Tarot with Holly: What You Need to Know About the Tower

by Holly on November 30

tarot spreadIn this series, I’ll be taking you on a journey of the tarot and the symbolism of the 78 cards in the Rider-Waite deck. Not only is this my favourite deck of tarot cards (though I’m also partial to the Motherpeace Tarot deck because the cards are round, extraordinarily pretty, and feminist-inspired), but it’s also probably the most popular of all tarot decks. Chances are if you’ve had a reading it was using Rider-Waite, and so you’ll be familiar with some of the cards I’ll be talking about. I’m not a master reader and as with anything woo-woo, I take it all with a grain of salt. What I love about tarot other than the beauty of the cards is the richness of the psychological symbolism they contain. In this column, I use tarot as a tool for self-exploration and a springboard for lessons we can learn about life in general. I might also sneak some astrology in there, too, because it is fascinating and too often misunderstood.

So without any further ado, I introduce you to The Tower. Dun-dun-dun! I’m not going to lie; the appearance of the tower in a reading makes me nervous. It’s a card about life lessons, about destruction and often times about pain. The tower is a reminder that if there is one thing in life we can count on other than the certainty of death, it’s the certainty of change, and I mean the kind of change that sucker-punches you with its power. Now, that might sound ominous, but bear with me through this; it’s not all bad news, necessarily.

Traditionally considered one of the malefic cards, the tower symbolises the obliteration of something we have taken for granted as solid or constant, whether it is a relationship, our physical environment, or our belief system. Many times it manifests as unexpected or unwanted change that threatens the foundation of our lives in some way. It says, “see this thing you think you know to be real and true, let’s test out just how real and true it is.”
The Tower-tarot card

On the pictorial level, the test is represented as sudden and catastrophic. A single bolt of lightning bursts from the heavens striking the tower wall, sending two tower-dwellers to earth. We can assume these poor souls did not see the violence coming; they relied, perhaps blindly, on what they had built to endure the elements and the test of time.

Oh but how wrong they were.

If you’re anything like me and our unfortunate tower-dwelling friends, tower-moments are not exactly something to jump for joy about. I would much rather be surrounded by lots of cups and maybe some wands for good creative measure.

But alas, life is not just ponies and popcorn. Let’s be real – shit can get heavy. We get dumped by our significant others, betrayed by friends, lose our jobs, lose our homes, and have medical emergencies. People experience situations that are in some way or other life and/or belief-altering. This is what tower-moments are all about.

I’d say just about every time I’ve encountered the Tower (usually leading up to or quickly following a heart-break); I’ve been resisting making or accepting a change in my life, sometimes fiercely. I’m more creature of habit than not. I’m the kind of person that gets comfortable in my jobs – thankfully, I’ve been blessed in this department. The same applies to my relationships. I’m loyal as a lion and when I make an emotional connection with a person, or build or an attachment over time, I’m not one to pack it in over nothing. I lived in the same house I was raised in until I was 20 and when I did move, I moved three blocks down. I find change, especially change that is not of my choosing or without warning or preparation disconcerting, to say the least. I don’t like having the rug pulled out from beneath me, but then, who does?

It’s natural to cling to and long for what is familiar, and some degree of that is healthy and okay. This is even truer when the thing involves the core of who we are or what we know. It’s called grief and is normal for any person who possesses a heart.


In some cases, it is our own egos and ways of thinking that we are held up in. Sallie Nichols puts it poetically:, “[we become imprisoned] in ideological towers of our own making; for the tower can symbolise any mental construct, be it political, philosophical, theological or psychological, which we humans build brick by brick, out of words and ideas… These are useful as long as we allow room for a little remodeling from time to time. But when we build a rigid system of any kind and crown its king, then we become its prisoners.”

We live in a perpetual state of flux and uncertainty and we cling to the status quo because of this fact. The tower, however, tells us that something we have been holding onto is no longer feasible and continuing to hold on will only cause greater chaos and distress. It reminds us that suffering is in the resistance to change, and not of change itself. If we can let go of the reigns a bit and trust that things will work out as they are meant to, the process becomes a hell of a lot less painful. It also allows us to begin exploring possibilities and opportunities that await us when the storm has passed.

I’ve gotten better over time at accepting change – embracing it, even – though it’s not always easy or initially wanted. I’ve discovered a paradoxical beauty in change, and it lies in the cliché’s we’ve all heard before: when one door closes, another opens; for a thing to be reborn, it must first die; the healing of wounds builds scar tissue over time; to wipe the slate clean.

It’s in this way that change can be devastating, other times exhilarating, sometimes both. It can be disappointment and promise at once. Promise itself can be frightening because its actualisation is to-be-known. It is to leap and [trust that] the net will appear.

These days, whenever change clubs me over the head, I do my best to hold steady and take stock. If there are things I can do make the transition easier, I do them. If it is of my doing or choosing, I suck it up and move on. And if it is the universe having her way with me, I lean in and trust she’s got my back.

If the tower shows up in your life, take solace in knowing that what is solid will endure. If something you think you want is no longer working for you, ask yourself if you have been turning a blind eye to this fact all along. And, whatever does happen, know that a star of hope is just out of view.

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Holly is a social worker, writer and social justice advocate. She became interested in personal development in her early 20s when she stumbled across a web forum where she met members of the Spiraling Up crew. Holly is interested in psychology, spirituality and astrology. She currently resides in Victoria, Australia where she works full-time as a support worker and plays with spoken word and written poetry.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail November 30, 2015 at 11:20 am

I loved reading this Holly! Excellent post – I look forward to more in this series!


Holly December 2, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Glad you enjoyed it, Gail! 🙂


Lorraine Menza November 30, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Change is something that can help us grow; without change, life will become mundane and success does not occur!


Holly December 2, 2015 at 4:14 pm

True that.


Sims November 30, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Great post Holly! I’m not into tarot or astrology, but the message in your writing still resonates with me a lot. I’m like you in some ways, I like comfort and not great at change (I too like staying in the one place and not moving around too much) and yet doing these things that go out of our comfort zone is the very thing that can lead t more growth.


Holly December 2, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Thanks, Sims. The ideas in this column are intended to resonate with everyone, even those who aren’t tarot enthusiasts. Glad it do so for you.


Sue Rawlinson November 30, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Thank you, Holly. A very interesting and thoughtful reflection on change. I look forward to reading more from you of how the tarot can facilitate insight and growth.


Holly December 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Thank you! 🙂


Diane Purdy November 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Great Post Sandra and learnt so much more than just what the card is about… thanks


Danielle K Howell December 3, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Great post Holly! I have always been interested in Tarot Card readings. I have definitely learned to deal with change especially recently. Good stuff thanks!


Jose Sievert December 13, 2015 at 3:04 am

Very interesting post. So much knowledge and information and definitely a great comparison to our lives. Thanks for sharing!


Carol Makowski December 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Thoroughly enjoy your writing style, not to mention your message.

Two things really popped out for me — It’s not change, but resistance to change that causes us difficulty. And, change can be powerful and really slam us at the time. Depending on our reaction, however, greater things can come of change.

Recently, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under me because of an unexpected change. And this led to my having to scramble to compensate in some fashion. Such emotions came out — the usual anger and fear, and then such a sadness that led to tears. And then a new light dawned. Something else was found once I stopped trying to control the situation and figure it out. My belief now is that this is going to be even better than what I had. We’ll see…..

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post for several reasons. Thank you, Holly.


Stephanie D'Laroy February 5, 2016 at 4:42 am

Great post Holly! I’m quite interested in tarot & astrology although I don’t know much about it but thanks for sharing and the message you provide here 🙂


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