Decrypting The Tower
by Astrida N.F. Wahab
I’m a novice when it comes to Tarot reading, but I’m learning. As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I was astonished to see that Chapter 27 of HBP is titled “The Lightning-Struck Tower.” This is another name for The Tower, the sixteenth Major Arcana in Tarot. The chapter itself is by no means Wonderland (Dumbledore’s death, anyone?), but it is illuminating. Further observations make me believe that Chapter 27 isn’t the only materialization of Trump XVI. The subsequent three chapters are also in line with the card.
In this editorial, I want to show you how the events in Chapters 27-30 are manifestations of The Tower card. I’m not gifted with brevity, so please be patient with me when you read this long editorial.
On Major Arcana in General
Trumps, or Major Arcana cards, represent “supreme energies, divine forces, and powers beyond our control.” This is the case with Dumbledore’s death. Nobody can defy death, not even one of the greatest sorcerers in the world. Voldemort certainly can’t (and we’ll see it).
The Elements of the Card
- “False concepts and institutions that we take for real.” Was Dumbledore wrong in trusting Snape, and this blindness brought his death? Or was Dumbledore’s murder not what it seems at all? After all, the incident takes place on a factual tower! This also denotes a further instability of the wizarding society under Scrimgeour’s government.
- “Ambitions built on false pretenses.” Whose ambitions are these? The ambitious image is for Draco and Snape. Has Snape really been hiding under false pretenses all these years? To whom has he been pretending? To Voldemort, to Dumbledore, or to both of them? As for Draco, after such boasting in front of his gang, we find out later that he is actually scared of killing. Is this ridicule for the Ministry’s fervent attempts to get Harry to “work for them”? Scrimgeour has twice failed to persuade Harry, and as a politician, he is indeed a symbol of ambition and pretenses.
- “It depicts life’s biggest challenges.” McGonagall has to take over Dumbledore’s position and bear much larger responsibilities. Scrimgeour’s regime is dealing with more poignant issues. Harry and his best friends must search for and destroy the Horcruxes.
They are the small symbols like raindrops around the crumbling tower. It is a letter in the ancient Hebrew alphabet. It means “life force.” As a rule, there are 22 Yods on this card, a symbol of 22 Major Arcana, the Fool’s journey.
“The light of truth in which all deceit, and ultimately, all duality, is destroyed.” Had Snape been weaving his webs around two opposite forces (Voldemort and Dumbledore)? Does the word “destroyed” foreshadow his death in Book 7?
The Falling Figures
“The overcoming of cognitive structures.” Dumbledore’s death is a symbol of the end of an era. Is this the time in which a new charismatic leader appears in the wizarding world? Or is this an omen that no future leader possesses Dumbledore’s qualities?
The General Interpretations for the Card
Focus: “Removal of restrictions and feelings of alienation, discovery of secrets, and new direction.”
“Removal of restrictions and alienation” in which Luna and Neville are Harry’s newfound true friends.
Key words: Faith, observation, investigation, discovery, knowledge, wisdom, perfection, fear, faithlessness, pessimism, skepticism, doubt, ignorance, and escapism.
Let me give you two noticeable examples here: Discovery. The culprit behind the incidents is Draco. Snape’s true allegiance is revealed (or is it?). As for Perfection: The Tower is card XVI or 16, and in Numerology it’s reduced to 7, the number of Perfection. Is there magic in the number seven in the Potterverse? I think there is.
“Something is in need of serious revision. Perhaps you are blind to what’s coming up. Maybe you’re in denial.”
Is this a criticism for Dumbledore’s tendency to “see the good in everyone“? He completely denies every possibility that Snape is a double agent who has made the Unbreakable Vow, even when two people (Harry and Draco) have provided the evidence. (For “Snape is Evil” camp).
Let us have a look. What are the things that must be revised seriously here?
- The Dark Mark: Somebody’s dead is INCORRECT. Nobody was dead at the Quidditch World Cup, and in Chapter 27 when Draco cast the Mark, nobody died. Tragically, it was Dumbledore who dies later on.
- Relying on Dumbledore’s judgments completely: UNWISE. Dumbledore’s only human, therefore he errs (maybe this is for “Snape is Evil” camp).
- Harry’s hope that all ex-DA members would rally is let down. Most of them were too busy with “mundane businesses.”
- To depend on individual leadership is WRONG. The time has arrived for the Order to think of solutions and strategies together.
“You are about to embark on a new and exciting path.”
Is it Snape, back in Voldemort’s circle? I doubt he experiences more pleasure there than in Dumbledore’s Order, although he seems to be able to express hate in the fullest form. Is it Draco, who is either in for another ghastly mission or is on the run? I doubt that. The kid isn’t happy (is scared?) with his job, so whatever he’ll do next, he’ll be back to being depressed. So this is for Harry. Despite losing a girlfriend and being forced to bear a heavy load, he still has his best friends to back him up.
“There is a sense in which the catastrophe is a reflection from the previous card.”
The previous Trump is The Devil, one that symbolizes the demon inside of the Querent. What are The Devils of Chapter 27? The catastrophe (Dumbledore’s death) is what Harry was afraid of in the previous chapter (“The Cave”). Snapes betrayal (for “Snape is Evil” camp) is what Dumbledore doesn’t want. Also, the lax sense of security at Hogwarts enables Draco to “invite” the Death Eaters. The Peruvian Darkness Powder has been referred to in Chapter 6. The unresponsiveness of other DA members is also another cause for the attack at Hogwarts.
“SUDDEN CHANGE: disrupted plans, being in Chaos.”
“Disrupted plans” here are Snape’s and Draco’s, not Dumbledore’s. Snape might want to stay longer at Hogwarts if he could because by killing Dumbledore he has no place in the Order’s circle anymore. We don’t know if Voldemort’s happy with Snape “helping” Draco. As for Draco, his failure to kill Dumbledore will probably put him under heavier toil.”Chaos” here is the condition of Hogwarts after Dumbledore’s death. The Slytherins were left without a permanent head of house. All academic activities are suspended.
“RELEASING: exploding, emotional outburst, erupting in anger, breaking through pretense, letting everything go.”
This brings me towards chapters 27, 28, and 30. Greyback has an uncontrollable desire to consume human flesh. Bill’s disfigurement. Harry yells at Snape and calls the latter a coward. Snape, being livid, shows his other side that isn’t impassive at all.
“FALLING DOWN: toppling from the heights, suffering a blow to the ego.”
Dumbledore is literally “toppling” from the top of the Astronomy Tower. Both Snape and Draco experience blows to their ego. Draco’s emotional breakdown is blatantly shown before Dumbledore. Is Snape’s pride insulted by Harry’s words, or is he stricken by what he has just done?
“The loss of old and secure things.”
This chaotic period at Hogwarts and for the wizarding world has been going on from the beginning of Book 6. Murders everywhere, and finally, Dumbledore’s death. Is this a presage that nothing will be the same anymore, even though Voldemort is defeated? Rowling once said that Dumbledore was the epitome of true goodness. Is his death a signal for “The Era of Gray,” where everyone is in the shade of gray?
“Loss of faith in self.”
Who has lost faith in themself? Certainly, this person isn’t Harry. And neither is it his friends or the members of the Order. Is it Snape, then? Was Snape angry at being dubbed a coward rooted in his remorse and pain (after killing Dumbledore)? Or has Draco lost faith in himself, after his failure to slay Dumbledore in the first place?
“What looks hopeless is often a blessing in disguise.”
What is the blessing in disguise in the light of Dumbledore’s death? Until now the individuals who rejoice in Dumbledore’s death are Voldemort and his sycophants. But is there something more to this? This “blessing” probably also refers to the union of Bill and Fleur. Fleur was deemed “hopeless” (Phlegm, yes), but shes very sincere at heart. This is also an indication of Tonks’ finally requited love.
“Do your best to remain calm during unexpected events.”
I wonder why this sentence sounds like a polished version of Snape’s taunts at Harry in Chapter 28? Was Snape secretly teaching Harry lessons, then? However, Harry has learned this sort of moral after his emotional turmoil in Book 5.
“If a relationship ends around this time, take heed that this was meant to be.”
Because Harry must fight Voldemort, he has to break up with Ginny. Or is the “end of a relationship” a suggestion for Dumbledore to terminate his trust in Snape? I think what fits best for this construal is another relationship: Harry and the Ministry. Both Scrimgeour and Fudge want Harry to be their megaphone, forgetting that they were in league to discredit him in Book 5.
“The chance for proper renewal upon a stronger foundation built from experience and a more concrete reality.”
This is another jab at Dumbledore’s trust in Snape. Was Dumbledore clinging to an unrealistic hope? Meanwhile, Harry’s trust and affection for both Luna and Neville are anchored in their courage. They fought alongside him at the Ministry (hence the proof of their fidelity).
“The truth about people and situations are revealed in great clarity.”
Has Snape been revealed “in great clarity” to Harry and everyone that night? The other ex-DA (other than the five kids) are, sadly enough, “woefully ignorant.” Draco, despite his previous effrontery, can’t kill an unarmed old man. Slughorn finally recognizes that he doesn’t know his students that well. We finally see that Tonks isn’t in love with Sirius, but with Lupin, and we discover that Fleur’s love for Bill is genuine.
“The seeker him or herself, who has caused the change, whether they know it or not.”
So, are Harry’s, Dumbledore’s, Draco’s, Snape’s, and all other characters’ behaviors the cause of this sudden change? Can we trace it back to Book 1? For instance, is Harry’s miraculous survival from the Killing Curse the root of every occurrence afterward?
“It does not necessarily promise the birth of something new,” or “It is up to us whether or not we harness that opportunity to build a bigger, better Tower for the future.”
Scrimgeour’s tactics havent changed in any way. Dolores Umbridge is still a Ministry witch. Rita Skeeter is more likely back to her libeling style. What about Hogwarts students? Will they still be divided by their differences? Will Draco realize that being a Death Eater is the worst job in the wizarding world?
Lastly, another message from The Tower card is:
“Remember to listen to yourself, and those who love you, and they’ll assure you all will be well again.”
This is good advice for Harry. If he loses himself when he fights Voldemort, it will be Harry’s downfall next, instead of Voldemort’s. Ron and Hermione’s sincere pledge to be with him “whatever happens” suggests the remaining “golden day of peace.” And then there’s Lupin, who, after concealing his feelings for so long, finally opens up his heart. What about Percy, who hasn’t managed to bridge the rift with his family? Will everything really turn awful for him at the end of the day?
- Whether Snape is evil or good, one thing is unmistakable. The murder of Dumbledore changes everything. A new era has begun, come what may.
- Harry and the Order need to trust friends whose loyalties are evident.
- Some relationships are probably meant to be broken. Alternatively, some new romances spring out because creation abides by destruction naturally.
- Ambitions and false pretenses will take a victim of their own perpetrators. The Ministry may be another example in the future.
- It’s time for people who haven’t opened their eyes and become lost in escapism (Percy, Draco) to see the truth.
- Everything’s going to be all right if we believe. Even the search for the Horcruxes won’t be as “dark” as it sounds.
After five years of reading the Potterverse, I realize that there’s an enchanting complexity in it. The consequences of each scene are interdependent of one another. They often culminate in abrupt changes: something that’s depicted by The Tower card. Salute Rowling for her remarkable insight. By the way, “insight” is the core of this card.
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