Lightning strikes. A car crash. A partner proposes. The ceiling falls in. You discover you're expecting a baby. A mudslide. These are all sudden things that can change our lives forever. The Tower card can represent all these things and more – those moments in our lives that happen suddenly, with little warning, but change so many things about the way we live.
In the Tower card we see, predictably, a tower. Not just any tower, but a tower in the midst of being toppling. Lightning is striking the tower, throwing the inhabitants off the top most floor... most likely to their deaths. Symbolically, we see a crown at the top of the tower being tossed off and uprooted from it's place on high. To top it all off, the tower is on fire – flames are pouring out of the windows. Needless to say, this isn't the happiest of cards.
Sudden change. The Death card signals a change, yes, but the Tower is a bit more ominous – it signals very sudden change, and usually not for the better. At the very best, the Tower variety of change is usually a neutral type – something changing that is neither positive nor negative. It's sudden nature, however, is what makes it something that is generally consider negative. We, as humans, like to know what is coming in order to ensure our own safety... but the events of the Tower throw that in our faces. You can expect something big to come along and change who you are, what you do, and more.
Sometimes, these sudden, harsh circumstances are brought about as a wake up call. Epiphany strikes, and you suddenly realize something you could have seen all along. This commonly happens with the sudden death of a loved one – people will realize that they need to spend time with those they love, or they may never get the chance. It's a great revelation, and it changes so many things that a person does or thinks... but at a great cost.
Is the Tower always a negative card? No card in the tarot deck is always negative. The Tower can stand for a sudden reversal of fortunes – unexpectedly winning the lottery, inheriting a piece of land, a new birth... all these things are sudden, and will completely change your world. Whenever a sudden change comes around, they do not come predetermined as “negative” or “positive” - any change is exactly what you make of it.
You'll want to seriously consider asking yourself some unforgiving questions when you pull the Tower card. How should you prepare for the unexpected? Can you? If you had one thing you wanted to do today, what would it be? If you had one day to live, what would you do? If something sudden were to happen, would you be able to keep your head? Start asking some of the big questions, so when an unexpected turn of events comes along you won't find yourself shocked, bitter, and heartbroken.
The Death card has a lot in common with the Tower – both signal an ending of something, as well as something new. The Tower, however, is most certainly more sudden than Death – death itself can be a slow, gentle process, and doesn't need to be a surprise. Another card that is much like the Tower? The Sun. surprised? The Sun card can herald in a new revelation or way of thinking... just like the Tower. Sometimes it takes a great deal of happiness for us to think a new way, and other times it takes a great deal of hardship.