Called The Tower in other traditions, Arcanum XVI in Egyptian Tarot is called The Lightening. Ruled by Mars, this card symbolizes the aggressive urges of the soul to either act constructively or destructively. To elaborate on the constructive side of this card, Mars rules the musculature of the body without which we would have no strength. Without strength, we couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning much less mow the lawn, pound a nail, or build bridges and cities. Moreover, we could not defend ourselves or our families. Mars is also a planet of passion and motivation, and life is so much easier to manage with these two wonderful sources of energy working toward our advantage!
With that being said, however, The Lightening is generally read as an unfortunate event, like accident, surgery, brute force, or catastrophe.
Here we see a pyramid being decapitated suddenly and unexpectedly by a bolt of lightening. In the ancient past and up to the present day, the pyramid is considered to be perhaps the peak of human evolution, not to mention a marvel of human construction. So there is a feeling in this card that a false sense of security is in play, or a sense of over self-confidence and arrogance.
In the Waite deck, it is a medieval tower that symbolizes man’s hubris, calling two other towers to mind. The Ivory Tower has its origins in stories throughout the Bible and today is an expression that generally means a disconnect from daily realities or a lofty place in society. The other tower that comes to mind is the Tower of Babel, a story that not only appears in the Bible, but also appears in the Koran and legends from Central America and Africa, among other places throughout the world. A common theme in all of these accounts is the Lord’s contempt for human pride. Certainly the Lightening could be a metaphor for those horrible moments of being “put in one’s place,” “getting burned” or taken down by a scandal.
As this card represents a natural law that is blind to stature, a nobleman and a common man are seen to fall. Certainly, in everyman’s life there is unexpected peril. No one can escape the forces of Natural Law, weather it be meted out by nature or meted out by human catalyst. But do these characters depicted in both The Tower and the Lightening fall to their peril? Probably not. They most likely hit the ground hard, dust themselves off, and ask themselves “Why did that happen to me?” If they can learn from the unfortunate event, they will be better off for it. All unfortunate events are opportunities to grow in character.
Plutarch (AD 46-120) was a Greek historian and essayist. He saw lightening as a heavenly phallus fertilizing the primal waters and thereby creating all life. Sallie Nichols references this when she points out in her book, Jung and Tarot: “The idea of lightening as a life-giving power is echoed in this Tarot picture, where the concrete tower, like the hard outer shell of a nut, is being cracked open to release the two living inner ‘kernels,’ seen falling toward the soil. There they will presumably take root and begin a new life.”
This card warns of false security and hubris, physical destruction, surgical operations, brute force, ammunition, goals based on purely physical and material success, frustrated ambition, projects sterile or failed, accident or catastrophe, divorce or separation, being dislodged or put down, feelings of urgency, learning how to lead a fully constructive life, passion, energy, strength, motivation, and construction.
The interpretation of the more serious cards in Tarot can be tricky. Of course, the more information you have, the easier it is to make a judgment. If the reading is about a relationship, you can bet that the relationship is not in the best interest of the querent. If the reading is about business, it could mean construction at the workplace, projects pending or failed, motivation needed or present, or stress to meet deadlines. If this card comes up in the past position, the querent may have undergone a physical stress like an accident or surgery. If it comes up in the future, DO NOT predict accident or surgery, but DO stress the positive aspects of the card, learning to live a more constructive life, slowing down to avoid accident or illness, and taking care of themselves by getting plenty of rest, eating properly and getting regular check-ups.
Please remember that when interpreting threatening cards like The Black Magician, The Tower, or the Death card that there is no volume control. We cannot know for sure if the card is simply a suggestion, a warning, or a certainty. So, it is always in the best interest of the querent to amplify the positive aspects of these cards while gently suggesting they always be vigilant.
The spiritual message of The Lightening is:
Remember, then, son of earth, that only God is absolute. If Arcanum XVI should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, reflect on the old oaks that have defied the ravages of time and have finally been brought down after a century of immunity; and think that thou too mayst be brought low at the very moment of thy great arrogance by some unexpected blow.
__C.C. Zain, The Sacred Tarot
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