A shudder in the loins engenders there the broken wall, the burning roof and tower and Agamemnon dead. --William Butler Yeats
Over at The Hermitage Tom Tadfor Little has written up a really good page on the History of the Tower Card and he brings up a very interesting point. Apparently none of the early expensively made decks, those commissioned by people with the money to do so, come down to us with a Devil card intact and few with the Tower. While the church objected to the depictions of the Pope and Papesse cards of the tarot, it appears the nobility wasn’t too comfy with depictions of vice, greed, and the destruction of castles. Apparently tarot has always had a knack for making everyone fidget in their seats in one way or another.
The main thing about the Tower is it signals the disruption and even destruction of things that you thought were solid. The more comfortable we become in our “castles,” the more complacent we become, the less connected we are from others and from what is really important in our lives. We begin to believe the illusions of safety and security that we’ve built and start taking some very valuable things for granted. A Tower moment, though rarely welcome, unless it’s happening to someone you dislike very much, brings into sharp and sudden focus those things we thought indestructible and safe, and subsequently presumed too much upon.
On September 11, 2001, the people of the United States, who had not seen external aggression in their own land since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, watched helplessly as two towers in New York were intentionally attacked, exploded, and crumbled to the ground. The World Trade Center had been built specifically to resist the occasional wayward airplane from La Guardia, an earthquake, and hurricane-force winds. It symbolized capitalism and with it the life we know and understand: work, trade, making money, investing, an icon that all those living here believed to be permanent. The image of The Tower in the Haindl deck, first published in the 1980's, many years before the World Trade Center destruction, is eerie in its similar depiction of such an event. While the aftershocks of the disaster were many, a prevailing theme seemed to echo around the country brought about by the victims’ and survivors’ last moment calls on cell phones to their friends and families to say, “I love you.” For a long time afterwards we found ourselves hesitating on doorsteps and at the ends of phone calls just to say, “Hey…I love you.” Therein lies the effect of The Tower. It causes us to reflect on and appreciate more the things, the people, the relationships and the mundane daily blessings we often take for granted.
Most often The Tower isn’t nearly so devastating as 9/11, obviously. However, no matter how seemingly small the event may be, it serves the purpose of shaking loose that which has been built on a false sense of security. While no one should say the event itself was a “blessing,” not even a “blessing in disguise,” because it really bugs me when people try to pretty up nasty events and experiences with that kind of talk, what emerges in the aftermath is a deeper sense of what is truly important to you and how you’ve been missing out due to your own preoccupation with other, less important things. As a result, priorities, the foundation of our lives, are shifted, as we set to work building yet another tower, but…lesson learned. Well, we can hope, right?