This is the nineteenth post in a series on the Tarot Rug Project (also known as "Exploring the Tarot: 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana"). To view each post on all the rugs in the series, go HERE (that post will be kept up to date as new photos are published and the show travels).
THE TOWER: Here is the "classic" Rider-Waite-Smith image:
For many people, this is one scary-looking card.
For people who aren't familiar with tarot, the three most unsettling cards in the deck are Death, The Devil, and The Tower. Having already discussed the first two, I hope I have been encouraging all of us to think more deeply about this trio without making assumptions about their "obvious," most extreme meanings (which rarely apply). For any of them to actually mean what they may first suggest, you would need to have a context of certain specific other cards around them--and that's actually quite rare. It's far more likely that these cards refer to our ATTITUDES rather than to any dire events, and that is just as true for this card as it is for the other two we've already covered.
Let's look at a quote by Dawna Markova which captures part of this card's meaning. As you read it, bear in mind the image above.
"I will not die an unlived life.
"I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
"I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
"I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit,"
What comes to mind when we think about the symbol of a tower? Some examples include: The Tower of Babel. An "Ivory Tower" (an institution of higher learning). A castle tower. The towers of skyscrapers (like the former Twin Towers of New York, or the Trump Tower). The Eiffel Tower. Cell phone towers. Church towers.
What do all these have in common?
They are all related to long-established, often-codified ideas and organizations: religion, education, business/enterprise, communication. Towers are built to represent and serve the ideas, purposes, defenses, and ambitions of the organizations to which they are dedicated.
Because of their tremendous height, towers are particularly strongly built and strongly buttressed. And so is the thinking or belief system found within some of the organizations mentioned above. Our own thoughts can be very "strongly built" (and become rigid) and heavily defended. Thus, The Tower symbol can represent our limited or rigid thinking, or our absolute belief or trust in some structure we have built up within our own lives.
Just as the interior of a tower is narrow; so may our own thinking may have grown narrow.
"Towering ambition" is another phrase that comes to mind here.
Lightning, one of nature's most destructive but illuminating forces, is attracted to tall structures like towers. In the classic image of this card, lightning has knocked the top off of the tower, and two people are falling from it. This Tower represents some kind of built-up thought/structure that is not true or correct--lighting (illumination) has come along and destroyed the very top, tossing out its residents and burning out all falsehood or error from the inside.
There are many other rich layers of meaning in each symbol in the classic card, and we cannot delve into all of them here. We have enough to get us started, though, so...
Here is Michelle Micarelli's interpretation in her tarot rug.
Michelle Micarelli is one of the co-creators and organizers of this entire exhibit, along with Loretta Scena. Michele is an internationally renowned textile artist, master colorist, and longtime teacher. She also works in other media. It's her mission in life to excite creativity in all her students.
To watch Michele in the dye kitchen is to watch the master at work. She can take any piece of multi-colored wool and produce a flawless "twin" in minutes with no recipe, simply working by eye. I remember reading somewhere that Michele learned about rug hooking from her father--rather unusual--who took it up when he was recovering from surgery.
View her complete profile on her website HERE; be sure to ogle all the rugs and other creations in the gallery on the site.
If you compare her interpretation with the original card, you will see that the detail Michele has achieved on her tarot rug is truly impressive. On her website, she mentions that she often works in 4 & 5 cuts to achieve this level of detail. She has altered her Tower enough so that it appears to resemble a conch shell, set on fire by the same lightning we see in the original card. The roaring fire within the Tower/shell is scouring out any incorrect beliefs or false ambitions.
The falling human figures are not there--but isn't there a suggestion of people hanging out the windows? And look at that roiling sky, echoed below by the roiling sea! The movement, colors, and design of this piece make it especially compelling and attractive. The combination keeps your eye moving around the rug, noticing new things every time it lands.
I remember Michele saying in a video interview that the ocean is very close to her heart and that she is very concerned about environmental damage to it. You can see her love of the ocean in this rug (and you will see that theme in many of her other rugs as well).
SO WHAT DOES THE CARD MEAN?
In the Wheel of Fortune card (Card Ten), we looked at change/transformation that occurs in cyclical fashion, moving up, then down, as the Wheel turns. In The Tower card, we now look at change/transformation that is dramatic, sudden, and shocking. Think of the times in your own life when you have realized in a blinding flash (the lightning strike) that something you wholeheartedly believed was not true. Or when a structure in which you've placed your faith has collapsed without warning.
Our first reaction to events like these is to be totally stunned, then perhaps horrified (or, depending on circumstances, delighted). A quote from Frederick Barthelme illustrates another common reaction: "There is a feeling of disbelief that comes over you, that takes over, and you kind of go through the motions. You do what you're supposed to do, but in fact you're not there at all.” This is a frequent response to shock.
Eventually, reality sets in and we need to deal with the new normal. We may feel liberated, or we may feel like you've lost everything. The truth is that we are now seeing something clearly--as it is--and we now need to adjust to it--as it is--perhaps for the first time.
When this card comes up for you, ask yourself:
"It is in the midst of disasters that bold men grow bolder."
“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”
― Mary Renault
"Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often."
Remember that you can catch up on all the other rugs in the exhibit at the link at the very top of this post. If you are curious about what's behind the exhibit, there is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section here (scroll down to the bottom of that post to get to the FAQ).
Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
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SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society
Skillful Meditation Project