The Tower is the 16th Major Arcana tarot card and represents sudden changes, revelations, and epiphanies. For all its fiery destruction, The Tower comes as a necessary clearing out of anything that is not metaphorically built on a solid foundation. It symbolizes the necessity of breaking down old forms and structuresmentally, emotionally, or physically—in order to make way for the new to emerge.

The Tower Tarot Card Upright and Reversed Keywords
The Tower tarot card upright and reversed keywords.

The Tower is associated with the element of Fire, the zodiac signs of Scorpio and Aries, and the planet Mars, which represents the principle of desire in action. Whether constructive or destructive, Mars symbolizes our hunger, passion, and motivation. It can be thought of as both the inner spark that illuminates our desires, as well as the uncontrolled forest fire that consumes everything in its path.

In numerology, The Tower’s number 16 can be reduced to 7 (1+6). Seven is associated with the quest for knowledge and a search for deeper meaning. People with Life Path Number 7 are often motivated by a desire to uncover the truth, which speaks to The Tower’s representation of old belief systems crumbling to make way for new revelations and spiritual awakenings.

Similar to the Death card, The Tower embodies transformation. When The Tower appears in a tarot card pairing with either The High Priestess or Temperance cards, it may indicate a need to pause and reflect before committing to anything transformative.

The Tower Keywords

Upright keywords

Reversed keywords

sudden change, revelations, destruction, liberation, lessons in humility

untenable situations, resistance to change, a period of rebuilding following collapse

Description of The Tower Tarot Card

Lightning strikes a fortress-like tower, sending its inhabitants tumbling out of the blazing windows and down toward the ground below. In the classic Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, the lightning bolt represents the divine intervention that illuminates the truth from above. The crown, which can be thought of as the ego, has been knocked off the top, leaving the fortress a smoldering inferno. Symbolically, this speaks of a sudden insight or event which topples a formerly glorified ideal or aspect of self.

Some tarot decks, such as the Belgian Tarot, instead refer to this card as The Lightning—depicting a bolt of lightning striking a Tree of Life, rather than a tower.

The free-falling beings seem unprepared for this catastrophe, and indeed, the Tower can speak to unforeseen or sudden changes. But just like the chances of being struck by lightning, there is often a sense that the divine is at work in facilitating such improbable events. The lightning strike liberates them from the illusion of safety afforded by the fortress, forcing them to adapt to change.

In Medieval Italian city-states (where many of the oldest tarot decks originate from), wealthy areas contained forests of towers, which represented the status of the inhabitants. In this way, The Tower speaks to the impermanent nature of status and wealth and the danger of building your self-concept on a foundation that is subject to such vast fluctuations of fate.

The Tower Upright Meaning

The Tower represents sudden changes that rock the foundation of your life emotionally, physically, or spiritually. These changes may feel out of your control, but eventually, they can liberate you from an unsustainable situation and bring you closer to what is in your highest good.

These changes can catalyze revelations, epiphanies, and new insights, shifting how you see the world. Whatever has become calcified is now ready to be vaporized and brought down to its bare foundations. These shifts may feel jarring or even shocking, but they often come as a necessary step in the process of bringing you closer to your true nature.

If we spend too much time in our own Towers, we may become rigid, defensive, and inflexible. The act of having our Tower struck by lightning may be the very thing we need to become liberated from our hubris or our self-imposed isolation. If we can learn to withstand the feeling of temporarily having our security shaken, we can emerge stronger than before.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In the upright position of a tarot reading, The Tower suggests major transformations within a relationship and the breakdowns which can lead to breakthroughs. If there are significant conflicts or challenges, this card is a reminder that the only way out is by facing them and yourself with unflinching honesty.

This card can represent bringing a guarded truth to light and suggests that accepting new perspectives or revelations can be healing for the relationship. It presents the opportunity to clear out what is emotionally toxic, stagnant, or simply no longer working, and embedded in its medicine is the restorative power of catharsis. If your relationship with your loved one is no longer sustainable, The Tower can point to the healing power of release.

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

An upright Tower card suggests that you are undergoing a profound shift in your work. You may be facing unexpected changes to your position or job, which is showing you how to adapt to evolving circumstances, ride the waves of instability, and release control to the greater forces at play.

This card asks you to examine what is no longer working in your career and to have the courage to face it with honesty. If you have been chasing empty markers of material success, which only serve your ego and not your deeper self, The Tower can appear as a signal that you may have strayed off course. Its intention is to help you see what is not working so that you can reconnect to a more aligned career path.

Love/relationship upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

breakdowns, breakthroughs, addressing what’s no longer working, catharsis

unexpected changes in career, chasing ego success, releasing what is no longer working

The Tower Reversed Meaning

The Tower reversed can indicate that your resistance to the changes that are happening is adding to your stress and that if you can learn the art of surrender, you will lighten your load.  The shifts that are happening are for your greater good, and when this card appears reversed, it can signal that it is safe to let go of whatever you are clinging to.

At times, this card can signify that you’re in denial about the changes you know you need to make. If you’re unwilling to let go of something that you know you must release—emotionally, physically, or psychologically—this card can serve as a reminder that your desire to hold onto these attachments is delaying the natural process of your growth and keeping you stuck.

This card can also indicate that you have recently undergone some transformative shifts and that you are processing what has happened. You may feel a sense of loss as you reflect on what’s recently changed in your life or what you’ve had to let go of. This card can be a signal that the storm is passing and that you will soon emerge into a new chapter of life where you can rebuild what has been lost.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

In the reversed position of a tarot spread, The Tower can indicate that a relationship has become rigid and stuck in a negative pattern and that one or both parties are resisting the call to change. Inner reflection and radical honesty are needed to break out of this cycle.

It can also appear reversed in a love reading when you are emerging from a period of chaotic change within a relationship and are now assessing how to rebuild. This may be especially true when The Tower shows up in a tarot card pairing with The Lovers. You have seen through your former illusions about the relationship, yourself, your love life, or your partner and are ready to build a stronger relationship founded on honesty and clarity.

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

A reversed Tower card can indicate that you are resisting a change in your work or career and that these changes, while difficult to make, are ultimately for your greater benefit. Perhaps you are letting go of old beliefs or old ways of approaching your work, which no longer align with your authentic nature and only serve to uphold the ideals of the ego.

This card can also appear reversed when you are in a period of rebuilding after facing a job loss or a change within your workplace or career. If you’ve left a job or a project, it can indicate that you are rebuilding your work life on a stronger foundation, one that can support your growth and success into the future.

Love/relationship reversed keywords

Money/career reversed keywords

relationship ruts, stuck in negative patterns, need for radical honesty, rebuilding foundations

resisting career shifts, releasing old ideals, rebuilding after loss