Etteilla’s interpretation of the card.
Upright: Loss of goods, accident, the collapse of convictions. Misery, wretchedness, distress, destitution, poverty, shortage, need, necessity, calamity, adversity, misfortune, trouble, torment, pain, affliction, annoyance, inconvenience, penalty, correction, punishment. Rude awakening, disgrace, severity, rigidity, rigour.
Reversed: Imprisonment, detention, arrest, captivity, oppression, tyranny, subjection, subjugation, chain.
S.L. MacGregor Mathers’ interpretation of the card as it was presented in his book ‘The Tarot’.
Upright: Ruin, disruption, overthrow, loss, bankruptcy.
Reversed: These in a more or less partial degree.
A.E. Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.
Occult explanations attached to this card are meagre and mostly disconcerting. It is idle to indicate that it depicts min in all its aspects because it bears this evidence on the surface. It is said further that it contains the first allusion to a material building, but I do not conceive that the Tower is more or less material than the pillars which we have met within three previous cases. I see nothing to warrant Papus in supposing that it is literally the fall of Adam, but there is more in favour of his alternative – that it signifies the materialisation of the spiritual word. The bibliographer Christian imagines that it is the downfall of the mind, seeking to penetrate the mystery of God. I agree rather with Grand Orient that it is the ruin of the House of We, when evil has prevailed therein, and above all that it is the rending of a House of Doctrine. I understand that the reference is, however, to a House of Falsehood. It also illustrates most comprehensively the old truth that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
There is a sense in which the catastrophe is a reflection from the previous card, but not on the side of the symbolism which I have tried to indicate therein. It is more correctly a question of analogy; one is concerned with the fall into the material and animal state, while the other signifies destruction on the intellectual side. The Tower has been spoken of as the chastisement of pride and the intellect overwhelmed in the attempt to penetrate the Mystery of God, but in neither case do these explanations account for the two persons who are the living sufferers. The one is the literal word made void and the other its false interpretation. In yet a deeper sense, it may also signify the end of a dispensation, but there is no possibility here for the consideration of this involved question.
The traditional astrological attribution of The Tower, and by traditional, we mean according to the Golden Dawn system, is the Zodiac sign Capricorn.
The astrological attributions of the Major Arcana used by the Golden Dawn are based on the text of the Sepher Yetzirah, apparently written in the second century BCE. The book provides different attributions for the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, including astrological equivalents. The Hebrew alphabet is divided into three groups of letters. Three so-called Mother letters representing the Three Elementals, respectively Air, Water and Fire. Seven Double letters associated with the seven classical planets which are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Moon. Finally, the twelve so-called Elementals, or simple letters, which correspond to the twelve Zodiac signs.
The Golden Dawn system resulted from the one on one attribution of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Alphabet to the Major Arcana cards according to the standard numbering of the Tarot of Marseille. Still, differences may result from the positioning of the cards, especially of The Fool which in the Franch tradition is generally unnumbered and positioned between cards twenty and twenty-one, respectively the Last Judgement and The World. Considering that the Roman numeral one is associated with the Hebrew letter Aleph which also has one as its numerical value, The Tower numbered sixteen naturally falls to the Hebrew letter Ayin. According to the Sepher Yetzirah, Ayin is attributed to Capricorn.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn claimed Rosicrucian descendence. Therefore, the most appropriate astrological interpretation of the cards is the one proposed by Max and Augusta Foss Heindel in their book ‘The Message of the Stars,’ published by the Rosicrucian Fellowship.
Capricorn, the goat, is not a goat at all as we know that animal, but part fish and part goat. Its Satur-nine rulership, and the fact that it receives the Sun at the dawn of each New Year, naturally by analogy as-sociates it with the beginning of precessional epochs. It represents the stage in evolution covering the transition from fish, through amphibia to the mammalian form. The belligerency of the goat is well known, and an apt symbol of the struggle for existence, in which the weak perish unless able to outdistance their foes. This phase of the matter is sometimes expressed in the symbol when drawn as part fish and part antelope. Jacob, in the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis, pronounces blessings upon his children, which symbolize the twelve signs. There he speaks of Naphtali as a “hind” let loose; thus a very apt symbol of
Capricorn, for when the Sun is there at each winter solstice, it is starting a race through the circle of twelve signs, which it must complete in a given time – a year.
The Tenth House is associated with the parent who exercises most influence in the person’s life, the honour and social standing of the person, his employer or judge, and the government.
According to Aleister Crowley, expelled from the Golden Dawn long before finishing his esoteric instruction, the card is attributed to the letter Pe. The letter means a mouth, and it refers to the planet Mars – another matter which is subject of debate. The alteration in Crowley’s system occurs due to the positioning of The Fool before The Magician – allegedly justified by the ‘secret attribution of the Hebrew letters’ as it is presented in the folio number thirty-two from the Cipher Manuscripts.
Personally, I believe that The Tower represents planet Pluto, specifically Pluto in Gemini.
Virtually everyone is allowed to use any available system or develop its own as long knows, understand and can sustain that system based on reason and arguments.
Kárpáthy-Smith Tarot [work in progress]
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