The Fertilizing Flash

I’ve now gleaned a number of fresh impressions from my study and practice that support writing a bit more about the Tower, the 16th trump card of the present-day tarot (titled “the House of God” or the “Lightning-Struck Tower” in older packs).

One of my favorite interpretations comes from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s book The Way of Tarot (although his opinion is neither widely known nor well-regarded within the modern tarot community). According to Jodo, pulling the Tower in a reading bestows a blessing of sorts and is therefore a cause for celebration. It shows an incoming epiphany or sudden flash of insight, one that implies imminent liberation from entrenched but often erroneous or unhelpful assumptions or habits, thus delivering a radical “breakthrough” moment. Jodo’s rallying cry was “What shall I celebrate today?”

In her book The History of Tarot: Origins, History and Symbolism, Barbara Walker characterizes the lightning bolt from on high (i.e. from God) as imparting “fertilization of the intellect” (although I would choose the more profoundly inclusive concept of “spiritual/mental/emotional core”). In more mystical terms, she describes it as “fertilization of the abyssal Womb,” the symbolically “reddened” crucible of all life on Earth. But her most cogent analogy is as a harbinger of the “creative spark” (my words), an incipient hint of “creativity restored” (her words) that reaches its full flowering in the next trump, the Star. For the visual or literary artist of any kind (and I would include storytellers of the tarot-reading persuasion), this abrupt freeing from what is often a creeping self-abasement – mental or otherwise – produces inspiration; this intense awakening then unites with imagination and ingenuity to yield a perfect merging of energized aesthetic vision and creative talent. Prosaically, it can bring a thumping end to “writer’s block” and other such crippling artistic debilities (but you might hit the ground limping rather than running).

Most sitters visibly quail when the Tower appears in their reading; the grim tableau of utter destruction instantly evokes the “OMG!” reaction (how I hate that acronym, and I bet God doesn’t want to hear it either: “OH NO, NOT AGAIN!”). After all, the Tower is a charter member of, and has a secure foothold in, the “Bad Boys Club” of tarot trumps, along with Death, the Devil, the Hanged Man and, to some extent, the “Hecatean” Moon. But these fearful seekers are often the same people who won’t acknowledge (or who at most only dimly recognize) that they are clinging to something that is impeding their growth, whether it be a relationship, a job, a location or a wide range of other dubious commitments. Whatever is holding us back is the (literal) “stomping-ground” for the Tower. When it lands on us with both feet, we may not be in the mood for celebrating; that typically comes later once our eyes, arms and mind are open wide to the arrival of this hard-won liberty. My own fanciful take on it is that, after the fall, there will be a bunch of bricks lying around that can be used to rebuild; all we need is a little “mortar,” and that may well be furnished by the inspiration unleashed by the apparent cataclysm.

One final thought as I close: The Who sang “I’m free/And freedom tastes of reality.” But to me it sounds more like the acrid bite of ozone and ashes, at least until the smoke clears. Only then we can grapple successfully with the recovery.

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