2016, The Tower, and Diving Head First Into The Unknown

daniel-headshot An end-of-year reflection from staff member Daniel

I am far from the first and will certainly not be the last person to say this year has been… quite a time. In the last 362 and counting days, bad things have been happening all around the world . And like, bad things have always and will always happen and sometimes we create the illusion that more bad things are happening than normal by highlighting and paying more attention to the bad things, but to be perfectly honest there is something hellishly special about the year Two Thousand And Sixteen. There’s been a lot of personal stuff too. Most of the people I know– and me– have all been going through significant change in our lives, our social circles, our beliefs, and our goals. We’ve had some pretty big losses and intense life experiences. Everything is so strange lately, like we’ve clipped into an alternate universe where everything is exactly the same except that it’s… not.

My friend recently texted our group chat with the revelation that the 16th card in the major arcana of a traditional tarot deck is The Tower. Next year, 2017, is The Star and 2018 is The Moon. If you know much about tarot I don’t really need to say anything else but I will anyway. If you don’t know much about tarot that’s awesome because at least what I’m saying will be new to someone.

Let me tell you a little about The Tower.

The Tower is typically depicted as a tall cylindrical fortress with a few small (or no) windows built on a crop of jagged rocks. Flames burst from the tower as a storm of fire and lightning rages around it. Atop the tower is a crown being struck by lightning as the structure cracks and crumbles. Often, kings and court royalty are pictured tumbling down from the wreckage. It’s a lot to take in. A lot of people will read The Tower as death and destruction, chaos, disaster. When you interpret it this way, The Tower feels much like an omen if it comes up in a reading. But, here’s the thing. The Tower is ruled by Mars and when you read it through the lens of Mars, the meaning takes a whole new shape.

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Here’s what my favorite site for all things astrology has to say about Mars: “Mars represents the energy and drive of a person, their courage, determination, the freedom of spontaneous impulse. It also describes the readiness for action, the way one goes about doing things as well as simple aggression.” Mars is the warrior. Mars is about fighting, action, and personal conviction. So what does this say about the tower? It symbolizes the crumbling of an empire. An era. Upheaval, social change, karmic consequences doled out to those who benefit from the exploitation. It’s not senseless chaos. It is action taken and the consequences which follow.

“The Tower signifies darkness and destruction on a physical scale, as opposed to a spiritual scale. The Tower itself represents ambitions built on false premises. The lightning bolt breaks down existing forms in order to make room for new ones. It represents a sudden, momentary glimpse of truth, a flash of inspiration that breaks down structures of ignorance and false reasoning.” –BiddyTarot

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The Tower card from the Rider Waite deck, a trusted classic version of the deck

“It means great change forced by those who have been made to feel powerless.” TAROT.com

The tower itself represents the structures we’ve built to protect ourselves and block out the outside world. They can be as personal as your own emotional barriers and your social circle and support network but they can also be the social structures built to protect the ruling class and protect social stratification. The lightning represents truth and the fire represents consequence. The Tower reminds us that there are some things that cannot protect us from the consequences of our actions and that truth will prevail. The changes brought on by The Tower are sudden and great. Foundations are being destroyed and order is being overturned.

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Some versions of The Tower. Featured center is from the Collective Tarot

Okay so back to the year 2016. So much has happened I can’t even remember what events belong to this year. I know that Donald Trump was elected president of the US along with a majority Republican Congress, an administration which will appoint at least one and up to three supreme court justices, signaling the end (or beginning) of an era. The tower of liberalism and “progressive” politics some of us have built for ourselves is being destroyed by the truth that white supremacy is alive and well and just as insidious as ever. Meanwhile, the tower we built out of privilege is struck by the cumulative weight of the actual human cost of struggles and wrongdoings we’ve chosen to ignore. As everything falls away we are finally able to see it all laid out before us.

A revelation: the way we’ve been doing things isn’t working. The way we’ve been doing things is causing harm.

That’s not news to a lot of people and we seek to create awareness and education about in the Women’s Center on a regular basis. For those who have been living outside the tower, these are the truths of their daily lives. Before #NODAPL Native Americans were fighting for their lands, their livelihoods, their cultures, and the basic rights of their people. Before Black Lives Matter, the Black Panthers and other groups of Black Americans organized against police brutality and white supremacy. Before Brexit and the US election, fascists and Nazis and the KKK have thrived and held active roles in upholding and advancing white supremacy. The difference is now that the tower is gone, there’s nowhere left to hide. It’s all right here. Now it’s up to us to dig through the wreckage and begin to rebuild or be left behind to lament to no one about the way things used to be.

Where The Tower was the upheaval and the change and the revelations, The Star in 2017 is healing and transformation. We’re left with something totally different from everything we thought we knew. We’ve endured so much but we’ve learned (or are in the process of learning) how to take care of ourselves and each other. Amidst this “massive garbage fire” of a year, we’ve built networks of resilience. It’s really hard to know what our future looks like right now and I don’t know what happens next but I do know that we are resilient. I know that we will be okay because we will take care of one another. We will build resistance and do more than just imagine a different world. Our survival depends on our commitment to change on a much larger scale because–GUESS WHAT–it’s happening whether we like it or not. Plus, we’re not the only ones gearing up for big change and a new era. When the tower comes down, it’s anyone’s game– and resisting change or being passive observers means handing our new malleable world over to white supremacy and fascism.

(Can I just take a second to point out that I’m telling you all to watch out for Nazis? Like, actual legit real life Nazis. How we got to this point is a whole other blog post, but I just wanted to make sure we’re all clear on the severity of the situation.)

I know this may seem like a lot to put on a deck of cards and some numbers but I think as humans we need to find some order in the world, something to explain the entropic chaos of the universe. I love astrology and tarot because it helps me interpret, understand, and come to terms with what I already know and I’ve connected with people in unique ways because of it. It’s one of the ways I build resilience and community just like some people do with religion or political organizing.

So, here’s my advice for the year 2017: don’t resist change. Don’t just let change happen to you either. Be an active agent in change— in your personal life and in the world. Build coalitions, build resistance. Resolve your beefs and learn to love with your whole body. Find what helps you understand the world and put your whole heart into it. We’re gonna be okay.

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