Card Spotlight: The Tower

Occult Ornithology Tarot- now available to pre-order!

This week’s card spotlight is the 16th card in the major arcana, The Tower

When it finally came to the time of designing the card for The Tower, I didn’t have a specific bird in mind, I just knew it should be a sea bird or bird that nests in cliff faces, for the life of me i couldn’t think of a more precarious place for a bird to live, especially after visiting Whitby this year and witnessing the crumbling cliff faces on the coast.

The Tower in its upright position can mean: Massive changes and upheaval, it can be a huge lifestyle change like job loss, accidents or natural disasters, the change will be chaotic and usually destructive. There is little you can do about this upheaval, embrace it and build your defences higher next time, while the chaotic change The Tower can bring is often destructive and irreversible, it will make you stronger as a person.

In its reversed position it can mean:
You might have narrowly avoided a disaster or huge change, perhaps you need to learn from this near miss to prevent future disaster. It can also mean that you’re avoiding an inevitable upheaval or change, you can’t avoid it forever, sometimes destruction happens so you can start fresh from the ground up.

Why a great black-backed gull? I have made no secret of my affinity with gulls, they’re a greatly misunderstood species of bird, with high intelligence and strong bonds to their mates and their young. In my country (the UK) gulls are constantly being called upon to be culled, called pests and probably up there with rats as one of the most disliked animals, due to having to adapt to rapidly encroaching human settlements and reduced natural food sources. Of 6 native UK species of gull, every single one is now at risk of extinction, gull numbers have shrunk by 72% since 1969. The great black-backed gull is currently on the amber list. So why am I talking about gull conservation instead of why I chose this bird for the card? Quite simply this species is at the cusp of ecological disaster, chaotic because it is out of the species control and instead in ours.
As I said earlier in the blog, I wanted to have a cliff nesting seabird for this card, when I initially thought about natural disasters that could affect birds the most, the thought of raising babies in a nest with the danger of the winds, the rain, the sea and the precariousness of cliffs just seemed the most terrifying and prone to disaster. I made the connection with gulls because of their precarious ecological position and also their attitude to disaster, most birds fly away from potential harm and danger, gulls square up to it and seemingly accept it or adapt. The gull on this card both represents the disaster of loss of habitat and the act of facing up to a disaster one cannot control.
In British folklore people have traditionally viewed gulls as being able to predict the weather, their flight patterns predicting storms or fine weather, in recent years due to pop culture mostly the gull can be seen as an ill omen.

Symbolism in the card: The Rider Waite design shows a tower, built solidly but on unstable ground being hit with lightening and on fire, while 2 people jump out to their unknown fate below. it represents chaos and destruction. Visually speaking my card is almost completely opposite, instead of flames I have crashing waves, instead of a crumbling tower I have a crumbling cliff face, instead of people diving out of the danger, I have a gull screaming into the waves defiantly. This is partially because I believe a human disaster is often completely at odds to what is a disaster for most animals. In the background of the card is another gull flying, it could be escaping from the danger as the people jumping from the towers are, or just avoiding it temporarily to rebuild and nest again. I didn’t want my gull showing fear at the face of destruction, rather I wanted to show defiance in the face of danger.

Previous card spotlights:

The Hierophant
The Wheel of Fortune
The Star
The Hermit

If you missed my Kickstarter, my Occult Ornithology deck is still available to pre-order here

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