XVI – Pei – Mars – Mouth
Ruin, Destruction, Crushing of the Old, and Momentous Change
The Tower corresponds to the Hebrew Letter Pei, representing the breath of God and the power of words. The previous letter, Ayin, represented the eye – understanding – and Pei represents the mouth, which is verbal expression. This order indicates that it is necessary to understand and think before one speaks. While the eye allows one to understand, the mouth allows one to speak and bring things into being. When one speak’s of the Devil’s will, ruin is sure to follow. This letter also represents speech and words, and the power that they can hold; words can topple a nation or bring it up high. The original pictograph of Pei is also a mouth, emphasizing the idea of the power of words to bring things into being – or remove them from being.
The astrological equivalent of the Tower is a planet not known for its words – Mars, the god of war. Mars represents male power and virility, as well as action, violence, war, drive, energy, and ambition. These are all things that, in the context of the Tower, are accomplished through the power of words. The Tower itself is a card of ruin and toppling, and represents the wrath of Mars as seen from the side of the victims – for inherent in the idea of Mars is that of competition, and in a competition there is always a winner and a loser.
The Tower, then, represents momentous changes brought on by powerful forces that topple empires and overthrow dynasties. This is a card that represents a change in the order of things – the crushing of the old to make way for the new. The Tower is often called the Lord of the Aeon, for this is a card that initiates the changing of the Aeons, which inevitably is accompanied with strife and the toppling of the existing order. World War I is a prime example of the Tower in action; it occurred ten years after the Aeon of Horus began in 1904, toppled the existing order of Europe – and therefore of much of the world – and was fueled on by propaganda and words. The Tower is also a card of ruin and downfall, as well as destruction. Drastic upheaval is what the Tower represents, as well as the failure of endurance. The Tower can also represent breaking free of one’s imprisonment (such as that you were put into by the Devil) do to a calamitous or huge event; the clearing of the old is necessary to make way for the new, and so the prisons of the old order must be torn asunder.
The Rider-Waite art emphasizes the aspect of downfall and the failure of endurance, as the proud, strong, tower is brought down in a single cataclysmic event – the lightning bolt. It topples the crown (symbolizing power and the Aeon), overthrowing the old order, and sends people literally falling to the ground. Chaos reigns as the tower – the bastion of strength – fails and falls to disaster. The Thoth art shows a tower literally toppling, while emblems of fire surround it. Above it all is the eye of Horus, symbolizing the new Aeon (and the preceding eye of Ayin), emanating rays of power as it establishes its domain. In the lower portion of the card is a mouth, breathing out fire – the breath of God and the power of words that topples the tower.
On the Tree of Life, The Tower stands between the Sefirot of Netzach (Bliss and Degenerate Weakness) and Hod (Knowledge and Intellectual Weakness). It is the path between the two weaknesses, emphasizing the idea of the weaknesses that bring down the stability of Tiphareth – the Tower is what happens when both weaknesses appear at the same time, leading to ruin and downfall.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of upheaval in your life. Has something previously rock solid in your life suddenly been toppled, making way for the new? Have you – or anyone you know – been ruined? Have your words hurt more than you would have thought? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps the toppling was only superficial, and nothing has really changed…