The tower card is the 16th card in the deck and appears after the devil card. Although this card has an ominous image in the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the tower doesn’t always have a negative meaning. In a nutshell, it represents unexpected changes and endings.

“The image certainly doesn’t look good, with lightning striking the top of a building, fire coming from the windows, and people falling to the earth below in fear,” Mark Horn, tarot reader and author of Tarot and the Gates of Light, says. But he explains that like every card, the meaning of the tower can be positive or negative depending on the question you asked your deck.

“The tower card symbolizes disruption, chaos, and the collapse of a faulty structure,” says Theresa Reed, tarot reader, podcast host, and author of Twist Your Fate: Manifest Success With Astrology and Tarot. It means something is coming to a dramatic end.”

Horn adds that “there’s an element of surprise to the tower—it’s a change you weren’t expecting, usually because your idea about what is going on is either a fantasy or you don’t have all the information you need.” 

Oftentimes when the card appears, it may be difficult to accept that change is imminent, but it’s important to know it’s all part of the process.

“Keep in mind, this is a necessary ending,” says Reed. She shares some questions to reflect on if the tower appears in a spread: “Have you remained in a situation too long? Are you holding on to something or someone because you fear change?” Once you can honestly answer these questions, this card is telling you that enough is enough.

“It’s time to set yourself free—and that requires complete trust in the Universe, even if you cannot see a soft landing,” says Reed.

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