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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bang, boom! The Tower

My first thought on seeing this card is that in the entire 78-card deck, this is the only one in the Haindl Tarot with an image of a modern structure. It's the Tower card (Haindl Tarot, Lotos 2002). To confirm that, I did a quick check. There are only seven cards in the deck that show any sort of man-made structure at all, one shows standing stones and a barrow, and the other five details of castle or abbey ruins. I mean, really ruined, like you have to look twice to realize they might once have been usable structures. (For the curious, they are: 2 of Wands, 2 of Swords, 3 of Wands, 8 of Stones and 10 of Swords).

So in a deck that focuses on the earthiest aspects of the natural world - there is precious little green, and hardly any blue sky in this deck, mostly soil and rock - it is very telling that the card which symbolizes destruction is our temple to modern civilization and the might of man, glass and steel towers that reach with arrogance and hubris toward heaven -- the skyscraper.

You will notice that the card contains four additional bits of information: a Hebrew letter, a rune, and a planetary symbol. There's also a tiny arabic numeral, which is the 'mispar' or 'primordial number' associated with the Hebrew letter. For the Tower, the Hebrew letter is Peh, or 'Mouth', and its number is 80. The rune is Irr, 'to err' or 'to wrong', and the planet is Mars, the god of war, and an extremely masculine energy (the symbol is also used to stand for the male). I can't say I know much (yet) about the numerical value of Hebrew letters, but I certainly can see significance in the other three associations with the Tower. We see in the card image an immense, round skyscraper, struck from the outside, with debris including flags of the world flying out from it. The Tower is so huge we can only see a bit of it, we can't see the foundation or the top. There is a glimmer of hope in the card in the form of a colorful sunrise on the horizon at the bottom of the card. Peh is path 27 on the Tree of Life, the path of war.

The card reminds us of the story of the Tower of Babel from the Bible, where men decide to build a tower to heaven. God is angered by their presumption and strikes the tower, and also confuses their language (up until that point, all of mankind had shared a language), to prevent their working together to do something so stupid again. So in the card we have the struck tower, the Hebrew letter Peh which reminds us of the word (the mouth from out of which can spew both wisdom and folly), the rune of Irr to remind us how man's arrogance leads him to err. The tower itself is an immense phallic symbol, reflected in the Mars symbol, and representing the war-like spirit of competition, one-upmanship, posturing and attempts to impress and intimidate that man engages in.

A skyscraper is such an unnatural thing. It defies all reason. I for one find them terrifying. My hubster likes to go to a website that features the tallest skyscrapers in the world, and he tries to show me pictures of them, but they actually make me feel physically sick, particularly the latest ones that actually go up into the clouds and a photo that takes in the whole thing top to bottom also seems to catch the actual curvature of the earth. *Shiver*

Rachel Pollack points out that a people who seek harmony with nature tend to build structures that lie close to the ground, sometimes curved or round, a womanly shape. Whereas the symbols of power and aggression, skyscrapers and missiles, are phallic. 'For Hermann Haindl, the Tower symbolizes an arrogant technology that constantly desires more and bigger monuments to its conquest of nature. Haindl sees skyscrapers as the desire of our civilization to divorce itself from nature, pretend that we exist apart from the plants and animals that feed us.' Pollack also notes that the opening caused by the explosion reveals that inside the Tower there is darkness. 'In many skycrapers, people cannot open the windows...in the Tower, we see the dangers of not recognizing the darkness inside us. Technology gives us more and more power; we often lack the self-knowledge to use it wisely' (Haindl Tarot: Major Arcana, Pollack).

So then, like in most decks, the Tower represents the monuments we build to ourselves, the structures that make us feel important or protected. But we can't put our faith in those structures, because they will fall. It has to happen. That is the way life is. The Haindl Tarot, with its strong environmental messages running throughout, adds new layers of meaning involving the arrogance of mankind's so-called dominion over nature and each other. This can easily be applied to the individual's so-called dominion over himself and the circumstances of his life. It's all a self-deception, a big pile that can be toppled at any time. And will be.

BUT...in tarot, though the destruction of our Towers is shocking and upsetting, it's also a good thing. One of those 'opportunities for growth,' a phrase that we all groan and roll our eyes at when we hear, because we know what that means. It ain't no papercut. It's a serious ouchie. Like a what-the-hell-is-this-what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this-why-does-god-hate-me type thing. Still, that Tower stands between us and connection, between us and a genuine experience of the universe, between us and our personal truth. So bang, boom, crumble; sweep up the pieces and move on, because the redemption of the Star comes next.

In an actual reading, the Tower can be any kind of shake up to things you know, or believe. It depends on the reading. Life readings indicate something pretty major, but for a daily draw, this could be anything from an unexpected but irritating change to the television schedule, to a disastrous attempt at cake baking. (The cake baking thing happened to me yesterday. The place smelled of lemons, which was nice, but the bin was full of cake mush, and a bag of white flour which I never should have bought in the first place. I haven't used white flour in eleven years. I should have known it would disgust and upset me with its gummy, cloying properties!)


  1. I really like your explanations of the Tower. It is so true. I must admit I had a laugh at your cake baking tale. It happens to us all. Blessings. Brenda

    1. Thanks, Brenda. :) The cake was a disaster. Blurgh. ;)

  2. Very interesting analysis. I had to comment on this post as I *LOVE* skyscrapers as you know; I find tall towers and structures wonderful to look at, visit and photograph. I think they are generally a thing of beauty in many cases - New York's 1930's Chrysler Building is an obvious example of one they got right!
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Building) The look of the Burj Khalifa (the current tallest building) is striking...but maybe just a bit too tall! The diagrams comparing the height of the buildings here are brill...

    Being a huge "Lord of the Rings" fan (both books and films), it seems clear that the use of 'towers' in the plot signifies the great powers, both good *AND* bad, stomping their power and authority over the natural landscape. Yet the Dark Lord Sauron, who commands the most powerful tower in Mordor (The Dark Tower), is destroyed in the end and the tower collapses and crumbles easily. The Hobbits, being the simplest race and arguably the closest to nature, represent the best of mankind....and they don't go in for towers, just simple structures close to the earth.

    1. Hey, it's the hubster, making an appearance at last! I like your insights about hobbits and evil warlords. Cool!