History and Iconography
In the earliest known list of the Trumps (Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis), this card is titled La Sagitta (The Arrow), probably referring to the lightning that is shown striking the tower. In a poem written around 1550 by Giulio Bertoni, it is referred to as La Casa del Diavolo (The House of the Devil), and it is later also called Il Fuoco (Fire).
In the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, this card is the second Trump that hasn’t been preserved (the other is The Devil). Since none of the other Visconti decks show a trace of the card either, some believe that it was never part of these decks to begin with.
The Rosenwald Sheet depicts a large building that is being destroyed by the fire of a celestial body. Flames leap from the crenellations of the tower, and a large entrance gate can be seen. The image especially brings to mind the biblical story of the destruction of the Tower of Babel. Only part of the card is preserved on the Cary Sheet: a tall tower stands in the center of the image, and there is round debris in the sky. Possibly the head of a cow or ox can be seen near the bottom.
In the 17th-century Jacques Vieville Tarot, the card is called La Foudre (Lightning). It again portrays fire coming down to earth from a celestial body with debris in the sky, but this time, instead of a tower, a man (a shepherd?) is shown standing close to a tree with his cattle.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the card is titled La Maison Dieu, literally meaning The House (of) God. It shows a tower that stands erect in a hilly landscape and is bursting open: the top (which has the shape of a crown) is blown away by tongues of fire from heaven, and the sky is filled with brightly colored debris. Two men are falling from the building, smiling slightly as if they are kind of glad to be back outside.
The Tower in the Waite-Smith Tarot, however, is a very dark card and has a pitch-black background, like The Devil. A large flash of lightning (in the shape of an arrow) strikes a narrow tower and blasts off its crowned top. A cloaked man and a crowned woman fall from the burning building, terrified, screaming and surrounded by flames or yods (twenty-two in total).
Suggested Divinatory Meanings
The Tower in its best sense indicates sudden changes, flashes of insight and a release of tension (which could be taken quite literally because of its phallic connotations). Nevertheless, in the Waite-Smith Tarot and many other decks, the card is interpreted more gloomily and shows chaotic situations, disillusionment, emotional breakdowns and the tearing down of what you once believed in.
These are not accepted outside of those who follow such attributions
Golden Dawn oriented (and derivatives)
Numeral : XVI; 16
In other languages
- Dutch: Toren
- French: La Maison Dieu
- German: Der Turm
- Hungarian: Torony
- Italian: La Torre, Il Fulmine
- Portuguese: A Torre, A Casa de Deus
- Spanish: La Casa de Dios