know we're safe and it's time to heal."


Frequently Asked Questions

How does the context of a tarot reading affect the interpretation of the Tower card?
Depending on the surrounding cards and the specific question or situation addressed in the reading, the Tower can symbolize not only upheaval and destruction but also the necessity of breaking down outdated structures to make way for new growth.
Can the Tower card ever symbolize positive change or outcomes?
Yes, the Tower card can symbolize positive change or outcomes, despite its fearsome reputation. It often represents the necessary destruction of an unstable foundation to allow for the building of something stronger and more enduring. In this sense, the Tower can indicate liberation from limiting circumstances, sudden insights leading to transformation, or the end of delusions, all of which can pave the way for a more authentic and fulfilling path forward.