This has not been my most recent card drawing. Just my observations of the card in general, in relation of my project redesign of the deck using my own iconography.
One of the first cards that comes to mind out of personal experience that I can translate immediately into my own set of available iconography is the Tower XVI. It’s heavy in icons. Full of meanings, interactions and motion, represented by several different and separate figures and symbols.
First of all is the stationary, stoic Tower. It is made of stone, thick walled, and stands tall high above the horizon. It’s being struck suddenly and violently by a bolt of lightning from the sky, which topples the crown set at it’s peak and sets the structure aflame.
It’s denizens are thrown, or even leap, from it’s heights and plummet downwards. They too are surrounded by tongues of flame. Clouds and smoke fill the pitch black sky. Below we can see that the tower rests on a firm but narrow foundation. The ground on which it rests is nowhere in sight, so is the depth to which the hapless figures fall.
The Tower represents the sudden and dramatic, unignorable force of violent change. Not subtle change as Death XIII can represent. It also calls to attention structures being directly challenged: beliefs, ideals, ways of life or even goals. The things we build over time and take security in.
All this, and the chaos that comes with such a direct and savage affront to those structures, seemingly from nowhere, or from nature – the divine. Further, there are consequences implicated. There is a fury of movement in this scene. Billowing clouds. Flickering flames. Flashing lightining. A jostled crown and our victims falling to an uncertain fate.
Now lets rake a closer look. Notice what is not moving. The peak; the foundation of the tower. And the tower itself remains intact. Flames gut it’s insides. And it’s crown is displaced. But the structure itself is quite solid. This indicates that our beliefs though challenged and set ablaze, even toppled or destroyed, may have strength to them yet. Crude as they may be, set on uncertain ground and shrouded in not only uncertainty but utter, pitch darkness. No doubt they are susceptible to attack. Without the illumination of enlightenment, without a firm foundation, how can any belief withstand any crisis? Be it deliberate or divine?
This indicates a clear choice to question your morals and choices. Will you strengthen your resolve or abandon the ruins and build anew? As with Death XIII, this card offers the challenge and implications for change. This is no spring cleaning. Our entire domain has been purged by fire, the era, which is signified by the reigning crown, has been toppled, allowing for a fresh start and a new figurehead. The basic forms and foundations we’ve established are not strong enough. They need reinforcement, detail and definition. Also look at the tower – it’s an isolated, solitary construct, it is the abode of the Hermit IX. It lacks community, openness and exchange. Note the three solitary windows located only at the very top of the structure, burning from inside, no less!
At a point in life the ideals and goals you built up initially become challenged. You have to make a decision to hold on, adapt and renew with strengthened and clarified resolve, or start over from scratch – take shelter in some other established tower… Forgoing your own. In other words, will you take all the elements at your disposal – your Wands (Fire), Swords (Air), Cups (Water) and Pentacles (Earth), and apply them to expanding your solitary tower, building your own house, possibly even city, or will you move them into someone else’s? These elements make up the inner furnishings of your tower, easily mollified and destroyed in flame.
But consider the flame from the alchemical approach. Flame is the great transmuter, the basic tool required for metamorphosing and improving all substances. The scientific approach on the other hand dictates that matter and energy is never destroyed – it only changes form. Golden Cups (Emotions) and Coins (Material Wealth) melt easily under fire. Wands symbolize the Fire element and are it’s natural fuel. Swords (Morals and Values), while resilient, even they can be blunted and reduced to wreckage by flame.
That covers the Tower’s structure, it’s base, the Crown, and the Lightning.
Next let’s take a look at the heroes of our misadventure. Two plunging figures. Were they thrown from their lofty heights, or have they jumped from the carnage to risk it on the fall? On the left we have the cloaked and weathered traveler, a poor but worldly man dressed to withstand the elements. He falls face first, eyes open and alert. On the right falls a crowned man, a king or wealthy man. He falls head first as well, but prostrate and complacent. Of the two, who seems more prepared or likely to survive the fall? This hints at the virtue of being versatile and sturdy rather than smug and conceited.
Dancing around the two falling figures are further flames. But these flames are drawn in special figures that represent the Hebrew ‘yot’ or ‘i’. 22 in all – one for each Major Arcana, indicating that all the steps along the way of the Fool’s Joirney are acting against the figures. On the left are twelve flames, and on the right, ten. This is the Hanged Man XII tumbling through the Wheel Of Fortune X. His fate is uncertain, but by no means assured to be bad.