What structures have I built around myself that keep me from a higher calling? That's the question asked by the TOWER/DISASTER cards. What follows is a comparison of the imagery and interpretation of the Rider-Waite, The Haindl, and the Collective Tarot decks' respective 16th of the Major Arcana cards.
Rider-Waite shows a stark white tower against a jet-black sky with flames and smoke pouring out, a lightning bolt striking the top removing a crown, and two figures, one crowned, falling headfirst to the rocks below. Tongues of flames, shaped like the Hebrew yod, fall around the tower and the figures. Rachel Pollack, in The New Tarot Handbook, states that the Tower indicates "an upheaval or sudden turnaround, often necessary to release people from a difficult situation. The Tarot is essentially optimistic but not always gentle." This last sentiment is the brutal honesty that life offers us sometimes- when we build our defenses of our coping mechanisms too high and too strong, an unexpected force of nature comes along to topple our crown of self-will to the ground, sending us back to the ground to start over. The event that crumbles our plans is the Tower card, it is the rock bottom the alcoholic has to hit before they seek recovery, the reveal of infidelity that transforms a partnership forever, the discovery of a family secret that changes your ancestral identity and all you attached to it. It isn't a bad thing in and of itself- but it is the uncovering of such things that altar the path we may feel committed to. Pollock notes the number of yod symbols as significant to a major release of energy- although it may be unpleasant to be struck by lightning, the release from a rigid prison tower is preferable to being locked up there forever.
Haindl's Tower is endless, it doesn't show a top or a bottom to the structure that climbs through the clouds. The Hebrew letter Peh or "mouth" is seen along with the Rune Yr, or "wrong". The Mars symbol at the bottom. We can compare the Tarot to the tower of Babel, being that Peh/Mouth also symbolizes communication, and Yr in combo with Peh indicates that communication impossible when we are so focused on the selfishness of building our own ivory towers. Or does it mean that communicating what is going wrong is the event that destroys illusions of grandeur? Rachel Pollack, in The Haindl Tarot: The Major Arcana notes that the lightning striking the Tower may symbolize enlightenment, and in Haindl's version that enlightened spark comes from within. The thought that can tear down our entire structure of our self-limitation must come from within a deep, dark place inside us. Mars' presence in the corner gives this realization a fighter's calling- we do battle with addictions and habits that limit us. Pollack also gives insight into Haindl's interpretation of the card as a warning against the over-reliance on human-made technology, and the underappreciation for nature. When nature is abused, it lashes out against us. When we abuse ourselves, we lash out similarly. Pollack notes the numerical and symbolic links between the Tower and Devil cards- "If we try to see ourselves as completely rational, then the darkness becomes fearful and the power inside us becomes a devil, clawing its way out."
Collective Tarot features more text than any of the other cards in this deck. The phrases "In a moment it's over", "Destruction of lies", "sudden change", and "Loss of false beliefs" are written around images of dark star orbits, directionless arrows, popping balloons. These images alternate with details of the larger traditional image of a tower struck by lightning with dead figures inside. The first line in the Collective's writeup on the card is "You are free." The exuberance, hopeful nature of the booklet seems antithetical to the terrifying images on the card, but I tend to agree with the writers- Fear and coping mechanisms only get us so far, but it can take some major discomfort before we finally decide to release ourselves from what no longer serves us. This discomfort is Disaster. "How do you experience disaster, as adversity or liberation?"
Thanks to @inthe78cards and @thetruthinstory for hosting this month's awesome challenge on Instagram!