The Belgian Tarot depicts a tree struck by lightning.
This card follows immediately after The Devil in all Tarots that contain it, and is considered an ill omen by some. Some early, painted decks, such as the Visconti-Sforza tarot, do not contain it. Also, some Tarot variants used for game playing omit it.
Early printed decks that preserve all their cards do feature The Tower. In these decks the card bears a number of different names and designs. In the Minchiate deck, the image usually shown is of two nude or scantily clad people fleeing the open door of what appears to be a burning building. In some Belgian tarots and the 17th century tarot of Jacques Viéville, the card is called La Foudre or La Fouldre, ("The Lightning") and depicts a tree being struck by lightning. In the Tarot of Paris (17th century), the image shown is of the Devil beating his drums, before what appears to be the mouth of Hell; the card still is called La Fouldre. The Tarot of Marseilles merges these two concepts, and depicts a burning tower being struck by lightning or fire from the sky, its top section dislodged and crumbling. Two men are depicted in mid-fall, against a field of multicolored balls.A. E. Waite's version is based on the Marseilles image, with small tongues of fire in the shape of Hebrew yod letters replacing the balls. (see Tower #1, above right)
Many differing meanings are attributed to the card:
To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe.
To others, the Tower represents the paradigms constructed by the ego, the sum total of all schema that the mind constructs to understand the universe. The Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation.
Epiphanies, transcendental states of consciousness, and Kundalini experiences may result. In the Triple Goddess Tarot, the card is named "Kundalini Rising".
The Tower further symbolizes that moment in trance in which the mind actually changes the direction of the force of attention from alpha condition (pointed mindward) to theta condition (pointed imaginal stageward). A Theta condition (especially in waking versions of theta states) is that moment when information coming into the ego-mind overwhelms external or sensory stimuli, resulting in what might otherwise be called a "vision" or "hallucination."
Each card in the Major Arcana is a related to the previous ones. After the self bondage of The Devil, life is self-correcting. Either the querents must make changes in their own lives, or the changes will be made for them.
The querent may be holding on to false ideas or pretenses; a new approach to thinking about the problem is needed. The querent is advised to think outside the box. The querent is warned that truth may not oblige schema. It may be time for the querent to re-examine belief structures, ideologies, and paradigms they hold to. The card may also point toward seeking education or higher knowledge.
It is also called Le Maison Dieu ("The House of God").
The Flemish Deck by Vandenborre (c.1750 – 1760) renames it Le Foudre ("The Thunderbolt"). It shows a frightened shepherd cowering under a burning tree split by a bolt of lightning while sheep graze at its base.
In Anne Rice Tarot deck the Tower card depicts Armand in the Vampire Chronicles.
In X/1999, the Tower is Tokiko Magami & Tooru Shirou.
In the Mythic Tarot deck, the Tower is depicted with Poseidon.
In the Golden Dawn system it corresponds to the Hebrew letter Peh, and in the French system it corresponds to Ayin
In pop culture
In the SNES video game Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, the Tower is depicted as an ominous-looking tower as lightning bolts strike it during a thunderstorm, yet there are no people jumping out of the tower. On drawing the Tarot card after liberation of one of the towns, it lowers the characters' alignment by 1 or 2 points, and summons an earthquake to damage enemy units when used in battle.
In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the 27th chapter is called The Lightning-Struck Tower, a reference to the Tower card. In the chapter, catastrophic events take place, reflecting the disruptive and negative significance the card holds in occult circles. In an earlier chapter, Professor Trelawney, the Divination teacher, informs Harry that the Lightning-Struck Tower constantly comes up in her card readings.
In the popular Indie Game The Binding of Isaac, all of the Major Arcana/Minor Arcana Tarot cards can be found and used during gameplay. The Tower, when used, spawns six bombs randomly in the room that explode within a few seconds.
In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a minor antagonist of the third arc of the series called Gray Fly has a Stand called Tower of Gray, who can travel at the speed of light. It was named after this tarot card.
In the Total Drama All-Stars episode "You Regatta Be Kidding Me," Zoey draws The Tower card (along with two completely fictional cards) when trying to read into Mike's psyche. Within Mike's mind, the evil personality, Mal, has constructed a tower from which he operates.