Change, and Not a Moment Too Soon: Meditations on The Tower

Doctor Who was a staple of my childhood. When other heroes would die of their wounds, the titular Doctor instead regenerates into a brand new form — complete with brand new face (and brand new teeth). The first time I saw The Doctor, my first Doctor, regenerate — it was devastating. Gone was Tom Baker and his unfailing grin and scarf, and in his place this sporty but kind blonde fellow, Peter Davison. When he regenerated years later, I was much more attuned and adjusted to it. I even half-laughed when his new incarnation sat up and answered his companion’s questions about what happened to him with “Change, my dear — and not a moment too soon.” That informs a lot of my feelings about one of the most troublesome cards in the Tarot — the Tower.

The Tower, By Pamela Coleman Smith (d 1951) — a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley ( for the public domain, and retrieved from (see note on that page regarding source of images)., PD-US,

If you asked the Tarot a yes or no question, and you pulled this card — the answer is a resounding No. Beyond knowing that it represents ‘utter destruction of edifices we thought were solid’ it’s really hard to sit and contemplate this card for long stretches of time, but it’s worth it when you do.

The Tower is also called “The Blasted Tower” in some decks, and across all of them stark imagery of a tower being struck by lightning is pretty key. In older French decks, this card was called “de Foudre” for the lightning and not its victim (which was a tree). You see, the sudden…



Jamie Toth, The Somewhat Cyclops

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