There are some Tarot cards whose energies are greeted with dismay by most who receive them; the Lightning Blasted Tower, the sixteenth key of the Major Arcana, is one such card. Where it appears in a Tarot reading, in that area of life, there will be turmoil, destruction and loss; yet this martial energy is the seed of new beginnings and greater balance in the querent’s life.
In the Rider/Waite Tarot deck, Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith depicted the Blasted Tower as a crown surmounted tower that is being stuck by lightning. The crown and the two occupants of the tower are falling.
The two occupants of the tower are typically represented by the figures of a noble and a priest. In the oldest extant Tarot decks, the Tower is one of the missing cards; one explanation for its absence may be that in the earliest decks, the card could have represented the wrath of god overthrowing those who were unworthy of being in power.
The Blasted Tower has been associated with the Tower of Babel which was being built in arrogance by humanity, designed to reach the heavens; the project was stopped by god, who caused the workers to speak in many different tongues and languages, causing so much confusion that the project could not be completed.
Another myth associated with the Lightning Blasted Tower is the legend of the Kings of Edom. The Edomite Kings, according to esoteric lore, were the unbalanced universes which were destroyed before the creation of our own universe.
The Kings of Edom can also be associated with the rulers of Atlantis which Plato described as being destroyed at the order of Zeus (whose weapon was a lightning bolt) for their hubris.
In some private copies of the Tarot as drawn by the members of Golden Dawn, the noble and the priest have been replaced by the naked figures of a man and a woman. This substitution alludes to the association of some esoteric thinkers of the Blasted Tower with the Fall of Humanity, the barring of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
In modern times, many occultists associate the Blasted Tower with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center which fell on September 11th. Several Tarot study groups studied this card right after 9/11 in an attempt to come to grasps with the tragedy of that act of terrorism.
(Here is a scary coincidence: while I was writing the rough draft of this article, Continental Flight #1404 [Denver to Houston] was making an emergency landing at Denver International Airport unknown to me; I live just a few miles west of the airport.)
No matter the mythic association, the Lightning Blasted Tower shows the overthrow of the comfortable, safe world which we are accustomed to. It reminds us that the powerful can fall. And the world can be blasted for unknown reasons by martial energies. Yet despite its negative associations, the Tower does contain a ray of the divine; for it is though tragedy, ruin, and disaster that humanity shakes off its attachment to power and material possessions and finds the strength to embrace the divine mysteries.
Esoteric Title: Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty
The Kabbalistic association for the Blasted Tower is the lowest of the reciprocal paths of the Tree of Life which links the eighth sephirah Hod (Splendor) with the seventh sephirah Netzach (Victory). This path is assigned the Hebrew letter Peh (mouth) by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.