XVI. Kingfisher

The Tower or the Lightning, inspired by the song Kingfisher

I had a dream you came to me,
You shall not do me harm anymore,
and with your knife,
you evicted my life
from its little lighthouse
on the seashore.

Joanna Newsom, “Kingfisher” (Have One On Me, 2010)

Image Description

A volcano erupts and a red woman runs from a burning lighthouse, under falling ash and multicolored flames and into a tumultuous gray sea. Below, from her path, a red snake curls into a bloody pool, where a lion sits with a kingfisher whose beak drips blood. They are cradled in the arms of an underground female figure who wears a single white glove. Below her, constellations are visible in the dark gray clouds.


Kingfisher inhabits an apocalyptic landscape of volcanic eruption. The common image for XVI is a burning tower. This version, with the fleeing woman, is taken specifically from the Florentine Minchiate (see Selected References). This destruction is freeing in a way, as what was “bound and calcified” turns to flowing lava.

As in VI. Esme, this song hinges on a moment of recognition. Lovers from past lives meet each other in a new recursion of the timeline, hoping to break the cycle in violent confrontation. The blood which spirals serpent-like from the evicted woman pools in the heart of the Earth, feeding both the carnivorous lion and the peaceful kingfisher.

The constellation Pisces drawn at the bottom of the picture, besides being Fish for the kingfisher, echoes the same theme of being bound through time. According to one origin story, Venus and Cupid transformed into fish to escape the monster Typhon, and tied themselves together so as not to lose each other in the rushing waters of the Euphrates.

This is the most ominous of the cards. The lighthouse’s beacon is a warning, as the kingfisher announces the end of halcyon days.

Selected Meanings

Destruction, annihilation, alarm, warning, omen, disaster, deliverance, breaking a cycle.